Azure is a cloud platform (infrastructure as a service) from Microsoft. Like other cloud platforms such as AWS from Amazon, and Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure provides a wide range of powerful tools for businesses and developers to integrate into their own services and products. These are tools that rely on the cloud: they run on remote servers and leverage the power and security they can provide.
What is Microsoft Azure: Services
To better understand what Microsoft Azure can do for you, it’s useful to assess the precise tools and services Microsoft offers through the platform. While there are far too many to list here, here are some examples of the categories of services you can expect to find:
- AI/Machine Learning
- Develop tools
- Windows Virtual Desktop
- Internet of Things
For example, a company might use Microsoft Azure to store user data. That way, users can seamlessly move from using their app on one device to another while maintaining continuity.
Alternatively, businesses can benefit from Azure’s Computer Vision to identify elements and objects in a scene caught on camera. This could be used to extract text from a document, for example. In this scenario, the information will be sent to Microsoft’s servers which will handle the demanding job of image recognition. The result will then be sent back to the end user’s device, to be handled by the company’s app.
Other use-cases might see companies storing data backups on Microsoft’s servers, hosting web and mobile apps, or managing large numbers of connected IoT devices.
Microsoft Azure vs Google Cloud vs AWS
As mentioned, Microsoft Azure is just one option for businesses and developers that need these services.
In fact, Microsoft Azure is only the second most popular cloud platform. The largest, by some margin, is Amazon Web Services (AWS). Specifically, AWS holds a 33% market share as compared with Microsoft’s 16%. Google Cloud is in third place with 8%.
Azure’s lead largely comes down to the wider number of products offered versus the other two options. This raises the question: why focus your efforts on learning Azure?
Microsoft Azure benefits from integration with Microsoft's other productivity tools
The answer, of course, is that the more platforms you learn, the more potential clients and employers you’ll appeal to. Microsoft Azure is still used by a large number of companies, making it a highly useful skillset for professionals. Not only that — each platform offers features that can’t be found on the others.
Microsoft Azure, in particular, benefits from integration with Microsoft’s other productivity tools (e.g. Office, Teams). Finally, Microsoft Azure is also often more cost-effective for businesses (and has a much simpler pricing-structure). Billing is largely usage-based, which makes these services extremely scalable for growing businesses.
How to use Microsoft Azure
So, you’re ready to give Microsoft Azure a try. How do you get set-up and start using it? The first step is to sign up, which you can do using your existing Microsoft account. You will need to verify your account using a credit or debit card.
A free account gives you access to a wide range of Azure’s services for a whole year.
If you’re just looking to learn the ropes, you will likely want to sign up for the Free Account. This gives you access to a wide range of Azure’s services for a whole year, and you won’t be charged until you decide to upgrade. You’ll also get credit that you can use for 30 days to try out some of the paid services.
For those interested in using Azure’s services more extensively, there is also a pricing calculator.
Once your account is set up, you can sign in and visit the Quickstart Center. Here, you’ll find a number of guided step-by-step guides to basic features you may want to employ. For example, you’ll be able to “Build a Web App” which will then give you several other options, such as “Build and host a web app with Azure Web Apps” or “Deploy a container-based web app with App Service.”
Alternatively, you can simply select from features accessible via a “burger” menu. These include the option to quickly build an SQL database, or to create a virtual machine, for example.
Microsoft Azure training and certification for pros
Once you have access to Microsoft Azure, you’ll be ready to start trying out services and learning what everything does.
We highly recommend seeking out a Microsoft Azure course. Azure is a huge platform with an even huger amount to learn! The best Microsoft Azure courses will take you from complete beginner to pro in your chosen applications. Moreover, they will prepare you for a certification exam. This can be a huge boon for any professional resume.
With Microsoft Azure certification, you will demonstrate to potential employers and clients that you have a solid understanding of these tools and can help them implement and maintain optimized solutions. Just to confuse matter though, there are actually 12 different types of Azure certification, with the best choice depending on your specific area of expertise. For example, you might choose to become a Microsoft Certified Azure Data Scientist, or you might choose Microsoft Certified Azure AI Engineer.
Exams are also divided into Fundamentals, Associate, and Expert depending on the relative level of knowledge required. Associate exams cost $165. Most professionals would agree that this is a smart investment.
See also: What is Azure certification?
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