Microsoft Azure: The Pros and Cons

Hot on the heels of Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) is Microsoft’s Azure. While not has large as AWS, Microsoft’s budding thought child serves as an ideal cloud solution to those completely addicted to Microsoft’s services. In 2017, Gartner named Microsoft Azure as a leader in the cloud infrastructure-as-a-service space. While Microsoft is quick to stroke its own ego, what are the real advantages and disadvantages of signing up for Microsoft Azure? At MetrixData 360, we want your experience in the cloud to be as pain-free as possible and we have helped many of our clients turn that goal into a reality, so in this article we’ll dive into a detailed picture of what it will actually be like to move to Azure.

Microsoft Azure Pros

High Availablility and Uptime

While Microsoft is not as large as AWS, Azure still is the second largest cloud platform in the industry today, with datacenters found in several different regions, making it ideal for international businesses. Although it should be noted that Azure is not available in every country, and although Azure will only store your data in regions where you permit it to be stored, you need to make sure that you pick a region where your data is allowed to be hosted. Azure also promises a 99.995% uptime rate — an impressive accomplishment in the Cloud Industry.


Moving to the cloud can be an expensive experience, so it is important for businesses to make the most of their cloud platform once they are there. This flexibility is important, as it will enable you to scale up your projects as your business continues to grow. Azure proves to be an easily scalable platform and barely a few clicks of a button will get you the additional licenses you may need. Imagine being able to scale down your software environment over the weekend or scaling up only for your busiest days of the year. Microsoft on-prem licensing can often prove quite difficult to remove licenses from, particularly the Enterprise Agreement (EA), which makes the easy adjustability of the Azure solutions a breath of fresh air, especially in this time of unpredictability.


One of the most appealing features that Azure has to offer its clients is a state of the art security system following a ADADSC approach: Detect, Assess, Diagnose, Stabilize, and Close. They have proven to be the leading force in IaaS security and have received multiple compliance certifications for their high standards. Their security features are both reliable and user-friendly with protections like multi-factor authentication and password requirements.

Cons of Microsoft Azure


As a SaaS platform, Azure can easily become an extremely complicated environment for larger companies. Before the cloud, there was an extremely rigorous process when it came to purchasing more licenses, usually in the form of a negotiation or a contract renewal. On the other hand, with the cloud it is easy to purchase new products; all you need is a company credit card and an afternoon. Many companies do not have any sort of processes to regulate the spending of employees when confronted with their cloud platform. It will require management and strict processes to make sure purchasing is controlled, environments are well managed, and projects are closed after they have reached their conclusion. For larger companies, it will be worth investigating a SaaS management solution, along with someone specially trained to manage your Azure platform.

Data Transfer

Azure services are all subject to data transfer fees that are often the cause of stacked hidden fees. This is not unique to Azure as all of the large cloud services like AWS and Google do this same gouging of their customer base. This separate fee for in and out data can prove quite costly for large companies, so you should be aware of this to avoid any surprises.


Despite their high-quality products and global reach, Microsoft is not very good at dealing with the sheer volume of their customers and treating each customer as a unique individual. Anyone who has tried to get Microsoft’s attention would be able to tell you that. However, as a cloud service provider, that is one thing that Microsoft will have to do on a regular basis as companies run into technical issues and server problems that must be handled quickly. To answer this, Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider Program (CSP) allows companies to experience better customer service.

Complicated Pricing

Controlling cost in Azure can be a daunting task that warrants its own book; however, touching briefly on the subject, Azure solutions are structured to encompass many stand-alone services. Each service also has complimentary services that are needed to run the services that you are after. For instance, simply wanting an application and a database will also require you to purchase some form of storage and networking. In addition, you must also consider additional fees such as transfer costs and backups which can act as sneaky hidden fees.

As such, building your unique Azure solution involves combining these multiple factors based on your preference, which means calculating your exact price can be difficult.

