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Managing Azure Infrastructure? Why Settle for Azure Consultants?

Summary

While it may seem like the best option to rely on Azure consultants to support your requirements for the cloud, this approach will only get you so far before you encounter challenges and limitations.

Thankfully, there are more cost-effective solutions available that can deliver the expertise of a consultant while also providing the ongoing management and support that are necessary for a successful cloud strategy. We explore this comparison further in this latest article.

 

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Index

The cloud keeps on accelerating

In today’s business landscape, the cloud has become an essential foundation for IT infrastructure, services, and operations.

As the COVID-19 lockdowns drove a shift towards remote-first, flexible working, it became necessary to move away from on-premise hardware and migrate our IT infrastructures to the cloud.

Over the past two years, as we’ve seen more mission-critical applications, data, and business processes migrate to the cloud, we’re becoming increasingly reliant on the technology.

Businesses that have adopted the cloud in favour of dated legacy systems have seen significant improvements of performance, speed, agility, and even cost savings.

The Microsoft Azure cloud in particular has seen strong growth in recent years, alongside the rise of its communications platform, Teams, and other software products. In fact, Microsoft reported that its revenue was up to $51.7 billion with an increase of 20% at the end of Q4 2021, thanks to the strong performance of the Azure cloud.

The Azure cloud specifically gives a number of benefits, including:

  • Compatibility with Microsoft and open-source applications
  • Flexibility to scale as your needs change
  • Data security and reliability
  • An almost unmatched network of Azure partners and third-party vendors.

And this trend is only set to continue, with IDC forecasting that total worldwide spending on cloud services, the hardware and software components underpinning cloud supply chain, and professional and managed cloud services, will surpass $1.3 trillion by 2025 while sustaining a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.9%.

But whether you’re only just starting out with cloud, or have already begun a large-scale migration, you’ll want to ensure your cloud investment will be a success

An Azure migration is a complex technical project, with many aspects to it and lots of moving parts, requiring a dedicated strategy to keep things running smoothly beyond the deployment.

To be successful, you generally require cloud-specific skills to scope out the implementation, help maintain business continuity, minimise risks, and then begin to realise the benefits as quickly as possible.

What many organisations find is a drastic skills gaps when it comes to cloud compared to traditional IT. With that in mind, it’s extremely common to turn to Microsoft Azure consultants for help.

Finding the Right Skills First Time

At first glance, Azure may seem to appear straightforward to configure. You’re familiar with Microsoft applications, and thanks to the simple dashboards offered by Microsoft you feel confident a cloud deployment would be achievable without outside help.

However, the reality is that without cloud-specific knowledge and experience things can go badly wrong.

It’s also difficult to find the right people with the necessary experience and skills to successfully deliver an Azure project for you.

You can’t afford to take the risk of moving ahead with an Azure investment unless you’re 100% sure it will be carried out seamlessly, with as little disruption and down-time for the business as possible. But the cost of employing someone in-house just to do this is currently extremely high.

Not only that, but searching for candidates in today’s market with a talent shortage is time-consuming. Of course, you can’t guarantee that person will be successful in their role either until they’re actually on board.

You should also avoid the common mistake many businesses make assuming they can find someone who can provide the skills of a developer, administrator, and support specialist all in one. These are separate roles which require dedicated resources.

Alternatively, with limited availability of specialist cloud knowledge, external Azure consultants and partners can provide the expertise needed to help you.

The Value of Azure Consultants

As a Microsoft customer, you’re almost certainly familiar with this concept and have probably had some interaction with the partner network in the past.

Enlisting the help of an Azure consultant is generally the most popular way for businesses to add these technical skills. With a consultant, you simply hire an expert temporarily to get a specific job done.

These are typically small organisations made up of one or two technical experts who have years, if not decades, of experience working with Microsoft software products in a business context.

With such complex technology, and with so much on the line, this is a proven way of ensuring you work with a trusted service provider to get the exact outcome you need.

Azure consultants work as an extension of your team, enhancing your IT capabilities with specialist skills and knowledge.

