Migrate on-premises SQL Server to Azure: Which option is right for you?

Migrate on-premises SQL Server to Azure: Which option is right for you?

Today, organizations are moving to the cloud quicker than ever to support innovation, cost reduction, scale, agility, and increased governance to thrive in their digital transformation journey. Especially when regulatory and compliance requirements are becoming more and more complex, cloud providers could help you by offloading some of the burdens to themselves and keeping you ahead of new standards and regulations. That way, you can focus on what matters the most to your organization’s future strategy and growth.

Additionally, as many organizations realized during the COVID-19 pandemic, the cloud can help enable remote workers to be just as efficient as in the office. In fact, the cloud’s improved collaboration capabilities and flexibility have allowed some remote employees to drive even greater innovation than before.

What drives the migration of on-premises databases to the cloud

Although there are many benefits of migrating your on-premises databases to the cloud, here are some key drivers that are fueling this migration effort:

  • Upgrade your old SQL server (2005, 2008, 2012) to the latest version
  • Innovate faster while keeping the cost down using pay-as-you-go
  • Scale-up/down resources on demand
  • PaaS offering removed the burden of patching and updating for your on-premises servers
  • Meet regulatory compliance and industry standards with ease
  • Many other cutting-edge features are delivered to you automatically

To help organizations determine which option is the best for their specific use case, Neal has provided a list of pros and cons for SQL Server on Azure VM, Azure SQL Managed Instance, and Azure SQL Database.

Comparison table of Azure SQL Server on VM vs. Azure SQL Managed Instance vs. Azure SQL Database

Not sure where to begin? We’ve also created a SQL Server migration decision tree with some questions to help you get started.

SQL Server migration decision tree

Note: You can review Microsoft’s Azure Data Store Decision Tree here

Migration process and best practices

Data migration is a repeatable process and requires you to perform many activities to achieve seamless migration. All activities involved in this process can be grouped into the following three categories:

1. Pre-migration:

  • Discovery: Inventory database assets and application stack.
  • Assess: Assess workloads and fix recommendations.
  • Convert: Convert source schema to work in the target.

2. Migration:

  • Migrate: Migrate the source schema, source data, and objects to target.
  • Sync data: Sync data (for minimal downtime).
  • Cutover: Cutover the source to target.

3. Post-migration:

  • Remediate applications: Iteratively make any necessary changes to your applications.
  • Perform tests: Iteratively run functional and performance tests.
  • Optimize: Based on tests, address performance issues and then retest to confirm performance improvements.
  • Retire assets: Old VMs and hosting environments are backed up and retired.

Additionally, you can follow Microsoft best practices to get the latest updates.

Migration tools

Many tools are available that can assist you with migrating a single database or multiple databases at scale. It all depends on your workloads and preferences. The following are some of the tools that you can use for your migration journey:

  • Azure Migrate: Azure Migrate is one central service provided by Microsoft to assess and migrate different workloads, including on-premises servers, infrastructure, applications, and data.
  • Azure Database Migration Service (DMS): DMS has been used for seamless migrations of multiple databases to Azure Data platforms with minimal downtime.
  • Data Migration Assistant (DMA): DMA can help with the assessment and migration of your on-premises databases. It’s a UI-based, easy to set up, and intuitive tool for small-scale migration.
  • Database Experimentation Assistant (DEA): DEA can help you evaluate a targeted version of SQL Server for your specific workload and needs.
  • SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA): SSMA is an automation database migration tool to migrate data to SQL Server from Microsoft Access, DB2, MySQL, Oracle, and SAP ASE,
  • Azure Synapse Pathway: This tool assists with migrating your on-premises Dataware house to Azure Synapse Analytics. Synapse Pathway also provides capabilities such as code translation, automation, etc.

Contact us if you want to learn more about Neal, SQL Server migrations, or discover whether your organization qualifies for Microsoft’s migration incentives.