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The benefits of migrating IT systems to the cloud are well-documented. Enhanced flexibility and cost savings are two of the advantages enjoyed by organizations when moving part of their computing environment to the cloud. Gartner estimates that the worldwide public cloud market will top $266 billion in 2020 and will continue to exhibit substantial growth in the next several years. 

Some of an enterprise’s most valuable IT resources are their databases. It can be a major decision to move these assets from an on-premises data center and host them with a cloud provider. Making changes to mission-critical systems always needs to be done carefully after considering all available options. There is one big question that needs to be addressed before commencing with a database cloud migration.

Answering the Main Question

There is a basic question that will influence which provider to select for the migration as well as how it is performed. The basic choice is between hosting your current database environment on cloud virtual machines or taking advantage of a specific provider’s managed database offering. These are two completely different approaches to using cloud services that each have strong and weak points.

Migrating existing databases to cloud virtual machines


  • Closely replicates on-premises administration
  • Customers have more control over the environment
  • Simple migration path using a lift-and-shift methodology


  • Potentially mission-critical systems are now outside the organization’s firewall
  • Administering the environment requires customer expertise

Moving to a managed cloud database


  • Reduced customer administrative involvement
  • Easier to set up new database instances


  • Less customer control over system configuration
  • Potential difficulties when changing cloud providers

The direction a particular enterprise chooses needs to take into consideration the personnel resources they have available and the way they plan to use the systems going forward. Managed cloud databases require less administration and are faster to implement. More control and flexibility is usually achieved when hosting databases on cloud virtual machines.

Public Cloud Database Solutions

Many cloud providers can handle a database migration. Microsoft and Amazon both offer multiple methods of hosting your databases.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has a virtual machine (VM) offering called the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). It is a scalable solution that enables customers to configure VMs that are preinstalled with SQL Server. The company’s Relational Database Service (RDS) is a Database-as-a-Service (DaaS) offering that runs SQL Server instances and uses Amazon S3 as its backup solution.

SQL Server was developed by Microsoft. They offer database services that are tailored to users of that database platform. Azure VMs can accommodate different types of databases and are designed to tightly integrate with SQL Server. The systems are accessible through remote desktop (RDP) sessions. Microsoft’s Azure SQL Database is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution that demands less customer administration but limits database size to a maximum of 1 TB.

When selecting your provider for migrated databases, you need to plan for your future IT needs. Managed databases are very attractive due to implementation speed and low administrative responsibilities but they can be hard to move away from if you decide to change providers. Take the time to fully investigate your provider and choose wisely.


Last modified on Monday, 11 May 2020
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 Robert Agar

I am a freelance writer who graduated from Pace University in New York with a Computer Science degree in 1992. Over the course of a long IT career I have worked for a number of large service providers in a variety of roles revolving around data storage and protection. I currently reside in northeastern Pennsylvania where I write from my home office.

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