First let me start this by saying that I really like using Azure for SQL Server, especially for supporting critical database infrastructure. There is a lot to be said for all the options and benefits that come with moving your critical databases to Azure. But there are times when moving to Azure is not advisable. We will cover a few scenarios where it may not be the best time for you to move to Azure, yet you are still interested in investigating the platform. Here are some ideas as to how you can dip your toes into the environment, get more comfortable with it, and see what it can offer before making the jump.
Scenario – Just bought new hardware
The expense of purchasing new hardware, especially during our current chip shortage, costs for anything computer related are either being sold at a premium or not being manufactured. Depending on the size of your current environment a hardware refresh might be $10K to $100K or even more. Either way, it is not an insignificant amount of spend for your business.
As you may have noticed, licensing costs were not included. This is because the licenses for Windows Server OS and SQL Server can be used in Azure, depending on which implementation method you are interested in investigating. There are options where we can help extend the life expectancy of your new hardware investment. We can help with moving backups to the cloud which will allow for more on-prem space availability. Depending on the BI (Business Intelligence) requirements we can pursue the possibility of moving this BI workload to a PowerBI platform in Azure. Softlanding can help you discover which solutions work best.
Scenario – Staff skillset does not include Azure
You have a very talented IT team, collectively they have decades of experience. They architected and built the current environment; they know where everything is and exactly how the data flows through the organization. If anything goes wrong, it is corrected fairly quickly provided it is not a catastrophic failure. However, they do not currently have the requisite skills to build a new environment and migrate the servers and data to the cloud.
What can you do to explore this new platform, and will it be worth it in both the short and long term? There are several options in this space, and we can help you with this. We can discuss moving your backups to the cloud, having a DR (Disaster Recovery) site in the cloud or creating a PoC environment for either a critical or non-critical application and any associated databases. This method will allow for your team to become more familiar with Azure whilst still having the business-critical applications on premise.
Scenario – Leadership team not comfortable with moving data to “the cloud”
Cost Benefit Analysis / Return on Investment, do these terms haunt you at night? You are familiar with them if you have ever had to request additional hardware and have to justify the additional costs. This approval only happens after sustained performance implications, i.e., people are not able to perform their roles as efficiently as they used to and are complaining to their respective managers. What happens during those one-offs, you know when accounting does their month-end reports or worse yet their year-end processing. The impact is felt immediately but it is not sustained, therefore any additional hardware requests will be denied. You have been through it before and just have to grin and bear it as there is nothing you can do. Well, there is, and you have tried but the senior and/or executive leadership within your company just does not trust or fully understand what Azure is and how it works. Even more importantly they do not understand how the costs is calculated and that the systems can scale for a short period of time to meet increased workload. Yes, costs will increase for the term that the increased resources are provided, but once things stabilize the resources allocated will return to their normal levels.
Where and how can we help? At Softlanding, our ‘Virtual CIO’ (vCIO) can meet with your leadership team and run through their security concerns, the costing model, how it works, etc. Sometimes it is hard to know whether Azure is a good fit for your organization by just looking through the benefits and detractors to your line of business. By having a conversation and answering the questions of the leadership team, will help to explore the possibilities and potential areas where Azure can fit and support your business.
Scenario – Strict security requirements
Let us pick probably one of the most critical scenarios where security is of significant concern, and it should be. You are supporting a multi-terabyte Health Information System series of databases. Do you own the hardware in your own data centre, or do you have it hosted somewhere else, a third-party vendor with space in a dedicated data centre? Guess what you are already using ‘cloud’ services, maybe it is not called Azure but still hosted out of your direct control. There are security protocols that must be met in the event of an audit. Specifically, here in Canada the protocol is known as PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act).
Where can we help in this instance? The only thing we can do is meet with you and discuss your specific concerns. But to help you out now, take a few minutes and review this link that discusses Azure’s security compliance protocols here in Canada; Canada privacy laws – Azure Compliance | Microsoft Docs
Scenario – Vendor applications may or may not work with Azure
There is a contingent of users within your environment that use an older application or better yet a custom-built application that you are not really sure if it can run on Azure and it definitely uses an older, no longer supported version of SQL Server. Not really sure where to start or what the possible options are?
Softlanding can help with this one as well as we have gone through this with different clients in differing industries on several occasions. Is there a standard plan that is used to answer the question of, “Can this be moved to Azure?”, no there is not. The process really depends on a myriad of factors, and these can only be addressed after a conversation.
Hopefully, this helped to address some of the challenges of moving to or investigating if Azure can be used in your environment. There are more paths forward as these only cover off a few different ways to leverage Azure. Best of luck and let us know if you need a hand.