In an attempt to make things easier, Microsoft has a universal pricing metric based on the hourly rate, so estimating cost comes down to estimating how long you will be using each service. If you want to figure out cost, you should seek to understand the full scope of the services that you will consume in order to effectively calculate how much each service will cost. However, if you have multiple services running at once, each with their own pricing, it is easy to understand how such a task can quickly get away from you.

Getting Your Azure Spending Under Control

Moving to the Cloud can be a new and exciting time, and it is important that you have a strong understanding of what you need and how it will be used in order to create a unique solution that best suits the needs of your business. This will keep your cost at a minimum and your performance at its highest. At MetrixData 360, We specialize in assisting companies who wish to lower their cloud spending through license optimization practices. For more information on how MetrixData 360 as helps many of its clients successfully migrate to the cloud you can check out our cloud service page.

Get in Touch with an Azure Expert Today:

Azure Active Directory

Taking your organization’s Active Directory to the Cloud can be an exciting and complicated event that businesses have had to do in some capacity over the past year in order to survive. Perhaps the initial transition was nothing but scaffolding, a hastily compiled structure that could accommodate your organization’s needs for the time being. But now that you are settled in your new Cloud space, you might want to make an important and permanent transition in hosting your Active Directory in the Cloud. It is obviously not as simple as copying and pasting your Active Directory’s data (if only it was!) but at MetrixData 360, we are here to help you with the transition, as we have helped many of our clients prepare for their move to the Cloud. So, what does a cloud-based Active Directory look like? How will it differ from your on-prem system as it currently exists? Keep reading and find out.

What is Active Directory

To know where you’re going, let’s look at where you’re coming from. At its most basic, your Active Directory is a directory service which allows for wide-reaching control over the desktops and users in your organization’s software infrastructure. The AD stores users, passwords, devices, and licensing entitlements, just to name a few. Since it is a single interface that stores a wealth of data, it is often extremely valuable for the IT department to deploy new technology, ensure compliance and optimization. As you might guess, the safety and accuracy of the data within the AD must be a top priority for organizations since the AD cannot deliver peak performance and results if the data it stores is not accurate and secure.

If you have spent any time on the Internet, you may have been asked to create a free online account by almost every website you’ve come across. The same is true when it comes to SaaS applications; in order to track users, every user needs an account for every application they will use, which means that every user may have dozens of usernames and passwords that the administration department will need to keep track of. For organizations with over a thousand employees, you can understand how quickly this could get away from you. This is where Azure Active Directory comes in. Azure AD provides users with a single username and password in order to access all the applications they have a license to use. In addition to keeping track of all the users in its system, Azure AD can also be used to:

  • Monitor access to applications
  • Provision Users
  • Enable federation between organizations
  • Extend existing on-prem AD implementations to your Azure AD

The Inherent Nature of the Cloud

Moving to the Cloud comes with Cloud related advantages and drawbacks and the Azure AD is no exception to this rule. As is the general nature of the Cloud, Azure AD’s main advantage is that the hardware and software needed for the operation of its service is hosted elsewhere, meaning you do not have to handle maintenance, deployment and security, your cloud solutions provider will take care of that. Pricing is much simpler being that you only pay month-to-month and pay only for what you are using, although Microsoft does still reward large upfront payments and yearlong commitments.

Main Benefits of Azure AD

  • Allows users to have a single log-in and password for every applicable SaaS application that your organization has on the Cloud.
  • Provide users with the ability to access these Cloud services from anywhere, allowing for secure remote access
  • Effectively manage your SaaS applications in a single location, increasing control, organization and security
  • Highly scalable at low costs compared to on-prem counterparts
  • High quality security at your fingertips

Azure AD Editions

There are a few options you can pick from when it comes to Azure AD, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Azure AD Free Edition

This version comes as a free edition available to every Azure subscription and offers a maximum 500,000 Directory Object creations. The only drawback with this edition is that it is not applicable with Microsoft paid services and applications like O365 and Intune.

