Microsoft’s cloud platform is rich in features. In a few button clicks, you can quickly provision services, servers, and much more.  Today, we look at seven features Azure offers you may not know about that could make your life a little easier.

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1. How and where you configure your virtual machine impacts your budget

There are many variables to consider when deciding on which geo-zone to provision Azure resources.  An important factor is cost.  Azure data centres live in different locations around the world; each site has specific operational costs and individual volume capacity of the processing it can handle.  For example, provisioning a VM in the Eastern US region is approximately 18% cheaper to run than one in the Western US region.  Something to keep in mind when configuring your Azure resources!

 

2. Microsoft Azure site recovery

It’s understandable why businesses are adopting cloud computing and leveraging the value it yields to their daily business activities.  Virtual machines, powered by cloud computing helps companies reduce operational costs, and helps them scale almost instantly – on demand, as business needs change.

One aspect of cloud computing that can be tricky to manage is that of migrating virtual machines.  Ensuring no data is lost, and downtime is at a minimum can be challenging.  Fortunately, Azure Site Recovery makes this process simple!  It can replicate virtual machines seamlessly and help you transition from one VM to the other.  Azure Site Recovery is also an ideal disaster recovery tool.

 

3. Hybrid networks

Naturally, you can create as many virtual machines as you need in Azure; you can even configure them to communicate with each other if you want a network.  Did you know that you can configure a site-to-site VPN and have your Azure VMs connect to your on-premise network? Using an IP-Sec VPN, coupled with the Azure Virtual Network wizard, you can do this.

 

4. Advanced analytics capabilities

There’s a saying that “data is the new oil.” Big data, consisting of both structured and unstructured data from many different domains, whether it be enterprise or user-generated content, can be challenging to parse, process and analyse.  You can create actionable insights from data sets so having products that make this job easier is a welcome addition to an IT professionals toolkit.

Microsoft Azure, and in particular, Stream Analytics helps businesses analyse and crunch big data, on-demand and in real-time.  Need to process hundreds of thousands of tweets to identify the public opinion in an election campaign, or determine how consumers feel about a product, brand or service?  With Azure’s advanced analytics capabilities, you can implement applications that let you answer all these questions. You can even write custom code for each specific case giving you full control over how you process data.

 

5. Experimental performance features

You might already know about Themes in Azure but did you know there are configuration options in the Azure Dashboard that let you optimize its behaviour?

By disabling animations and enabling experimental performance features, you can speed up the Azure Portal in many scenarios.  You can even change the language and regional formatting of dates, numbers, and so on as per your requirements.

 

6. Multiple dashboards

Your Azure Dashboard is the central area that lets you provision whatever you need and is fully customizable.  It lets you change, add or remove items as you see fit thereby giving you total freedom over how it looks and behaves.  Did you know, however, that you can have more than one Azure Dashboard?

You can quickly add multiple dashboards by selecting the Add Dashboard button.  Any dashboards you add are exclusively available to only you.  If you want to grant another user access, you can share the dashboard with them.  Azure even lets you define groups and role access for any dashboards you create making it a truly flexible feature.

 

7. Automation scripts

Most resources such as Web Apps, SQL Databases or even Resource Groups in Azure give you the option of generating an automation script.  This takes the form of an ARM (Azure Resource Management) Template which can consist of a Command Line Interface (CLI) script, PowerShell script or even C#.

Automation scripts can very powerfully introduce continuous deployment (CD) pipelines for your business or project as they let you automate the creation of, for example, development and test servers which can help your team build and test software projects fast.

 

Summary

In this article, we looked at some of the hidden features that Azure offers and described how they could benefit you.  What hidden gems have you found in Azure that makes your life easier?  Feel free to share!

Written by Alexandre Painchaud Content Marketing Specialist @ SherWeb