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Microsoft Azure – FAQs from MSPs

0 commentsFebruary 12, 2019FAQs

What is Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft Azure is the cloud computing service that contains many of Microsoft’s offerings, like Office 365. It’s a collection of hundreds of different services that let you do almost anything via the cloud, like host web servers, email servers, and even virtual machines with Windows Virtual Desktops. Many businesses are now turning to Microsoft Azure or its competitors to handle their IT requirements without the need for clunky on-premise servers.

What does Microsoft Azure cost?

It’s a common misconception that Microsoft Azure is expensive. It certainly can be more expensive than on-premise solutions, but pricing for Microsoft Azure is modular and customizable. If you’re aware of how to make the most of it, Microsoft Azure can be significantly less expensive than competitors for managing a cloud practice. Still, there’s no one answer for what Azure costs, as it depends on your exact needs. However, you can see Microsoft’s own pricing page here, or you can explore our comprehensive Azure Cost Estimator for a break down of each component.

What’s the big deal about Windows Virtual Desktop?

Windows Virtual Desktop is a powerful new Azure-only virtualization offering from Microsoft. It stands to change quite a lot, so it’s worth reading into. We have a full rundown of Windows Virtual Desktop and lots of other resources here on our Academy.

How can I learn how to use Microsoft Azure?

From start to finish, completely getting your head around Microsoft Azure could take months, or even years, and require expensive courses and tuition. There is a frankly absurd number of services that Azure offers, so it’s difficult to get someone in your establishment trained in it.

That’s why we started Nerdio for Azure – to provide a Microsoft Azure automation solution so you as an MSP don’t need extensive training to offer Azure services to customers.

Why should I use Microsoft Azure as an MSP over Amazon Web Services?

Microsoft Azure’s primary competitor is Amazon Web Services (AWS). We believe Azure has the edge in a number of ways, but you can read about it in Microsoft’s own words here

So… how do I pronounce Microsoft Azure?

That depends which side of the pond you’re on, to an extent. Mark Russinovich, the Azure CTO, calls it ‘AZH-uhr.’ Like ‘asher’, but with a ‘z’.

Does Nerdio provide Azure and Office 365 to me?

No, Nerdio partners will continue to source Azure and O365 in the same manner you’ve procured them to date, via distributor or directly from Microsoft.

Do you have any kind of API access on your platform (for backend services like O365, M365, Azure, AWS)? If yes, do you allow SSO from other websites?

No, we do not have API access and SSO currently. However, it’s on our radar and can be accelerated if needed.

Do you have automated provisioning from within your portal for backend services like O365, M365, Azure, and AWS?

Yes, Nerdio allows you to automatically provision complete IT environments tied to O365 and Azure.

Which NFA servers would I put my RMM on?

Every VM (servers and desktops) running in Azure should have an RMM agent installed on it. The RMM agent will monitor the health of the VM at the operating system and application level environment and will watch for things like low disk space, services stopping unexpectedly, high RAM or CPU utilization, etc. RMM should also be used to patch and update the individual VMs and protect them with antivirus. Azure takes care of the physical aspects of the IT environment and the MSP is armed with RMM manages the OS and above items.

Can we use Office 365 licenses in Azure to license office?

You can use Office ProPlus (purchased either stand alone or within a bundle like E3) to license the installed version of Office on virtual desktops running in Azure. Office ProPlus support Shared Computer Activation (SCA) functionality is necessary to install and license Office in Azure. You cannot use Office Business since it does not support SCA. When a new Nerdio environment is deployed, Office ProPlus is installed by default with SCA enabled. This allows any user with an active Office ProPlus subscription to start using a Nerdio provisioned virtual desktop right away without any additional configuration.

Does Nerdio have recommended VM sizes for Azure deployments?

Yes, however, each deployment varies based on the number of users and the types of applications and services running on Azure VMs. We’ve created templates for small deployments that can be seen here: https://getnerdio.com/plans-and-pricing/azure-templates/. For Enterprise deployments, the initial size of the VMs provisioned by Nerdio are the smallest possible (to save on costs) and are not meant to be used as is in production. Instead, each VM should be resized with the proper amount of CPU and RAM based on its expected workloads. Our onboarding engineers will help you properly size your VMs if you need additional assistance.

What VM families should I use when deploying virtual machines in Azure?