Traditionally, you can hire a consultant to do individual projects and one-off pieces of work, or perhaps work with you on a retainer for more long-term needs.

Azure consultants deliver technical services to help you in areas like:

Consultants can also help with strategic steps like:

  • Migration strategy
  • Business analysis
  • Change management
  • Project scoping and definition
  • Azure deployment
  • Programme and project management
  • Post-deployment services

But it’s worth noting that it’s often impossible to find this range of skills in one person, unless they’re one of the most talented Azure consultants with the highest possible certifications from Microsoft.

As you’d expect, these rare individuals will have very limited availability and command day-rates that are well over the budget of most businesses.

VM220221_300x200px_Vigo
 

Case study: Vigo Software

Utilising CAMS to monitor Azure and reduce cloud infrastructure costs while maintaining performance. 

Keeping the wheels turning at one of the UK’s leading logistics software developers.

Read the full case study

Exploring Microsoft’s Partner Ecosystem

As touched on earlier, Microsoft has a well-known, well-established ecosystem of partners and consultants available to its customers.

This is a long-standing network of companies that are specialists in Microsoft software, and are certified by the provider to work with its technology.

Microsoft does tend to push its preferred consultants on to its customers for various types of projects, but you’re also able to access and browse the partner ecosystem as well.

Because they tend to be specialists, many businesses find themselves working with a variety of individual consultants simultaneously. It’s not uncommon for one small-to-medium-sized business to have a separate consultant for Azure, SharePoint, Dynamics 365, and then additional partners for integrations with things like Salesforce, Oracle, and so on.

Of course, this takes a significant effort to manage all these relationships, not to mention the cost of each consultant for each project.

You also have to spend time and resources integrating each consultant into your team, only for a short-term delivery.

When this is required simply to keep your IT infrastructure up-to-date, it’s far from ideal. You’ll find the time you have available to spend focusing on day-to-day operations, or running your business, is being drained far more than it should be.

The Down-Side to Working with a Consultant

It’s important to understand that seeking the help of a consultant to support you with your cloud infrastructure will inevitably lead to additional challenges.

The cloud is a highly dynamic, highly flexible platform, with a vast range of variables and moving parts involved.

The nature of the technology is ever-changing, so a temporary consultancy project will be unable to provide the constant ongoing service that’s essential to a successful cloud strategy.

On-premise legacy systems of the past were more suited to being delivered by consultants, because they were static. The hardware that those legacy systems supported changed little over several years and was under your full control.

But the cloud is an entirely different concept altogether. A cloud-based IT infrastructure must have:

  • Constant real-time monitoring and analysis of usage
  • Careful proactive cost management
  • Continual optimisation to maintain performance
  • Ongoing support and maintenance
  • Updates, security patches, and more.

Each of these things are time-consuming, complicated, and expensive if you don’t have the right tools in place to keep an eye on them round the clock.

When you’re relying on a consultant to be your Azure expert, you’ll find yourself needing more and more time from them the longer your cloud environment is in place.

In that case, you may find yourself in a managed service arrangement, which is a high expense and won’t even guarantee you the consultant’s full attention.

Furthermore, the vast majority of Azure consultants will only do the specific work they’ve been asked to do any way. It’s rare to find a consultant who will look beyond the project to advise you on long-term strategic decisions with your best interests at heart, as that may often complicate the job they’ve been hired to do.

To have full confidence that you’re building a healthy cloud environment, and ensure you gain the desired return on your investment, you need more than just a consultant today.

You need a dedicated partner capable of providing the continual, proactive support, maintenance, and service that goes hand-in-hand with cloud success.

An alternative you should consider?

As mentioned above, one of the main problems with consultants is that their work is done in one single fleeting point in time.

You’ll receive a one-off piece of work based on a snap-shot of your cloud, your business, and the platform, at that specific moment.

Then, any time you need additional work, or things change – and they will change, a lot – you’ll have to bring in a consultant again and start from scratch.

