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A future-proof SaaS service for our customers

It was only a few years ago that the infrastructure on which our software ran as a SaaS service was renewed. Yet a new step has recently been taken: Zenya will be offered via Microsoft’s Azure platform. The first customers have already been successfully migrated as of March 2021. Preparations for the migration of the remaining SaaS customers are also in full swing.

Several months later, it is a perfect time to take a look at why Azure was chosen and what the benefits are. For Infoland but especially for our customers and developers. CTO Hilbert Leijen, Product Development Manager Guy Bruens and Lead Developer Paul Vrugt are happy to update you.

From private cloud to public cloud

With the switch to Azure, we are making a step from private to public cloud. ‘Years ago, we already chose not to place the infrastructure for our SaaS service at our premises, but to hire this expertise from a data centre. A few years ago, we updated this infrastructure considerably,’ Hilbert explains.

‘At that time, we also looked at Azure, but it was not as mature then as it is now. Switching over really would have been too early then. Now is the right time for us, though. We want to be innovative and forward-thinking, ahead of the curve, but we need a product that is proven to work well.’

But isn’t that exciting, switching to a public cloud? ‘It is partly the right time because almost every organisation is now using something from Microsoft Azure. If you use Office365, for example, those services are also in Azure. That makes it not an exciting switch for our customers, they already know it,’ Guy explains.

The advantages of Azure

‘A big advantage of Azure is that it is incredibly scalable. Much more so than the infrastructure we purchase in the data centre. For example, if it turns out that a customer uses Zenya so intensively that more resources are needed, this can be arranged in no time with a few mouse clicks.

In the old situation, we had to request this from the provider so it was never arranged immediately. Scaling up was also not possible without adding hardware, so it often took even longer, sometimes days or weeks. The fact that we are now almost literally pushing the buttons ourselves and that it is therefore arranged almost immediately is a big advantage for us, but certainly also something customers will notice. When they indicate that things need to be done faster, we can arrange that for them in no time,’ Guy continues.

Various other problems are also often easier to solve this way: temporarily scaling up so the customer can continue working, and meanwhile solving the problem on the back end. It only makes the service to customers better.

Hilbert adds: ‘We stand for high availability. Not only during office hours, but also outside them. Simply because our customers work in all kinds of sectors and therefore need to be able to run 24/7. With the old solution, we were running into the limits of availability; with Azure, we can make progress here again.’

A tenth of a percent extra uptime seems little, but when your uptime is already incredibly high, it is the difference between performing well and very well.


Cyber security SaaS Azure


More security and control

Another advantage of the public cloud is the high level of security. You sometimes hear it being said: the Microsoft cloud is so big that the best security is absolutely necessary. The company has an image to protect, which can be toppled by a single breach.

Moreover, Microsoft has so much (financial) power to invest in cybersecurity that virtually no private data centre can compete with it. So with Azure, customers can be confident that their data is safe. Several tools within Azure further contribute to this.

Paul: ‘One of those tools is Microsoft’s Privileged Identity Management (PIM). This allows you to give people certain rights, for a certain period of time. Our support staff can use this to temporarily get the right management rights if they need to do something in the customer environment, and once that’s done, they can no longer get in. Until it is needed again, of course.

So our employees only have the rights they need, when they need them. This gives many customers an extra sense of security, so it was a wish of more and more customers to be able to set up something like this. Before, assigning rights was a lot more complicated.’

Paul continues: ‘Moreover, thanks to PIM, it is also possible to see exactly who had rights when, and what that person did. This is all recorded and thus increases traceability. In this way, we keep an insight into and overview of what is happening, while keeping it workable for everyone.’

‘Another tool we use is Encryption Scopes. For each customer environment in Azure, we can create a separate encryption key. In the unlikely event that a key is compromised, only that one customer’s environment is vulnerable. ‘In a multi-tenant environment, this is really a godsend when it comes to security,’ Paul concludes the security story.

Time left for the things that really matter

‘What really benefits us is that we spend less time on peripheral issues such as management. As I said, switching resources on and off is done with a few mouse clicks and immediately taken care of. We no longer have to worry about hardware and its management. That’s all time we can spend on what really matters: improving and further developing our software,’ Paul continues.

‘That also benefits customers: developers spend less time on the technology behind the performance of our software, allowing us to respond faster to requirements ín the software.’ Hilbert also has something to say about this: ‘We know that developers are at their best when they can actually develop, and not just think up patches. So for Infoland and the employees, this is also an important step forward.’

‘We want to innovate more and more and that takes time.  Besides, what developer doesn’t want to develop on the Azure platform? We want to set the standard for the future now, for ourselves and our customers ‘ Guy adds.

More and more customers switching to Azure

By the end of April, around 40 SaaS customers had been migrated to Azure. The reaction of those customers is mainly positive, as they either notice little or nothing of the transition (which is good, of course), or they already notice better performance. Where necessary, the knobs are immediately turned to increase speed. Now, customers are switched weekly, until all customers are finally on Azure.

So with the switch to Azure, Infoland is taking a big step towards the future. A future where we can start doing many more great things with Zenya.

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