Azure Virtual Machines give organisations a flexible, cost-effective, and efficient way of using computing power without having to buy their own hardware. But if you aren’t an IT expert, then the term ‘virtual machines’ can sound a little abstract.

At FITTS, we’ve helped many of our clients to set up and use Azure Virtual Machines. Let’s explore what they are, and what you can do with them.

What is an Azure Virtual Machine?

An Azure Virtual Machine is a virtual machine that runs in Microsoft’s cloud environment. You can create one in the Microsoft Azure portal, and customise it to your specific needs.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, what is a virtual machine (VM)? Essentially a VM is a computer within a computer. It’s a piece of software that provides you with all the same hardware (CPU, memory, etc.) as you would get with a physical computer, but this hardware has been virtualized. You access the VM from a physical computer, and it opens up in a new window that looks and works like a regular PC.

A virtual machine is separated from the physical hardware and operating system of the host computer (by something called a hypervisor). It also allows you to load up a VM with a different operating system (OS) to that which is found on the physical computer. You could, for instance, use a VM to run a Linux OS on a physical computer that runs on Windows.

So, Azure Virtual Machines are just another kind of virtual machine, but they run in the cloud – rather than on a physical computer in your office. To use an Azure VM, you need to access it over the internet.

Microsoft has provided a variety of Azure Virtual Machine packages (they call them ‘series’), so you can select the kind of VM you need depending on how much computing power you require and what you want to do with the system. The fees for the different series vary depending on computing power and usage.

Related: What’s an Azure Virtual Desktop?

Why use an Azure Virtual Machine?

Using an Azure Virtual Machine provides multiple benefits, including:

  • Cheaper than buying hardware: If you didn’t use a VM, then you would need to buy physical hardware if you wanted to use a new computer with specific features or a different OS. This could easily end up costing quite a lot of money – whereas you pay for Azure VMs at a (very low) hourly rate.
  • Flexible and scalable: Another major benefit of an Azure Virtual Machine is that you can rapidly scale the number of machines you use, up and down. If, for instance, a company was running an app in a VM and it got very popular, they could expand quickly and run it on thousands of computers. Equally, you can scale down your Virtual Machines very easily too if they’re no longer needed.
  • Secure: Using an Azure Virtual Machine gives you a lot of security. The VM’s are effectively separated from the underlying physical machine, which means that if they were infected by malware, this wouldn’t jump over to the physical machine.

Suggested: Why virtual desktops are ideal for hybrid working

5 things you can do with an Azure Virtual Machine

The things you can do with an Azure Virtual Machine are just as varied and diverse as what you could do with a physical computer. That being said, they are particularly well suited to certain tasks:

1.      Building an application

Azure Virtual Machines are particularly popular among software developers. They allow you to quickly create a computer and specify the kind of OS you want to build your app in. The virtual machine provides a test environment where you can create an app, see how it works and iterate on the product. VM’s have the benefit of being cheap to create, while also being secure.

2.      Many kinds of remote working

Using a cloud-based VM can be suitable for many kinds of remote work, but they’re particularly useful in scenarios where employees require more powerful computers.

For example, graphic designers, CAD designers, architects using BIM software, or video game designers require extremely powerful PCs to do their work – they couldn’t just load up designs on their own personal laptop – this means they’d need to transport their office computer back home if they wanted to work remotely. But by using a virtual machine, you can provision a powerful computer that is accessed over the internet. The designers could then load up their ‘heavy’ design files on the VM, and work from any computer, anywhere.

3.      Disaster recovery

Using Azure Virtual Machines can be an effective strategy for disaster recovery. In the event that your physical computers get breached by malware, users can simply log into their backed up VM and continue working.

4.      Training environments

Azure Virtual Machines are a fantastic option for any organisation that’s offering training or education over the internet. You can quickly set up and configure virtual machines, give students a login, and then train them remotely to use software or complete exams.

5.      Running heavy workloads

Azure Virtual Machines can be an effective way for organisations to run heavy workloads at lower cost. Whether it’s financial models, simulations, video rendering or any other power-hungry activity, handing over these workloads to a VM can be a lot cheaper than doing them on your own servers. You can also benefit from Microsoft’s spot pricing to do the processing at the cheapest times.

Start using Azure Virtual Machines

Could your organisation benefit from using Azure Virtual Machines? If so, FITTS can help. We can support you to set up and configure your Azure Virtual Machines, advise you on the best series and price, and help manage your VM so it’s as cost-effective and productive as possible.

Contact us today and begin using Azure Virtual Machines at your organisation.