Nerdio supports all Azure VM families. However, we find that the following three families are the most commonly used:

  1. B-series (burstbale)
    a. Best for non-CPU, low CPU utilization workloads. For example: Domain Controllers and File Servers 
    b. B2ms is recommended for DC01 and FS01 as a starting point
    c. 4GB of RAM for each CPU core in the BXms VMs
  2. D-series v3 (generic use-case)
    a. Best for CPU bound, high CPU ultilization workloads
    b. Recommended for RDS session hosts
    c. 4GB of RAM for each CPU core in the DSXv3 VMs
  3. E-series v3 (high memory use-case)
    a. Similar to D-series but with more RAM per CPU core
    b. Best for CPU bound with high RAM requirements or high RAM usage workloads. For example: SQL servers 
    c. 8GB of RAM for each CPU core
    d. Approximately 15% higher cost than a comparable D-series VM

What happens when I deploy Azure to my customers who want to use OneDrive for Business? Can they continue to use it? What is Nerdio's recommendation for file storage?

OneDrive and Sharepoint are supported in a Nerdio deployment. Any VDI (dedicated desktop) user or RDS users who are assigned to RD Session Hosts can install the OneDrive client and synchronize data. Users assigned to auto-scaling RDS Collections use User Profile Disks (UPD), which do not support the installed version of the OneDrive client. These users can still access all of their OneDrive and Sharepoint data via a web interface. In the upcoming Windows Virtual Desktops (WVD), OneDrive client will be supported in all scenarios.

Are we allowed to use Office 365 licenses in Azure to license Office?

You can use Office ProPlus, purchased either standalone or within a bundle, like E3, to license the installed version of Office on virtual desktops running in Azure. Office ProPlus supports Shared Computer Activation (SCA) functionality, which is necessary to install and license Office in Azure. You cannot use Office Business since it does not support SCA. When a new Nerdio environment is deployed, Office ProPlus is installed by default with SCA enabled. This allows any user with an active Office ProPlus subscription to start using a Nerdio provisioned virtual desktop right away without any additional configuration.

When I sign up for Azure RI, I understand that I can change VMs within the same series and still be eligible to use RI. What happens if I need to move from let’s say a B Series VM to an D Series VM. Would I have set up a new reservation with Microsoft?

Reservations are specific to a VM family and region. However, they can be exchanged without penalty.

  • The way this works is as follows:
    You purchase a 12-month reservation for 4 cores of B-series VM on January 1st.
  • On March 31st you decide that your 4 core B-series VM is no longer meeting your requirements and you want to upgrade it to a 4 core D-series VM.
  • You perform a reservation exchange process via the Microsoft Partner Center or your CSP Provider’s portal. You will receive 75% of the cost you paid for the B-series reservation (back in January) as a credit towards the purchase of a brand new 12-month reservation for 4 cores of D-series VM. To put it another way, the cost of your new D-series reservation will be reduced by the unused portion of the B-series reservation, which is 75% of the original cost (3 months used, 9 months unused).

I want to move form AWS to Azure and use Nerdio for Azure to do that. Can I do this and if so, are there specific best practices you recommend?

Nerdio supports migrations into Azure from all environments, including on-premises and other public clouds such as AWS. After the Nerdio environment is provisioned, data can be migrated using the Data Mirroring functionality and individual VMs can be imported with Azure Site Replication.

What happens if I want to stop using Nerdio with my existing Azure clients?

We certainly hope that never happens! However, if you want to stop using Nerdio, here is what the practical impact would be:

  • You will need to start managing the environment manually via standard management tools (e.g. AD, O365, Azure, RDS, etc.)
  • RDS Collections will become static. They will no longer automatically scale in and out
  • You will not be able to modify the server autoscale settings

When moving from an on-prem environment to Azure, are there specific practices Nerdio recommends in terms of greenfield deployment vs. lift and shift?

In addition to greenfield deployments, Nerdio supports lift-and-shift migration of individual server VMs using Azure Site Replication and extensions of existing Active Directory deployments in Azure and Azure AD.

Do users connect to virtual desktop via site-to-site VPN?

Desktop connectivity happens securely via RD Gateway, which encrypts all desktop traffic coming in and leaving the Azure environment. VPN is not utilized for desktop connectivity. However, site-to-site VPN is used for network based printing and scanning from Azure to local devices.

What is the difference between AHU and Azure Hybrid Usage?What is the difference between AHU and Azure Hybrid Usage?

Nothing – these terms are used interchangeably.


Still have questions? We have answers on a range of topics available on our full FAQs page.