  • Azure AD Basic

Allowing you to be both productive and cost-effective, Azure AD basic provides central cloud application access and self-service identity management solutions for the task worker who wants their infrastructure to exist exclusively in the Cloud. Basic also comes with many cost-reducing features like group-based access management, self-service password resets, and Azure AD Application Proxy.

  • Azure AD Premium P1

Premium P1 offers its customers a more empowered experience, with the ability to perform more demanding tasks in identification and access management. The P1 also comes with a wide variety of enterprise-level features to help improve identity management capabilities and allows hybrid users to access both on-prem and cloud services. Ideal for information workers, with the bonus of having Microsoft Identity Manager for on-prem identification and access management, P1 offers a full suite of options for security, identity management, and access management.

  • Azure Premium P2

    The Premium P2 encompasses all the features of the other editions plus some added features, including Identity Protection and Privileged Identity Management, allowing top of the line security for your organization’s most sensitive data.

Integrating Azure AD with On-prem Active Directory

If you currently have an on-prem Active Directory Solution and are thinking about moving to the Cloud, there is no need to choose between Active Directory on-prem and Azure AD since you can potentially have both. The two systems can be blended seamlessly, for instance, if you are using Office 365, you can have the usernames and passwords of users managed by on-prem AD while Azure AD takes care of the network logons while synchronizing the two systems so that if details are changed both ADs are updated.

Getting Your Azure AD Solution Under Control

Microsoft Azure AD is a great way for your company to improve the organization of your infrastructure on the Cloud, but it won’t matter how organized you are if you are not compliant. At MetrixData 360, we help our clients ensure they can safely transfer their applications to the Cloud without running the risk of falling out of compliance. This will provide you with the peace of mind of knowing exactly what you have deployed in your environment and that you can use it. For more information on our services, you can check out our MetrixData 360 Cloud Services page.

Migrating SQL Server to the Cloud Like a Pro

Moving your SQL Server to the Cloud, that devilish concoction of riddles and frustration, might be a little harder than anticipated. There is a lot to figure out, such as providers, solutions, and options — so many options. At MetrixData 360, we often assist our customers in migrating to the Cloud successfully, primarily in making sure their transition is adhering to the rules of their software vendors and to make sure they are moving in the most cost-effective way possible.

So, in this article, we’ll be discussing how you can successfully move your SQL Server into the Cloud and some of those juicy options you have at your disposal.

Why Migrate Your SQL Server to the Cloud?

Before you go through all the trouble of moving your SQL Servers to the Cloud, it is important to ask why you would even want to do something like that when you already have a SQL Server on-prem that works just fine.

  • Future-proof your software infrastructure:
    • It is clear that the Cloud is where the business world is going, and the pandemic of 2020 has only sped up this transition. It is also clear that Microsoft’s goals are to operate and sell licenses exclusively in and for the Cloud, and on-prem products are being phased out of their lineup.


    • Scalability in the Cloud is so much easier: Your SQL Servers need to be as elastic as possible (especially in these times of uncertainty), and the Cloud typically allows you to adjust your Cloud sizing as you go along.


  • The Cloud is praised for having advanced security: Protecting your data is everything, and the top Cloud vendors are praised for having world-class security infrastructure.

Azure vs. AWS

While there are many cloud providers to pick from, there are basically two main Cloud providers that dominate the marketplace and serve as the only viable option for large international companies: Microsoft’s Azure and AWS from Amazon.

Both providers will allow you to move your SQL to their Cloud platform, and both offer your classic pay-as-you-go plan that is often found in the cloud, along with a variety of configuration types. So, let’s look at each platform’s SQL Server Migration Options and see if we can find one that is best for your business.

