Cloud Solutions with Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is an ever-expanding set of cloud services for building, managing, and deploying applications on a global network using your preferred tools and frameworks. In this Office Hours, RPI Consultants will provide live demonstrations with interactive Q&A of Microsoft Azure, including the Azure Portal for Infrastructure, Platform, and Software-as-a-Service. We will also share types of databases and content storage available, and how you can utilize Azure for cold storage of content in your OnBase or ImageNow system.

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John Marney:
Let’s go ahead and get started here. I’m gonna share my webcam really quick. All right. Can everyone hear me? If you wouldn’t mind, Mason, if you could throw a question into the question panel. Make sure you can hear me.

Hey, John, it’s Mike, we can hear you.

Oh, sweet. Okay. Thanks. All right. Well, thanks for joining today. Today we’re doing another RPI Consultants Office Hours. We do have a number of these also scheduled coming up, I think every two weeks is what we have. I’ll show you the schedule of those herein, just a minute. Today we’re going to be talking about cloud solutions with Azure. Azure is Microsoft’s, of course, their humongous cloud platform.

Our upcoming webinars and Office Hours, we have quite a bit of content prepared over the next couple of months. For Office Hours, the next couple we’re going to be discussing robotic process automation. The first one is going to be an introductory course. We’re going to show how to manipulate some Excel files, pull data out of it, because Excel is so commonly used or needed, RPA is commonly needed with Excel-based processes, but it’s a great place to start.

Later on, in May, we’re going to be doing a little bit more advanced RPA course for showing some system integrations and whatnot. It’ll build on the first one, but even if you can’t make it, no problem, but if you join us, it’ll be really interesting. We’re also going to be discussing something really on the forefront right now with also working from home or working remotely. On May 15th we’re going to do digital signatures or digital workflows. These are the easy to set up ones, we’re talking DocuSign or Adobe Sign. We’re going to be discussing those individually as well as how you can integrate those with some existing platforms that you may be using. That’s the Office Hours.

Now, we’re going to be doing more high-level webinars on those digital signing solutions. That’s on May 6th, and then we’re going to be doing also an overview of leveraging your Office 365 Investment or what to do with your SharePoint on May 6th as well. A little bit about me. Everyone probably has all this information but I’m the manager of Content and Process Automation practice, so that’s CPA practice. We’re not accountants but we do work with accountants here at RPI Consultants.

I’ve been doing this for around 10 years. I’ve been with RPI for around six years and much of my experience has been around accounts payable automation but really more broadly process automation as a whole. Lately, in the past year, year and a half, I’ve been spending a lot of time building competency with the Azure Cloud Services. I’m excited for RPI to be able to offer more services in this space.

Microsoft Azure Cloud Services. What are we talking about? Of course, please in these Office Hours, we encourage questions, we encourage audience participation. Please feel free to challenge me to explore something that I didn’t go into enough detail for or request to see something that I wasn’t even planning on talking about. Wherever these Office Hours take us, we are happy to do. What is Azure? A couple of slides really quick and then we’re going to jump in. Obviously, it’s the cloud, and what is the cloud? Cloud is a series of data centers. You can build, deploy, manage servers, manage applications.

Really what we’re talking about are the different levels of infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and software as a service. Software as a service is things like Office 365. All you have to be concerned about is managing the application configuration and user access. Platform as a service is more like, and we’ll dive into this, but where the server is owned for you, but you may still be owning the application, install some level of code deployment, things like that. Infrastructure as a service is really just your servers on someone else’s hardware or your storage on someone else’s hardware. That’s really what we’re going to be exploring today.

Main reason why we dive into infrastructure as a service first is because to adopt it, it’s the easiest thing to adopt, to get your foot in the door of leveraging a cloud service provider, and it utilizes what is called the lift and shift methodology or can utilize it, where you’re picking up what you have in place today, shifting it over to a cloud-hosted environment. The data centers and cloud services, in general, are considered safe, secure, and reliable, and some of that is inherent and some of that are in the services that are provided. Of course, Azure is not the only cloud service provider, Amazon, Google, IBM, you have a lot of options. I think that the main reason that we have adopted Azure is because as an organization we began making our own move to Office 365 where we have moved, a long time ago, and it opened up the door for some really natural efficiencies and it became easy to explore what Azure had to provide, and all of a sudden we found the power of it, and I really want to share that with everyone else.

What can you do? Well, today we’re going to set up some cloud storage using what’s called a storage account. We’re going to explore the options inside of that. I’m going to go to a local RPI server that’s hosted in our Baltimore data center, and I’m going to map a drive that’s on Azure into our local on-premises server. That’s where I’m exhibiting that lift and shift idea where I’m going to take content or storage that would normally be on an on-premises server and push it into the cloud for reliability and the fact that it’s actually cheaper to store it out there than it is on our high-performance solid-state.

What can you do? The idea is that we’re demonstrating the ability to migrate expensive storage and hopefully realize a very quick return on investment. The type of storage I’m setting up costs, dollars a month that is, for gigabytes of storage. That is the extent of my presentation, so I’m going to go ahead and get logged into Azure portal. The place you go to set up, first thing we’re going to do is set up our storage account inside of Azure. The place you go to for anything inside of Azure is

If you don’t already have some sort of Microsoft account or subscription or within your organization, you don’t, no problem, you can set up a free trial subscription all by yourself. Microsoft offers, I believe, 60 days for most services, and then even after you move to a pay as you go, you can generally set up free or extremely cheap subscriptions for a lot of different things if you want to continue to sandbox.

First thing that you’ll see is it takes you to these services, and there’s just a ton of stuff. If I go to create a new resource, there are a ton of different options, I can spin up a virtual machine, I can create new users inside of my active directory, I can create new directories inside of my environment. The top-level inside of Azure are your subscriptions, so I have a subscription for our business and then everything that I’m building is already set up. I’m not going to dive into that, but you can have multiple subscriptions.

Within the portal you can see that there’s lots of different things you can do, I can spin up a SQL database, new Windows or Linux server, I can do some rather really cool things like leverage their OCR services, AI, that’s all very complex, what we’re going to do is create a storage account. I’m going to look up storage account, and storage account can store a number of different types of data. It can be traditional file store, it can be tables, so you can theoretically migrate from an existing traditional database, migrate your table storage over to a storage account.

Blobs, which are much more unstructured data. You can look up how a blob is defined but a blob is – what does it stand for – large object something, but it’s generally the binarization of images or of executables or anything like that that is a non-data type of storage, and there’s other types. We’re going to create a new one, and I’m going to walk through a couple of the options that are contained within the storage account creation. I have my subscription created. I have to select a resource group; resource groups are just logical groupings of different Azure components. I have a ton in here. I’m going to select just one we have that’s a playground or a sandbox for other things. I’m going to give this a name. It has to be a unique name within my instance. I’m going to call this WebinarDemo1. Get out. Lowercase letters and numbers. Okay. webinardemo1, there we go. I can specify location. Now, this location is the actual physical data center in which the storage is being used. Within the United States, I can’t say that it necessarily is going to matter for our purposes. Now, the amount of latency from New York to LA is going to be a lot more significant than Kansas City to LA or from Kansas City to New York. The selection of the data center that you use does matter.

There’s a lot to be learned about Azure and the fact that the geolocation of your storage, and that’s in the replication section down here, matters because certain data centers are paired with other data center