During its annual TechEd IT conference in Houston, Texas, Microsoft announced a slew of new features and updates for its cloud service, Microsoft Azure. Since many businesses find upgrading to cloud services intimidating, the updates to Azure are meant to expedite the process and provide a hybrid cloud.
Microsoft highlighted two major features during the conference, Azure ExpressRoute and Azure Files. ExpressRoute is the result of Microsoft's partnership with Internet service providers (ISPs) that will provide a faster connection between on-premise and off-site services. Azure Files is Microsoft's cloud-based file-sharing service that will reportedly replace traditional local sharing.
ExpressRoute is perhaps one of the most important cloud services that Microsoft will provide in the coming years. Traditionally, on-premise connections have been viewed as the most effective when it comes to speed -- not such good news for cloud companies. It is difficult for businesses to establish a fast and secure connection between on-premise environments and cloud services but ExpressRoute is part of Microsoft's effort to make it easier to do so.
The tech giant is working with BT, Equinix, Level 3, AT&T, Verizon, and others to provide a way for businesses to create private connections between Azure and their on-premise systems. The private connections skirt around regular Internet traffic, meaning that the connection is much faster and also more secure.
Azure Files is another service that Microsoft is building up that is aimed at providing a hybrid cloud platform for enterprises. Files effectively replaces the local file-sharing system that a business typically rely on. By using Files, IT professionals can set up multiple virtual machines to share a single file through Azure.
There is usually a slight hesitation when a business decides to move some of its services to the cloud. Since the enterprise is no longer in complete control of its data, security concerns are usually paramount. This is why Microsoft is adding new features to Azure that are geared toward security rather than just performance and ease-of-use.
Starting next month, Microsoft will move Azure Site Recovery into preview mode, meaning that IT professionals can gain access to the service. Site Recovery is meant to provide a better way for customers to recover virtual machines if the data centers are hit with an outage or other disaster. The Site Recovery feature also provides businesses with a reason to use Azure, as it will minimize the impact of what could otherwise be a significant data loss.
Outside of Azure, business customers will also be receiving new security features within the coming months. Microsoft executives said that Office 365 customers will be protected with a new encryption technology starting in July. Once that technology is rolled out, individual files in SharePoint and OneDrive will be given their own encryption keys. The separation of keys will presumably protect files in a way that one single key would not.