Related: How do the top three Cloud platforms stack up?
Check out our Comparison

Virtual Machine Configuration Types

Objective Description AWS Azure
General Purpose Balanced CPU-to-memory ratio. Ideal for testing and development, small to medium databases, and low to medium traffic web servers. T2, M3, M4 DSv2, Dv2, DS, D, Av2, A0-7
Compute Optimized High CPU-to-memory ratio. Good for medium traffic webservers, network applications, batch processes, and application servers. C3, C4 Fs, F
Memory Optimized High memory-to-core ratio. Great for relational database servers, medium to large caches, and in-memory analytics X1, R3, R4 GS, G, DSv2, DS
Storage Optimized High disk throughput and IO. Ideal for Big Data, SQL, and NoSQL databases I2, I3, D2 Ls
GPU Specialized virtual machines targeted for heavy graphic rendering and video editing. F1, G2, P2 NV, NC
High Performance Compute Fastest and most powerful CPU virtual machines P2, R3, R4, X1, C3 H, A 8-11


Recommended Virtual Machine Configuration Type(s) by SQL Server Edition

SQL Server Edition Virtual Machine Types (both AWS and Azure)
SQL Server Express General Purpose
SQL Server Web General Purpose / Compute Optimized
SQL Server Standard Memory Optimized / Storage Optimized
SQL Server Enterprise Memory Optimized / Storage Optimized / High Performance Computer

Azure in the Cloud

Microsoft’s Azure has currently three deployment options for putting your SQL Server Database in the Cloud:

Azure VMs

With Virtual Machines (VMs), you have access to the Server’s Operating System (OS) as if it were hosted in your infrastructure, allowing you the freedom to install all the software that you require, just so long as you have sufficient storage space. This solution offers the widest range of services, including backups, restoration, mirroring, detaching and attaching, log shipping, bulk loading, DMA/DMS, and replication. VMs are also excellent for almost every migration strategy and it is quite easy since it is the closest you can get to simply copying and pasting your old server into a new server. For this reason, it is the most popular option.


Azure Managed Instances

Manages Instances are a fully managed SQL Server Database hosted by Azure and are simply placed in your network. This means you do not have to worry about security, updates, or patches — all of which are handled by Microsoft. This solution is the next best option after VMs, since it has all of features listed above except for detaching and attaching, mirroring, and log shipping. It is fairly compatible with most strategies and a migration can expect few hiccups.


Azure SQL Server Database

Azure SQL Server Database is perhaps the most limited solution of the three, since this option doesn’t provide you with backups or restoration, detaching and attaching, mirroring or log shipping, it is also the solution where you are most likely going to run into issues. There are often issues surrounding security and infrastructure incompatibility which can halt the operation.

To assist in this migration, Microsoft has created the Data Migration Assistant, which is specifically designed to help you move your SQL to Azure by comparing feature parity and database compatibility, allowing you to better understand your unique deployment options.

SQL Server in AWS

Microsoft SQL Server is flexible enough that it can be moved to a host that is not owned by Microsoft, including AWS. There are a few advantages to picking AWS over Azure: AWS is larger, has more options, and it may already be the primary platform that your company is using, and keeping your operations on a single Cloud host will make your management of it that much easier.

AWS has two options when moving your SQL Server: Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS).

Amazon EC2

Amazon EC2 allows you to maintain control over every aspect of your SQL environment and it will run very similar to when your SQL Server was on-prem. This means that you can have your own database administrators and set up your own architecture. Availability, configuration, and backups with the EC2 will be up to you since you will be setting up your own database. Despite the fact that, in general, the RDS is more attractive, the EC2’s main appeals come from its full control, its greater variety of features, and its ability to exceed the maximum database size and performance needs of the RDS.

Amazon RDS

Where the EC2 offers an experience as close to on-prem as possible, the RDS is much more akin to your typical Cloud services, with pre-configured parameters and settings that are best suited for the SQL Server edition and DB Instance you select upon installation. RDS also provides you with additional features such as CloudWatch and AWS Management Console to provide you better control over your compute, memory, and storage capacity utilization. RDS takes care of things like patching, backup, disaster recovery, and event notification to ensure you’re up to date and running at peak performance while enjoying a hands-off experience.

