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Is Microsoft Azure Right for Your Financial Institution?

14 Sep 2016 by Jessica Hall

Providing enterprise-grade security, compliance and privacy offerings at a low cost, Microsoft Azure can help financial institutions hit pay dirt as they improve productivity, increase efficiencies and reduce costs. This cloud-computing platform and infrastructure technology also can help financial companies take advantage of an emerging trend in the evolution of data centers: a hybrid infrastructure. Azure allows you to leverage a hybrid cloud environment, and it can also be used as an extension of your current infrastructure.

While Azure helps financial institutions employ a hybrid cloud architecture, you should consider how data centers and related offerings are evolving, and what you should do to take advantage of these improvements.

Data security is paramount.

Even as data centers evolve, data security will continue to be a chief concern for financial businesses — and for good reason. David Mayer, vice president of product management for software at Insight, points out that we’ve seen numerous organizations hacked for their credit card or customer data. “If there were to be a breach of a very large financial institution, the fallout from that would be pretty bad,” he says. To help prevent this, Azure continually expands its support for financial service customers. Microsoft frequently adds new certifications, assessments, standards and protective measures to this popular cloud-computing platform.

Regardless of what solution is selected, financial institutions need to be cautious as to where data lives and who can access it. “They have to spend an inordinate amount of time making sure that the information they have is secure in where it lives,” Mayer says.

Combining application access, directory services and identity management, Azure Activity Directory provides centralized infrastructure administration, robust authentication and single sign-on. These features help reduce the confusion and ineffectiveness that can come from the management of multiple accounts and the implementation of manual processes. In many cases, Azure’s advanced architecture also stops applications and servers from experiencing delays.

Which is better, Azure or AWS?

Azure presents developers and IT specialists with a familiar experience. “Microsoft Azure is built upon the technology underpinnings of the company’s software stack,” explains Mayer. “[Azure] also uses your existing management tools."

However, this cloud-computing platform and infrastructure solution also offers flexibility, as it can be used to run versions of Linux and host applications that are not Microsoft based. From the ground up, Microsoft builds security into its cloud solutions, ensuring that your company is protected at all levels. Conducting constant proactive monitoring and penetration testing ensure the company’s online services are impervious to attack.

On the other side of the coin, you have Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is a self-contained solution. Because they don’t have existing software on which to base their infrastructure, the company had to design its infrastructure to support everything. While this allows you to run your entire IT environment in the cloud, Mayer believes there’s something you should be aware of: “… You’re providing all of your IT infrastructure, directory, security information and networking information — everything about your IT organization — to Amazon.” Financial institutions will need to decide for themselves if they’re comfortable with this provider having that information or not.

Conduct a cost-benefit analysis.

Instead of provisioning technology that only meets worst-case scenarios, you can easily scale your infrastructure up or down as needed with Azure’s pay-as-you-go services. However, Mayer recommends identifying the ongoing resources that will be needed to manage these environments. Depending on your financial institution’s requirements, the cost savings that are commonly associated with moving applications to the cloud can be reduced by the overhead needed to govern the environment.

However, cost savings are on the rise. Mayer points out that the cost of storage and compute is decreasing. “As cloud vendors scale, they are capable of delivering their service at a cheaper and cheaper cost,” he says.

With shrinking costs and expanded capabilities, even if ongoing resources are needed, it’s likely that your financial institution will gain efficiencies and savings from a move to the cloud.

Consider staying power.

The cloud market is undergoing a massive shift with many providers looking to exit the marketplace in the near future. As reported by DataCenterKnowledge.com, sizable telecommunications companies are planning or looking to offload their data center portfolios that were once used to enter the cloud services market. Verizon is one such company to recently shutter this sector of their business.

This change is occurring because Azure and AWS have overtaken the market, making it harder for others to compete. With Microsoft recently moving Dynamics AX to Azure, it’s a clear indication Azure is here to stay.

Having worked closely with Microsoft for more than 25 years, we can help you decide if Microsoft Azure will enhance productivity and profitability within your financial institution. Talk to an Insight specialist to find out if Azure is the right fit for your company.