Why Now is the Right Time to Migrate Your SQL Server to Azure

The Structured Query Language (or SQL) is one of the most popular languages in the database management industry. It is primarily used in relational database management systems (or RDBMS) and relational data stream management systems (or RDSMS).

Both RDBMS and RDSMS are commonly used across a range of industries, such as:

  • Computer Software
  • IT Services
  • Healthcare
  • Finance
  • Recruitment

Simply put, any business that stores large datasets to leverage value and insight, is most likely using RDBMS and a fork of SQL.

Support for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

For businesses running any SQL Server 2008 instances, there are support deadlines for each OS version, of which you should be mindful. Microsoft announced on their Azure blog that:

  • Extended Support for SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 deployments will cease on July 9, 2019.
  • Extended Support for Windows Server 2008 and Revision 2 will stop on January 14, 2020.

For anyone still running these operating systems after the support period ends, a few things will happen:

  • Security updates will completely stop.
  • All responsibility in the instance of failure is on YOU, not Microsoft.

With support ending, it means that continuing to run these server OS versions will carry some risk. Undiscovered exploits will not be patched, and you will have no official support channels to access if a cyber security breach happens on your network. Due to this, you should be heavily considering an upgrade of your on-premises environment.

Also ReadBenefits of Migrating from SQL Server to Azure

Support for Microsoft SQL Server 2012 and 2014

While Microsoft Server 2008 users are most at risk, there are also fast approaching support deadlines for 2012 and 2014 server editions, outlined below. To clarify, these are extended support deadlines which require you to pay an annual fee (75% of the OS license cost) to qualify:

  • Extended Support for Microsoft SQL Server 2012 R2 will stop on October 10, 2023.
  • Extended Support for Microsoft SQL Server 2014 SP3 will cease on July 9, 2024.

These dates are sourced from Microsoft’s Product Lifecycle page for (2012) and (2014) editions, respectively.

Time to upgrade!

With all these deadlines fast approaching, it’s a good time to start planning a comprehensive infrastructure upgrade. For those interested in SQL Server Migration to Azure, Microsoft currently offers a great incentive with its Azure Migration offering.

Currently, anyone who migrates their SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 (original and R2), will be able to claim free extended security updates for an additional three years.

According to Microsoft, you could potentially save up to 55% on the running costs of SQL and Server 2008 machines by using existing licenses and the Azure Hybrid Benefit scheme.

Should you migrate your SQL database to the Azure cloud?

With Azure migration, there is a wide range of benefits when compared to on-premises server implementations.

Reduced Costs

As you transition to the cloud, there are many cost savings to be made. The most significant savings come from no longer needing on-premises server hardware to run your SQL database.

Instead, you have monthly operating expenses within the Azure cloud that smoothen cash flow, while only charging you for the computing power you use. Microsoft monitors these systems for hardware faults, without any input from you, additionally saving you time and money through reduced maintenance.

Scalable, High-Performance Computing

If you require more computing power, it is easy to assign more cores, memory, and storage to your SQL database cluster. Rather than waiting for hardware installation on your in-house systems, this is all hot-swapped in the cloud to minimize downtime.

Since Microsoft uses bleeding-edge hardware on their cloud servers, you can be confident that you’ll get excellent performance and reliability at an affordable price.

These potential savings are backed up with a research study from Forrester Consulting, with the Azure cloud offering up to a 212% return on investment over three years. This is thanks to a new cloud-enabled SQL Server engine built for better performance, security, and scalability.

For those with a SQL Server 2016 hybrid cloud implementation, you can see the benefits of scaling by using a Stretch Database. This can be used to increase your database storage capacity without changing your on-premises IT infrastructure. Stretch Databases can be useful when you’ve run out of space and need older data kept online for querying, but don’t mind a slight increase in access latency.

Simplified Database Administration

For companies in a phase of rapid growth, a cloud-based SQL Server will be exceptionally adaptable to your needs.

A base SQL server image can be cloned to new server instances with ease. This allows you to scale the number of servers up and down dependent on network traffic, seasonal demands, and overall growth.

For larger businesses, you'll likely need more than one SQL server running in the cloud. This is because the maximum storage allowance for an individual server is either 8TB (General Purpose), or 1/2/4TB (Business Critical, scaling with number of vCores). With the scalability of the Azure cloud, you can have these instances up and running in minutes, with the service level agreement guaranteeing 99.995% uptime, according to Microsoft.

Better Compatibility

When you are ready to upgrade to a newer version of the SQL server, there is excellent cross-compatibility across Windows, Linux, and macOS, even with Docker.

Much like the SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) for Windows, those running Linux and macOS on their daily workstation can leverage similar functionality through Azure Data Studio (ADS).

Running a Docker container on the Azure cloud is entirely possible, as Microsoft allows custom Docker development within a self-hosted Azure Pipelines agent running either Windows or Linux. From here, you can deploy a Docker container as a web-based application with the Azure Web App for Containers.

Run Ruby and Python Natively

On the Azure SQL Cloud, you can easily create and execute Ruby and Python scripts that query your SQL database. There are official SDKs from Microsoft for this purpose, of which more information can be found in this development blog.

Better Security

With the Azure cloud, you can utilize a range of security features, including:

  • Universal Two Factor Authentication – stop unauthorized access to user accounts with higher access privileges.
  • Application Usage Monitors – check to see which users are logged in, and what they’ve been accessing.
  • Azure Active Directory Integration – Allowing per user and group access controls, along with quick yet secure batch administration of users.
  • Self-Service Group Management – allow users to reset their login details quickly and easily, instead of submitting a support ticket to your helpdesk.

Thanks to Azure automatically encrypting new instances by default, you can leverage native data encryption at rest and in transit, further securing your data. The information is protected by a built-in server certificate, which Microsoft automatically maintains for your security and benefit as part of the Azure Cloud SLA.

Finally, with Dynamic Data Masking (DDM), you can significantly lessen the design and coding development needs of your SQL database. You can prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information with DDM by defining and managing masks using simple Transact-SQL commands. These masks are perfect for sensitive information like credit card numbers in a contact center, where you cannot show the whole number string to the call agent. As an example, you could universally mask everything but the last four digits of a card number with a support agent-specific policy, allowing your support staff to verify details without exposing the whole number.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many incentives right now to migrate to the Azure SQL Cloud. With significant cost savings and better conformity with data protection regulations in the cloud, this could be the perfect time to upgrade your existing Server 2008/2012 infrastructure.

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