Top 10 Reasons Why Migrating to Azure SQL Cuts Cost and Risk

    For CFOs and IT Managers, optimizing budgets without compromising service quality is paramount. Migrating to cloud-based database solutions, like Microsoft’s Azure SQL, can be a game-changer in the pursuit of cost efficiency.

    Here are the top 10 reasons why migrating to Azure SQL is a smart financial move:

    1. Currently Out of Compliance with Licensing 

    Microsoft SQL Server Client Access Licensing (CAL) can be complex and is often misunderstood, leading to non-compliance for many businesses. Here are some common misconceptions and reasons why customers are often out of compliance:

      • Server vs. CAL Licensing Models: SQL Server offers two main licensing models: the Core-based model and the Server + CAL model. Many customers might not fully understand the differences between the two, especially when to use one over the other.
      • Device vs. User CALs: There are two types of CALs: User CALs and Device CALs. A User CAL allows one user to access SQL Server, irrespective of the device they’re using. A Device CAL allows one device to access SQL Server, irrespective of the number of users. Mixing up the two or not having enough of each type can lead to compliance issues.
      • Non-human Operated Devices: Many companies forget that even non-human operated devices, like IoT devices, that access SQL Server require Device CALs.
      • Multiplexing: Using a software or hardware system to pool connections, reroute information, or reduce the number of devices or users that directly access or use the SQL Server product doesn’t reduce the number of CALs required. Many businesses believe that if they use an intermediary system to access SQL Server, they can bypass CAL requirements. This is incorrect.
      • External Users: The belief that external users (not employees or onsite contractors) don’t need CALs is another misconception. Unless the company has an External Connector License, even external users need CALs.

    The most common scenario is this:

      1. You have a web application that calls a SQL Server using a single connection. The connection could pass a SQL username and password or connect using a service account (local machine or created in local Windows Active Directory).
      2. Users, internal and/or external, using the application all funnel through the one SQL connection.
      3. Users don’t have an actual login to the SQL Server as the single service account does this for them.

    In this case, most think that there is only one SQL Server CAL is required. And you would be wrong.

    Since each of the users are “benefiting” from the SQL Server database, then ALL of those users need to be accounted for in a license.

    While the cost of this could really put you in a bind, this is another reason to move to either Azure SQL (the Platform as a Service) or SQL on Azure (the Infrastructure as a Service) which runs on an Azure Virtual Machine with a SQL provided imaged used. Either approach provides the licensing for the “server” AND the user/devices

    2. Flexible Pricing Models

    Azure SQL’s varied pricing options, from provisioned to serverless compute tiers, ensure that businesses pay only for what they utilize. This averts the costs of maintaining potentially underused infrastructure.

    The flexibility of pricing options for Azure SQL comes with the complexity of understanding:

    • What your applications need
    • How fast must it perform (e.g. latency, memory requirements)
    • How much data will it hold
    • How much customization is required

    It’s common for developers to ask for a “SQL Server” and just do what they want. However, when looking at cost, risk, and performance, there needs to be a greater understanding of why, what, and how the application and database need to interact. This will help choose the best Azure SQL option to select.

    By the way, this should be looked at for your entire data landscape (high level) and per application/database (low level) to create the best architecture to manage risk and costs.

    3. Reduced Infrastructure and Hardware Costs

    The cloud nature of Azure SQL negates the need for businesses to purchase, maintain, and periodically replace server hardware. Additionally, the costs of cooling, power, and physical storage space are also minimized.

    I know this sounds obvious, but this is frequently overlooked. Most organizations compare the cost of physical hardware and the licensing and compare that to just the cost of the Azure SQL service. That’s a mistake.

    It’s not just the cost of the hardware and licensing from your current deployment, but expand it to the following:

    • Datacenter Footprint – If you’re using a Colo, they often have one or more charges to have space in a cage. This can also be the space taken in one or more local offices.
    • Power – You might not see the bill for power where only the IT related service charges are separated. However, think of every piece of equipment that requires power.
      • Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) (plus the maintenance contract)
      • Generator and Gas services (plus the maintenance contract)
      • Special fire suppression equipment (plus the maintenance contract)
      • Networking – Yes, you’ll always need networking and moving your entire IT into the cloud or just part of it won’t change that. However, most environments will purchase hardware and support faster and redundant backplanes just for the server infrastructure.