Virtual Machines
Features AWS Azure
Product Names EC2 – Elastic Compute Cloud – Virtual Machines Virtual Machines
Commitment Types Pay as you go (on demand),
Reserved Instances (1 or 3 year terms for discounted rates compared to On-Demand pricing)
Pay as you go
Instance Types Standard (no control over which physical server hosts VM, Dedicated Hosts Standard (no control over which physical server hosts VM)
Operating System Yes Yes

Managed SQL Server Database(s)
Feature AWS Azure
Product Name RDS – SQL Server SQL Database
Availability Single AZ (one server), Multi AZ (SQL Server mirror across multiple servers) Standard, Premium (High Availability)
Editions Express, Web, Standard, Enterprise
Versions 2008, R2, 2012, 2014, 2016
Max Databases Per Instance 30 Single – 1
Elastic Pool – 50-500 depending on level
Max Storage 4 TB Single – 2 GB to 4 TB depending on level
Elastic Pool – 156 GB to 4 TB depending on level
Ease of Importing Databases Difficult/Complicated
No access to underlying OS so accessing the database can be challenging
Requires AWS S3 or Azure Storage Container (cloud storage)
Relatively straight forward
No access to underlying OS
Features/Limitations Support for native capabilities of SQL Server Edition (seamless migration)
No support for SSAS, SSIS, SSRS, DQS, MDS. These require SQL Server in Virtual Machine
Not all native capabilities of SQL Server edition supported (may require code modification and/or loss of functionality)
No support for MDS, DQS, or SSIS. These require SQL Server in Virtual Machine
Benefits Over VM & SQL Server Approach No overhead management required (OS/SQL Server patched, service packs, maintenance all handled by provider)

What Type of Licenses Will You Need to Move Your SQL Server to the Cloud?

SQL Server Licensing
Features AWS Azure
Provided by Service Provider Yes Yes
Client Provided
(with SA)
Yes with SA using Licensing Mobility Yes with SA using License Mobility
Client Provided
without SA
Yes (EC2 Dedicated Hosts only) No

How Much Does SQL Server in the Cloud Cost?

The question on everyone’s mind always circles back to price and how much it will cost you. As pressing as this question is, it is also difficult to answer since there are so many factors to consider that will be unique to your individual environment. Luckily, both AWS and Azure have tools to help you come to an estimate:

Related: SQL Server is one of the Most Confusing Licensing Models out there.
Check out our SQL Server Licensing Guide for an Explanation that makes sense.


Need Help Moving to the Cloud?

SQL Servers can be such a headache that simply getting them to work properly on-prem and ensuring they are licensed accordingly can be a task and a half. So, moving to the Cloud can be an intimidating process to say the least. If you find yourself in this situation of wanting to move your SQL Servers to the Cloud, know that it is possible, and you don’t have to go through it alone. At MetrixData 360, we have helped many of our clients get ready for the Cloud by ensuring your licenses will permit you to move safely and in a manner that will ensure your transition is compliant and cost-effective. If you would like to learn more about our Cloud Services, you can click the link below.a

Software Auditing Firm vs. Software Asset Management Firm

At the beginning of a software audit, the software vendors will introduce you to your auditors. These people may be from an external auditing firm, like Deloitte or KMPG, or be part of an internal auditing team from the software vendor themselves. It might be tempting to assume that these auditors are the experts and will provide all the assistance you need to get through your software audit smoothly.

However, at MetrixData 360, we know firsthand how very little these auditing teams are invested in looking after your company’s interests or even represent your case accurately. We firmly believe that you will need a software audit defense team of your own to verify the auditor’s findings, and working with an external SAM team is an excellent way to create a strong defense.

But what exactly is the difference between blindly trusting the software auditors and getting your own team to defend you?

Software Auditors are hired by the Software Vendor

The first and most important thing to note when you are working with a software auditor vs. a SAM expert is that the software auditor has been hired by the software vendor and that will greatly affect their motivation during the audit. They may be paid based on how large a compliance gap they can find, and this will create a bias in their efforts.

If there are any grey areas or missing data, they will assume the most expensive scenario is the reality, and it is unlikely they will dig any deeper than that. Why would they? Further research will either present no effect or possibly negatively affect their final payment. 

