Friday, 31 July 2015

Firebrand embraces Microsoft’s cloud first ethos


Speaking from a meeting room that previously held Firebrand’s sever rack, we caught up with Bevan Miller, our Head of IT, to discuss Firebrand’s recent migration to Microsoft Azure and Office 365.

Firebrand now in the cloud

Over the past year, Firebrand’s forward-thinking IT team have been migrating business critical systems to Microsoft’s public cloud platform – Azure.

A modern business requires countless services and software to run, and Firebrand has been working hard at getting them into the cloud. Our recent Office 365 migration means that users can now login to the Firebrand business applications and authenticate through Azure and Federation Services.

Firebrand employees can access their critical apps across public networks – BYOD and working from home has never been simpler.

But that’s not all – OneDrive for Business, Exchange Online, SharePoint, Yammer, Skype for Business, File Services, legacy CRM, database services, finance systems, RemoteApp, Directory Services and Windows Deployment Services are now all running in Azure.



Cloud migration – not just a buzzword

Full cloud migration can be a daunting task but the benefits are massive. Firebrand staff now experience full BYOD and working from home flexibility – when they connect to the corporate network, regardless of their connection, they’ll find their apps are already installed alongside their personal settings.

The IT team have also cut their operational time by enabling the cloud to manage their server load. Real time scaling support that efficiently adapts to business demands is now maintained by Dot Net Solutions, a managed services and solutions partner.



Dot Net Solutions manages all of Firebrand’s third line support – using System Centre Operations Manager for security and update patches, monitor, maintain and triage system issues before they impact business applications.

The result: Bevan and his team get more time to focus on business solutions and streamlining technologies.

With our server stack sitting securely in the cloud, little to no operational time is being dedicated to regular hardware maintenance tasks. There’s now no need to add to the server stack when the company expands, Azure flexibly responds to any increase or decrease in our business demands.

Firebrand can now easily deploy additional security features through Azure’s Multi Factor Authentication giving us real time security monitoring and enabling fast action on alerts.

Risk to critical files is minimised too - if our server room experiences any disasters, our critical servers and data will be spared as they are now backed-up multiple times across Azure's geo-redundant virtual machines.

We now also use Microsoft Data Protection manager in conjunction with Azure Data Backup Vaults as well as a full Virtual Machine through the Azure Backup Service.

Those training with us will also get to see Azure in action - Firebrand’s cloud courses are now powered by Azure. Plus, Bevan’s team can now utilise Azure to set up Firebrand’s classrooms, cutting 6-7 days of setup time to a mere ten minutes


How we converted our server rack space into a meeting room

Cloud migration means saying ‘Goodbye’ to the majority of your server racks and when we said our farewells, we suddenly came into possession of a whole new workspace.

Previously stuffed with whirring servers and their backups, we quickly made use of the space by converting it into a new meeting room.

Our absence of physical servers and specialised AC means that the Firebrand London office has more than halved power consumption, server estate footprint and redundant power requirement – cutting electricity bills and contributing to Firebrand's green commitment.


Why Firebrand migrated with Azure

As Microsoft are also the Operating System vendor, they are able to closely integrate the hosting platform with the desktop. For example, Operating System stack integrated to back-end infrastructure makes it easy for personal devices to securely and quickly access corporate resources through Azure Rights Management Service.



And despite launching later than other cloud services, Azure has learnt from its competitors – taking advantage of their successes and avoiding their failures.

Azure isn’t the only public cloud service available, but with over $15billion invested into Azure – it’s clear that Microsoft is committed to their advancing cloud service.


Putting themselves out of a job?

As more and more of Firebrand’s IT services become automated and self-sufficient – Bevan’s team is leaving behind the traditional IT support role.

It may sound like Firebrand’s IT team are putting themselves out of a job, but the fact is, when conventional support becomes automated, IT departments are able to apply their skills to business enhancing projects - like making Firebrand's business files more accessible by migrating them to Microsoft OneDrive.

Bevan and his staff now have more time to ensure Firebrand continues to be a cutting edge business with the best tools available.


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About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.