    4. Dynamic Scalability

    Azure SQL’s scalability options mean businesses don’t have to over-invest in anticipation of growth. They can start with what they need and scale up or down based on actual demand, ensuring cost-effective utilization.

    I’m sure many feel this is a luxury and don’t even use it now. It’s typically because it can be complex to deploy and manage, and then a risk of depending on it from a developers perspective. However, in the cloud this becomes easier to understand and leverage. Also, it expands development and test scenarios that can improve your entire business.

    Applications and database changes often go slowly due to your current restrictions on hardware costs and complexity in separation. This impacts the ability to make faster changes to meet or exceed market demands.  Now imagine all those restrictions removed. 

    5. Automatic Backups

    The automatic backup feature of Azure SQL eliminates the need for separate backup solutions and the associated costs. These backups ensure data integrity without extra expenses.

    We often think of backups as a given and all done the same. Well, it should be a given but it’s not always simple. With SQL Server, understanding backups isn’t really the issue. It’s the recovery, specifically time to recover and how far back you want to recover something.

    The big challenge here is planning and testing your recovery service. This also means where are you going to recover it and validate. Thus, you may need to spin up another instance of the application and/or SQL Server to replace the restore.

    The biggest risk to a CEO, CFO, CISO, is that this level of restore doesn’t take place often or at all because the time and infrastructure cost to do this is expensive. Yes, doing this with Azure SQL is still a cost, but it’s manageable and possible.

    6. Managed Updates and Patches

    Azure SQL is a managed service. This means Microsoft takes care of updates and patches, reducing the in-house IT workloads and the associated costs of manual updates and potential system downtime.

    The more you use the Platform as a Service (PaaS) options within Azure for SQL, the better this gets. Even if you use a Microsoft provided image for an Azure Virtual Machine (VM) with Microsoft SQL Server already installed, this is still an improvement than not in Azure (side note, using Azure Arc for servers not in Azure can get more of this capability as well).

    Using Azure Automation Account provides a way to manage updates and patches, as well as centralizing your scheduled SQL Administration tasks (e.g. clean and compress the temp database).

    7. Long-term Cost Predictability

    With Azure SQL, businesses can predict their database costs more accurately over the long term. The clear pricing structure and lack of unexpected maintenance costs make budgeting more straightforward.

    The first database project is always the hardest for customers. It’s often because they’re not sure how to scope the entire cost because the measurements to do so aren’t what they’ve looked at before. With Azure Migration, this can help plan things out.

    That said, once you are using Azure SQL, you’ll have a better understanding of the costs and how you impact them with updating the configuration. The development team and vendors improve their code efficiency. And lastly, you can now use that understanding to better define future project requirements.

    Best of all, you don’t have to think about that next hardware refresh in three years. Remember, hardware costs go up all the time, vendors change their product, new support contracts, etc.

    8. Integrated Tools Reduce Third-Party Expenses

    Azure SQL’s integration with other Azure services can reduce the need for third-party tools and services, thereby minimizing those associated costs.

    The additional tools and services within Azure now are amazing, powerful, and flexible. This can easily replace a majority of the third-party products, services, and even custom tools that are frequently used in your environment.

    9. Streamlined IT Operations

    With less of a need for in-house database maintenance and infrastructure management, IT teams can be leaner or reallocated to more value-added tasks, leading to operational savings.

    10. Discounts and Cost Management Tools

    Microsoft offers various discounts, especially for long-term commitments. Additionally, Azure Cost Management and Billing tools help organizations monitor, allocate, and optimize costs, ensuring they get the best bang for their buck.


    The decision to migrate to Azure SQL is not just about embracing modern technology; it’s a strategic move that can result in tangible financial savings. By reducing both direct and hidden costs associated with database management, Azure SQL makes a compelling case for CFOs and IT Managers aiming to make savvy financial decisions.