Feb 29 2016
Data Center

Cloud-Powered SQL Gives Districts New Advantages

Option offers speed, scalability and lower costs for schools.

With 2016 rolling around, a lot of K–12 district IT departments have a brand new budget.

A new budget means the money bucket has been filled again. You now have the money to invest in various resources to keep your school’s technology services running smoothly, thus making both staff and students happy.

One spot you might be looking at is either upgrading or building out one or more SQL servers. You could always go the on-premises route and buy new servers or provision your own virtual machines, install Microsoft SQL Server, do the migration and support it.

Or, you could look at going to the cloud.

If you do decide to look at the cloud, your team will need to complete a thorough analysis of your current SQL environment. Assess your current resource usage and performance. It’s important to get a baseline of what’s considered normal usage and what you might predict to be peak usage. There will be no problem in bringing your SQL services to the cloud — I assure you that the big cloud vendors have more server power than you have. This is more for cost-based estimations because cloud services are billed by usage.

Once you have an idea of your current usage, you’ll then need to do research on both the Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) models. You're probably already familiar with IaaS, which is simply your virtual machine running in the cloud: You manage the VM and everything in it just as you would in your own datacenter. However, PaaS might be new to you. PaaS simply gives you a SQL database — that’s it. You have no VM, no hardware, nothing. Once provisioned, point your application to the server in the cloud, and it’s there.

Next, do a cost/benefit analysis as you would for any new project. What will going to the cloud give you that you don’t have now, and how much will it cost in terms of both financial and human capital? Here are just three examples:

  • Lower Costs: One of the major reasons to take any service to the cloud is cost. When you migrate a SQL server to the cloud, you no longer manage hardware or worry about managing the server it’s running on (if you went the PaaS route). The infrastructure is taken care of. There also is no managing of individual licenses or paying for the power that the server consumes. To see for yourself, check out the pricing calculators for the biggest cloud vendors.

  • Scalability: When moving SQL to the cloud, you’re renting resources on some big computer farms. You won’t have to worry about those times when you need that extra performance from your databases.

  • Speed: Depending on the option you choose, you can get blazing fast performance from your SQL server itself, through IaaS; if you go the PaaS route, the performance will probably be much better than the hardware the database is running on now.

If you have decided to move to the cloud, you'll need to go into migration mode and figure out a method to get your data there with the least amount of downtime. Luckily, the big cloud vendors, including Microsoft Azure (Azure SQL Server) have this covered. Azure offers many different ways of helping you migrate SQL to the cloud:

Overall, if the regulatory bodies your organization answers to allow data in the public cloud, and if you have a stable Internet connection to support traffic (or the budget to set up a dedicated connection to the cloud), it’s well worth taking a look at any of the major cloud services. The cloud offers significant advantages over hosting your SQL servers on-premises.


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