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A new cloud tool lets you move millions of books-worth of data to Azure incredibly quickly

A new high-speed cloud tool that can move up to four terabytes of data to Azure in just an hour has been launched by Microsoft.

Fast Data Transfer is aimed at companies and organisations that need to transfer a large number of files from their servers to the cloud, or want to maximise their internet connection.

Four terabytes is the equivalent of more than 18.3 million 200-page books, 6,452 CDs or 932 DVDs.

Fast Data Transfer works by using all the available bandwidth in an internet connection, even when the user is sending information over long distances. Information that travels a long way via copper and fiber-optic cables will often need “amplifying” to ensure it reaches its destination. Microsoft’s solution, which runs on Windows and Linux, is up to 10 times faster than similar transfer tools and also offers options for enhancing performance.

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Microsoft software engineers George Pollard, John Rusk and Dave Fellows, who created Fast Data Transfer, said: “Thanks to Azure, it’s easy to scale up compute capacity in the cloud. But first you have to get the data into the cloud, and that was a pain point for many customers. So, we set out to look for a faster solution, starting with a survey of Open Source and commercial products. None was as fast as we wanted, so we started experimenting to see what we could build ourselves. We developed a number of optimization techniques, and achieved upload speeds faster than all the other tools we evaluated.”

Microsoft has 50 Azure regions across the world, more than any other cloud provider, including two in the UK. Companies and organisations use Microsoft’s servers to host information and run their businesses because it’s often cheaper and more secure than maintaining their own. Around 90% of the Fortune 500 use Microsoft’s cloud and there are 120,000 new Azure customer subscriptions every month.

Fast Data Transfer is just one of several Azure services that have been released in this country recently.

Azure Database for MySQL and Azure Database for PostgreSQL lets developers easily move work to the cloud using the coding languages they want. They can also scale up or down their requirements, depending on demand, and take advantage of Microsoft’s world-leading security and compliance features.

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The features can be used to develop retail solutions, digital marketing campaigns and finance management applications, among other things.

Somerset County Council, which provides services to 550,000 people, is one of a number of organisations saving money by using the SQL tools in Azure.

“The ability to mix Azure and our open source technologies is a big advantage for us,” said Andy Grigg, Enterprise Architect at the council. “Moving the geospatial database from our data centre to the Azure Database for PostgreSQL service will save us money, allow for much more scalability and lower our support overhead.

“From a strategic direction, we were looking for a partner that would invest with us and help us in terms of gaining government acceptance for our shift to the cloud. Microsoft can do that.

“Unlike our on-premise data centre, where we have to pay for everything 24/7, we can configure Azure to automatically shut down services when they are not in use. We will be able to throw away our yearly £65,000 power bill for the one machine room in our data centre. Even though some systems will remain onsite at county hall, their power footprint will be far lower than what we currently have.”

Microsoft has also launched Flow in the UK, which lets individual employees automate tasks at work. You can create your own Flows or choose from templates related to email, productivity, notifications, data collection or social media.

For example, you can tell your system to save all Office 365 email attachments to a OneDrive folder, get a text message when you receive an email from someone important, track your working hours and location, or save tweets that mention a certain hashtag or company.

The UK data centres also feature Microsoft PowerApps, a service for companies and organisations that lets staff connect, create and share business apps with their team on any device in minutes.

It’s being used by The National Trust to record and show how its conservation efforts are progressing across the 775 miles of coastline, 250,000 hectares of land and more than 500 historic sites it manages.

“PowerApps is simple to use, and integrates well with our existing Microsoft investments, making it very cost-effective,” said Jon Townsend, Chief Information Officer at The National Trust.

Finally, Microsoft has rolled out Azure DDoS Protection in its UK data centres, which helps users protect themselves from “denial of service” cyberattacks.

A DDoS incident involves many hacked computers sending information to a server or website, overwhelming it until it crashes. Microsoft’s solution monitors traffic to offer near real-time detection of an attack and mitigates it.