Many enterprises are happily running their Office desktop apps or Exchange, SharePoint, Yammer and Lync services online through Office 365 subscriptions. Some now are asking what other workloads they might move to the cloud. Microsoft Azure answers that need and complements Office 365 through its platform and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings.

What is the difference between Azure and Office 365?
Microsoft Azure is a cloud-based IaaS and Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering, hosted in Microsoft managed world-class data centers used for building, deploying and managing applications. Azure’s open and flexible cloud platform allows for a quick build-out and deployment of managed solutions through Microsoft’s global data center network with 99.95% monthly service level agreement (SLA) and 24×7 tech support.

Microsoft Office 365 is Software as a Service (SaaS) also housed in Microsoft’s world-class data centers providing a comprehensive set of software tools and services that facilitate documentation, communication and collaboration tasks. No upfront installation of hardware is required other than an Internet connection (aka “The Cloud”).

How does Office 365 utilize Azure?
If you are running Office 365 you are already running an instance of Azure as a cloud directory. Office 365 uses the authentication service of Azure Active Directory to provide secure access to Office 365 services (i.e., Exchange Online, Lync Online and SharePoint Online). This means Office 365 uses the identity that is synchronized with Azure AD for authentication.

Azure AD is the primary directory for all organizational Microsoft online services including Office 365, Windows Intune and Microsoft Dynamics. By utilizing Azure AD in Office 365, organizations can manage user accounts across services, synchronize on-premises directory objects or use Active Directory Federation Services depending on which model suits them best.

If I already have Office 365, what additional benefits can Azure bring to my business?

Four popular Azure usage scenarios you might find of benefit to your business are:

Data Backup in the Cloud
Azure provides robust cloud storage, backup and recovery for any size data pool. Working with your current infrastructure, Azure offers a cost-effective way to enhance your business continuity strategies for a range of apps including file servers, Exchange, SharePoint or SQL servers. Azure delivers encrypted backups in geo-redundant data centers and allows for quick and easy provisioning of storage as needed.

Hosted Website
Need to host a company website with possibilities to scale? Azure allows you to quickly build, deploy and manage websites on a flexible cloud platform. Azure instantly scales to meet fluctuations and spikes in your site usage giving you peace of mind through Microsoft’s enterprise-class, managed data centers.

Deploy Applications within Virtual Machines
With Azure you can utilize your company’s existing tools to create and quickly deploy apps without the time and cost of managing infrastructure. Azure offers secure and elastic development, deployment and scaling options for any size app. Server apps are validated to run on virtual machines. Similar to the Office 365 consumption model, running your apps with Azure within virtual machines avoids capital infrastructure expenses, reduces your IT administration burden and allows your company to scale as needed.

SSO for Apps
With Azure Active Directory you can easily provide single sign-on (SSO) access to over 2,500 SaaS applications for your users. SaaS applications such as, Concur Technologies, Box and thousands of others are available in Azure Active Directory. You do not need to purchase additional on-premises software or solutions to give users a seamless SSO experience as they use these SaaS solutions.

Both Office 365 and Azure Are Available in Open Licensing Plans
As an Office 365 subscriber, Azure’s new Open Licensing allows you a familiar, easy way to purchase services without setting up a complex internal billing system. Many Azure services are now available through Microsoft Volume Licensing, Open Value or Open Value Subscription Volume Licensing Programs.

Additionally, Microsoft Azure can be purchased directly through the Microsoft Online Subscription Program (MOSP) and Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) program via an enrollment amendment. Contact your CDW Account Manager to further explore options with either Office 365 or Azure services. And feel free to send comments or follow me on Twitter at @Cloud_Kimb.