Welcome to Azure and Cloud Computing

Natasha Ong
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4 min read

In a nutshell:

Cloud computing is like having a powerful computer that runs on the internet, giving you on-demand access to data and services.
Azure is Microsoft's cloud platform, offering a virtual toolshed of services and resources for businesses and individuals. Think  computers on the cloud, storage, AI tools and more!
Cloud computing vs. traditional infrastructure: Cloud computing is flexible, cost-effective, and maintenance-free, while traditional infrastructure (also known as on-premise) gives more control but also comes with much higher costs and maintenance.

Drumroll please... 🥁

Welcome to the world of Cloud Computing and Azure!

If you're absolutely new to cloud computing - this is the best place to start. Cloud computing is an absolute game changer that's transformed the way businesses work.

Even though we don't really see cloud computing at work, we get the benefits of it every day - how is it that we can load shows on Netflix so quickly from our phones, laptops and even TVs? How is it that we can backup entire libraries of photos online? How is it that we can play online games with our friends in real time?

Hopefully by the as you learn different cloud computing services, you get to see the beauty of cloud computing in everyday life - and how Azure makes it happen for its hundreds of thousands of customers!

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud Computing is like having a powerful computer that's running over the internet. You can use it to store data, build cool things and do anything you’d usually do on a physical computer.

Let's break down this concept with a few examples:

  1. Streaming music and videos
  2. You open apps like Spotify, Netflix, or YouTube to listen to music or watch videos. The content plays seamlessly without you needing to download it first.
  3. These platforms use storage that runs on the cloud. Instead of making you download libraries of songs or movies on your device, you access and stream them directly from the internet in real-time.
  4. Online collaboration
  5. You and your team edit a document at the same time on Google Docs, seeing each other's changes in real-time.
  6. These collaboration apps manage documents in the cloud. We can access and edit the same file at the same time, thanks to cloud technologies’ ability to sync up different versions and show changes live.
  1. Mobile banking and finance
  2. You check your bank balance, transfer money, or even invest in stocks from your phone.
  3. Many of these banks and investing/savings apps use cloud services for secure data storage, transaction processing, and even AI-driven financial tips that are personalised to you.

Azure is one of the most popular cloud computing platforms in the world. It’s like a big virtual toolshed that lets you rent anything from storage spaces to powerful computing machines.

Why is cloud computing a big deal?

Before cloud computing came along, businesses were forced to rely on what's known as traditional infrastructure - using physical hardware to run computer tasks. But that all changed with the cloud computing, which helps us run computer tasks over the internet. This means no more worrying about managing all that hardware yourself, and enjoying the benefits of a cheaper, more reliable, faster and easier system.

Let's break down the differences between traditional infrastructure and cloud computing:

* What is a server? Imagine you have a big, powerful computer. This computer isn't like the one you might have on your desk - it’s designed to run all day, every day, and with lots of power to do many things at the same time. This special computer is what we called a server. Servers are always ready and waiting to take your request, be it sending an email, loading a webpage, or playing a game online. We don't see them, but they're the reason we can make and use software stored in the Cloud! These servers live in places called Data centres, which are big, super-secure houses full of servers.

*What does hosting mean? You might be familiar with the idea of hosting a party, or hosting a dinner at home - and it's not much different in cloud computing! Hosting in computing means using a server to store and share websites and files on the internet. Your own computer at home is where you create content, but hosting makes it available to people worldwide.

Let's put it all together and summarise cloud computing!

Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services over the internet by using a pay-as-you-go pricing model. You typically pay only for the cloud services you use, which helps you:

  • Plan and manage your operating costs.
  • Run your infrastructure more efficiently.
  • Scale as your business needs change.

Using cloud computing means you are renting compute power and storage from your provider's (e.g. Azure's) datacenter. The cloud provider takes care of maintaining the underlying infrastructure for you, and when you're done using cloud resources, you give them back. You’re billed only for what you use.

What is Microsoft Azure?

Azure is Microsoft's cloud computing platform.

Here are some fun facts to show you just how big Azure is in our world today:

Like we've described with cloud computing, Azure lets people and businesses access and use computing resources over the internet, as opposed to setting up and managing their own physical servers and infrastructure.

Fun fact: a popular phrase in cloud computing is "lift and shift" - which literally means lifting your data and applications* away from your on-premise environment, and shifting them into the cloud! Think about it like lifting your entire house and putting it in the clouds without changing what's inside.

* What is an application? Applications, often called "apps" for short, are software programs that run on computers, phones and other devices. They are designed to perform specific tasks or functions, like browsing the internet, sending messages, playing games, or managing your calendar. Think of your phone - what do you use to check the weather, send a message, or use Facebook! Those are the weather, messaging and Facebook apps at work.

Many businesses start exploring the cloud by doing lift and shift, but the cloud is much more than a place to run data and applications. Azure offers over 200 products and services, from storage to AI, allowing a wide range of possibilities beyond traditional computing services.

Hmm... so what exactly can I do with Azure?

Here's a little teaser on Azure' service categories. The rest of this course will be dedicated to the 'how' of these categories!