By: Matt Wisor  
SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines is one of Microsoft’s cloud options for customers looking to move SQL Server to the Azure platform. As the name implies, it means hosting SQL Server in the cloud on an Azure Virtual Machine and eliminating on-premises hardware dependencies.

SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines Use Cases

Some organizations require strict environmental control (see my previous article, Always Encrypted with Secure Enclaves in SQL Server 2019). Perhaps an approved list of software must be adhered to or third party application dependencies on a particular operating system exist.

Others may have hardware agreements expiring or want to move to the cloud without making any major application changes. For such groups, SQL Server on Azure VMs is an attractive option because it provides the ability to lift and shift existing environments to the cloud.

Advantages of SQL Server on Azure VMs

SQL Server on Azure VMs eliminates the need to house and manage on-premises hardware. Memory and storage sizes are tuned for top performance and Azure provides options to automate backups and security updates for SQL Server and Windows. Any live database you have in the Azure environment may be backed up using Azure backup.

Here are some additional benefits of hosting SQL Server on Azure VMs:

SQL Server Benefits

  • Data and log are stored on premium managed disks
  • Automated backups to Azure Blob Storage
  • Memory and storage sizes are optimized for best performance
  • SQL temp database is stored on SSD
  • All SQL Server features fully available


Azure Cloud Benefits

  • Cutting edge security services
  • Built in DR
  • Automated patching
  • File snapshot backups
  • VM High availability
    • Availability groups
    • Failover Clusters

Product Options and Licensing

Azure has a gallery of available VM images pre-configured with specific operating systems and versions of SQL server to meet user needs. Customers may also choose to self-install SQL Server on an Azure VM. There are two corresponding licensing options, pay per usage (pay as you go) and bring your own license.

The pay per usage option factors the SQL Server and VM costs into a per second usage rate. Customers with cyclical workload demands, such as the high volume tax season, are best suited for the pay per usage model.

Organizations that have an existing SQL Server Enterprise Agreement with Software Assurance may choose the Bring your own License (BYOL) option. Since a SQL Server Volume license has already been purchased, only the Azure VM costs are billed for usage. The BYOL choice is appropriate for groups with constant operational workloads. More information is available in Microsoft’s Pricing guidance for SQL Server on Azure VMs documentation.


SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines may be the best approach for businesses considering a move to the cloud. The lift and shift strategy allows for rapid migration to the Azure platform without major code overhauls and upgrade efforts.

Questions about SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines?

Thanks for reading! We hope you found this blog post useful. Feel free to let us know if you have any questions about this article by simply leaving a comment below. We will reply as quickly as we can.

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Key2 Consulting is a data warehousing and business intelligence company located in Atlanta, Georgia. We create and deliver custom data warehouse solutions, business intelligence solutions, and custom applications.