This approach doesn’t align with the requirements of a successful, cost-effective cloud strategy, nor an efficient model for IT services.

Your cloud is constantly changing, evolving, and in need of continual support, otherwise you’ll experience significant challenges with cost and performance.

So, what’s the answer?

Working with a partner like igroup, powered by a bespoke CloudOps Active Management Solution (CAMS), you can gain access to far more than a traditional consultant.

With igroup, all the things a one-off consultant offers are readily available from our team of certified experts, while our CAMS automated technology provides you with 24-7 ongoing support and management.

igroup was one of the first UK-based Microsoft gold partners to specialise in the Azure cloud. With years of experience as SharePoint specialists prior to the growth of cloud, our long-standing track record successfully delivering Microsoft projects is something we’re extremely proud of.

We leverage that experience to provide strategic advisory services, while our highly sophisticated CAMS tools provide all the services you need for a successful cloud deployment completely automated.

This allows you to focus entirely on doing your job, with full confidence your cloud is running in the most optimal and cost-effective way possible.

The Benefits of a CloudOps Active Management Solution

CAMS was built using our team’s experience in supporting and managing Microsoft cloud environments since 2010.

Its automated services include advanced performance and cost management tools, proactive optimisation, automated support, and general administration, all in a simple portal.

This is a proven way to avoid common pitfalls with consultancy projects and ensure you have a reliable, trusted, always-available partner taking care of your business’s critical IT systems.

CAMS can be implemented across any existing or new Azure cloud environment, allowing you to focus on delivering the best possible applications and services to your users stress-free.

igroup and CAMS will:

  • Become a part of your team, delivering high quality advice and support with your best interests as the priority
  • Allow you to concentrate on delivering your own services and applications by removing the headache of cloud management
  • Improve overall business profitability, reduce cloud costs, and maximise ROI
  • Enable your business to grow and scale with seamless use of the cloud.

The monthly subscription with CAMS provides pervasive support all for the cost of around one to two days of work from a typical consultant. Compared to a temporary, limited engagement you’ll get from a consultant, working with us gives you the many advantages of automated cloud management as well as access to strategic advisory services anytime you need them under a fixed monthly fee.

These more cost-effective benefits will free up more budget to invest further into innovating with your Azure applications. For more information about our pricing structure and what's included please have a look at our pricing structure. 

As your Azure deployment begins to mature and your business grows, we’ll be there to keep up with that evolution and help you make informed strategic decisions based on the rich data analysis which CAMS provides automatically.

And unlike a typical Azure consultant, CAMS already includes all the features and functions your business needs without any need for additional work or charges.

Final Thoughts

An investment in a cloud platform should be cost-effective and add tremendous value to your business. Your cloud-based IT infrastructure should be driving increased efficiency, speed, and performance. Yet many find that the need to rely on multiple Azure consultants to gain these outcomes drains time and money they didn’t expect to spend.

You need an automated software solution sophisticated enough to match the complexity of the cloud, and a partner who will be there to ensure the ever-changing nature of the technology is being managed proactively, rather than reactively.

With igroup and CAMS, you get all of that and more, all for a fraction of the cost of Azure consultants.

igroup is Here to Help

Further reading

This article aims to outline the support plan options available from the cloud providers themselves (What are the Azure support plans? / Whats are the AWS support plans?) and their partners (Who are the partners? What do they offer?). Then ask the questions you have, in how it relates to you and your needs for the short or long term.
 
Many traditional IT companies have adapted to the new (virtual) world and recruited cloud specialists, but there is a major skills gap when it comes to specialists on the different platforms.
A fully qualified Azure Consultant provides your business with the support and expertise required to migrate applications and data to the Microsoft Cloud.
 

The Perfect Solution for Managaing & Supporting Your Azure Cloud

CAMS is designed specifically to give you full transparency, control, and support, for your cloud infrastructure. Get in touch with a member of our team to learn more, and we’d be happy to help!

 Steve Rastall

Steve Rastall - Managing Director 

Get in touch: Steve.Rastall@igroupltd.co.uk

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/steverastall

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