When looking at moving your SQL databases to the cloud, it can be a challenge to identify the best option available. Azure offers a range of different options at different prices with varying levels of capability. In this article we discuss and compare the main options and why you might select them.

Azure Virtual Machines

Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) offers a cloud version of an on-premise server. You select the specification and performance of your VM and then install SQL Server onto it.  This is the closest option to an on-premise server, you take full responsibility for the performance, maintenance, software updates, scale and data. There are a good range of options on performance and with reserved instances there is the opportunity to save significantly for reliable workloads over a longer timescale.

Azure VMs are the cheapest and most involved option on the list but it is a great first step to the cloud.

Azure SQL

Azure SQL is one of the platform as a service (PaaS) offerings from Microsoft. It is a fully managed database service that is based around SQL Server. It removes the need to maintain and manage servers and software and allows you to deploy SQL servers easily.

It provides a scalable and cost-effective platform for businesses to run their relational databases. Azure SQL offers several deployment options, including single databases and elastic pools, which can scale up or down based on business needs.

For organisations looking to reduce their maintenance workload and increase focus on development and database management, Azure SQL provides a great option for SQL database hosting.

Azure Managed Instance

Azure Managed Instance, on the other hand, is a new offering from Microsoft that provides businesses with a fully managed SQL Server instance in the cloud.

Azure Managed Instance is designed to provide businesses with the benefits of a managed service while maintaining compatibility with on-premises SQL Server workloads. It offers a range of features, including built-in backup and disaster recovery, high availability and automated patching and maintenance.

Managed Instance is a more expensive and complete offering than Azure SQL. For more advanced users with challenging needs and more complex on-premise SQL workloads then Azure Managed Instance is a great choice.

Azure Synapse Analytics

Azure Synapse is an enterprise analytics service that accelerates time to insight across data warehouses and big data systems.

Azure Synapse brings together the best of SQL technologies offering both a dedicated SQL Pool and serverless options, Spark technologies used for big data, Data Explorer for log and time series analytics, Pipelines for data integration and ETL/ELT, and deep integration with other Azure services such as Power BI, CosmosDB and AzureML.

Azure Synapse Analytics is a bit of an outlier on this list. Yes, it can be used to host SQL databases, but it is so much more than that. If you are using your SQL database as a data warehouse, then moving it to Azure Synapse Analytics will offer a host of new capabilities that will help your data and reporting practices. It is the most expensive option on the list, but it is also the most powerful.

In conclusion what you use your database for, how hands on you want to be and how complex your requirements and SQL database scope is will factor in the choice of SQL hosting in Azure. Each offering complements the gaps of the others and offers a different price point across the board. If you’d like more information about any of the points in this article, contact our team who can help.