It’s 2:00 a.m. in the United States: Can your employees and customers in Europe and Asia access the applications running in your Microsoft Azure cloud? If you’re not sure on a 24x7 basis what the status is of your Azure servers and applications, it’s time to invest in a third-party monitoring tool.
As reported by ZDNet in July 2019, Azure was affected by "three unique and significant incidents" over the previous 12 months, including a data center outage in the South Central US region in September 2018, back-to-back Active Directory multi-factor authentication problems in November 2018, and DNS maintenance issues in May 2019. That article also notes, this isn't an exhaustive list. To find out more, Microsoft provides an Azure Status History website.
Azure is not unique. All cloud hosting service providers experience a similar rate of outages. That same ZDNet article also notes that Microsoft claims Azure runs with a 99.995% uptime.
Can’t Just Walk Down the Hallway
Despite the outages, cloud services like Azure still make sense for IT environments and provide many advantages. They eliminate large capital expenditures and turn IT into an operating expense. You can also scale compute resources on-demand when spikes in activity occur. Application updates can be rolled out to users and customers all at once, and you’re always working with the latest hardware and software technologies.
But at the same time, it’s a little unnerving when your IT infrastructure is functioning in some far-away Microsoft data center. You can’t just walk down the hall to see if all your servers and applications are running in your data center. Moving to the cloud takes a certain leap-of-faith that “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right,” just as the song by David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney keeps telling us.
Third-Party Assurance Required
Just like on-premises data centers, cloud resources can go down at the worst time, such as when customer activity spikes or on the weekend—when your IT team is “hoping” to relax. When the cloud is down, you will likely fall short on the SLAs you have committed to with your customers and internal users.
That’s why providing your IT team with a third-party up/down cloud monitoring tool is so critical, whether you are running applications in Microsoft Azure or with any cloud provider. Such tools give IT the ability to know (just as soon as your cloud provider knows) whether or not all of your servers and applications are accessible to your key audiences—customers, employees, and partners.
If the Azure data center team is doing their job, which is usually the case, IT will, of course, hear from them just as quickly. Microsoft should actually inform you of a developing issue before end users are impacted. They should also start mitigating the situation immediately.
But just in case, and given that your business will likely shut down or be severely hampered any time your IT infrastructure is down, you need an independent, third-party monitoring mechanism. When systems are functioning as they should, you can rest assured you will know immediately if they go down. Your IT team can then make sure Microsoft is on top of the situation and take steps to escalate if the situation is not resolved expediently.
Advance Preparation Is Key
Should you run into a situation where your Azure environment goes down, the key is to have already prepared for the possibility in advance. Just as you would regularly back up data in an on-premises data center, you should back up what you store in the cloud, perhaps to another cloud provider.
If your business cannot tolerate any downtime, consider backing up your data to a secondary Azure data San Francisco, California center and setting up automatic failover capabilities. You can also work with Microsoft to design a high-availability architecture within the same data center, which guarantees applications will never go down for more than a split second. Services such as these will cost extra, but they are well worth the investment.
As for the role your internal IT team will play in bringing your original IT environment back up, much depends on the Azure services you pay for. It’s critical to confirm the responsibilities of Azure and your internal team so both parties know exactly what do in the event of a down server. You may also choose to partner with a third-party managed services provider who can intervene on your behalf.
Gaining Visibility Into Your Azure Environment
To monitor the performance of servers and applications in the cloud, many IT teams have turned to WhatsUp® Gold Cloud Monitoring. The solution provides IT with visibility into Azure environments via dashboard displays. IT can also create custom views and threshold alerts on any Azure parameters to know instantly which servers and applications are up and which ones are down.
If your cloud resources integrate with on-premises resources, WhatsUp Gold also allows you to quickly drill-down to issues and isolate the cause of problems spanning both environments. With the ability to quickly assess the health of your Azure infrastructure, you can identify and fix problems before they impact users. The information you collect will also facilitate any collaborative mitigation efforts you need to conduct with the Azure data center admin team or your managed services provider.
Beyond the real-time up/down monitoring capabilities of WhatsUp Gold, you can also compare Azure server utilization vs. cost with views into the number of cloud assets in use during a billing period. This way, you can ensure you don’t pay for any resources you never use.
Most of all, WhatsUp Gold gives you peace-of-mind—knowing 24x7 whether your Azure environment is up or down. Your IT team will also be armed with valuable information that helps restore downed services as quickly as possible so you can keep your customers and users happy!