“Cloud computing” is typically associated with enterprises looking for a place to move their services to save money and improve availability. While this is certainly one of the major use cases for cloud computing, Azure can be used by anyone for several purposes. Here are 5 ways that you can take advantage of Azure.

  1. Work from anywhere — Azure enables users to create virtual machines that can be turned off and turned on at will. While the machines are off, you only pay for the storage that the VM’s are using on Azure. This option makes working from anywhere very possible. You can create Windows and Linux VM’s on Azure and install and use your favorite software on these VM’s through a remote desktop client on any device from any location with an Internet connection.
  2. Cloud Gaming — You heard that right — you can use virtual machines on Azure for cloud-based gaming by streaming the game back to your local machine and using controls locally to control the game in the cloud. Azure has a few GPU-optimized virtual machines with nVidia Telsa graphics cores, which make for monster virtual machines. While these are intended more for big data and AI, they can still run games. The caveat here is that these VM’s can be VERY expensive if you forget to turn them off when you are done. Otherwise, just like using a virtual machine on Azure for work, you can use a virtual machine for gaming and just pay for storage when you aren’t using it. Setting up games so they stream from remote machine is not for the faint of heart. It requires configuring the VM to play the games that can be streamed over a network, but with a little effort, streaming a game from a virtual machine in the cloud make for some beautiful eye candy from complex games.
  3. BackupsAzure Blob Storage is a great solution for a low-cost backups. Blob storage has 2 tiers that are more ideal for backups: cool and archive. Cool storage is intended for long term storage that might need to be accessed on demand. For backups, it costs about $.01/GB, or about $10 a month for 1 TB of storage. Archive storage is for even longer-term storage, but it is not available on demand and requests for data must go through a hydration process to be made available. However, for archiving data it’s a great solution as it only costs about $0.002/GB, or about $2/month for 1 TB of storage. Using Blob Storage with a utility like rClone can create a low-cost backup solution for individuals and small companies alike.
  4. A VPN — There are multiple ways to create a VPN on Azure. Azure has its own VPN service that is intended for hybrid cloud scenarios for connecting on-premise systems to virtual networks in the cloud. However, for an individual, it is possible to provision a VPN on Azure to work as a VPN gateway and give you private Internet access from Azure like the way that many private VPN resellers work. The advantage with this self-hosted solution is that you only pay for it when you use it because you can shut the VM down after you’re done with your private Internet session, and the VM needed to run such a solution is $5-7/month if you left it on 24/7.
  5. Host a website — Azure was built for the Internet, so hosting a website on Azure is a no-brainer. There is a myriad of options to choose from for hosting web sites on Azure. One of the cheapest is to use blob storage to host a static website. Alternatively, you can use a modest VM to host a blog or a low-traffic website on Azure. For more robust options, you can take advantage of Azure App Services that will be highly-available out of the box.

So there you have it: 5 ways that just about anyone can use Azure. Happy cloud-computing!