SAM Experts are Neutral Third Parties

Software Asset Management Professionals, on the other hand, are people that your company hires, so they are here to represent your interests. Their goal is to keep things as legal, accurate, and cost-effective as possible. Where there are grey areas, they will seek out the answers — whatever those answers may be. At MetrixData 360, we always pride ourselves in defending the best interests of our clients and we usually charge based on a flat rate or on a contingency basis, and our approach has often led to whittling down seemingly huge compliance gaps to much more manageable levels (or even nothing!).

Software Auditors will Ask for Data Outside the Scope of Your Audit

We have often run up against software auditors who collect data that has nothing to do with the audit they have been hired to investigate. The reasons for this may vary: perhaps they aren’t finding the results they need within the scope of the audit and they are trying to spread their investigations elsewhere, or perhaps the software vendor is looking for data with a competitive edge that has everything to do with your next true-up and nothing to do with the audit you’re in right now. Blindly handing over data simply because it is what the software auditor asked for can easily put you at a disadvantage as you help the software auditors build a case against you!

SAM Experts Know What Data the Auditors Need and Which They Don’t

We recently helped our client drive their Oracle audit to a stalemate (a valuable thing, as it gave our client the time they needed to thoroughly prepare a defense for the audit that followed) simply because the software auditors asked for a piece of data, and we asked them to provide proof for how that data was relevant to the audit (hint: it wasn’t, and it would have been used against our client later).

SAM experts know how audits work. In fact, at MetrixData 360 we have it down to a science, and they know when a piece of data needs to be handed over and when the software auditors have taken too much liberty poking around your software environment. They can defend your best interests by keeping you from handing over documents the auditors don’t need to see.

Software Auditors will not Accept Data from Your SAM Tools

It doesn’t matter if your SAM tool is high powered or accurate, it might even be approved by the software vendor who is auditing you, but software auditors will usually refuse to accept data unless it is drawn by their own tools. There are a few reasons for this, but it is mainly because the auditors want consistent data that is arranged in a certain way to save themselves time.

However, this is a terrible situation for you, because you do not know what their SAM tool will pick up. It may not take into consideration the unique licensing metrics and complexities of your software environment, and it may come up with a wildly inaccurate number that will leave you blindsided and scrambling to disprove.

Your software architecture is delicate. What will happen if the auditor’s tool needs to be installed into your software environment and the tool damages it? Your first job during the software audit is to defend and prove the accuracy of your own tool.

SAM Experts Work with Your Tools and Come with Their Own

At MetrixData 360, we work with what you give us. If you have your own SAM tools, we can work with the data it provides us and supplements any missing data with our own tools. If you don’t have your own tools, we can use ours exclusively, so there’s nothing to worry about.

With a SAM expert on the team, you shouldn’t have to resort to throwing all the hard-earned data that you’ve gathered with your SAM tool in the trash just because the software auditors aren’t used to working with the format your data is presented in. We often advise advocating for the validity of your own SAM tool by asking your software auditors to use data samples to determine accuracy or agree to use the software auditor’s tools only to supplement for missing data.

Related: Interested in Learning more about SAM Tools? Check out our article:
What Are SAM Tools

Get Data Experts that Represent Your Interests!

Software audits are not everyone’s cup of tea, and the software auditors that attend them often do not make the matter easier. Between unreasonable requests, ELPs that claim you owe thousands more than you actually do, and aggressively short turnaround times, software auditors can make the challenge of defending yourself that much harder if you are left to rely only on their services.

It’s important that you have someone in your corner backing you, someone who knows the intricate and unique inner workings of your software environment and knows how to defend your interests so that you are paying only what you need. MetrixData 360 can give you that kind of support. We have helped many companies fight their way out of seemingly hopeless situations and saved them millions of dollars in the process. If you’d like to learn more about how MetrixData 360 can help you during your next software audit, you can check out our Audit Defense Service Page.

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