Great options for hosting a SQL database in Azure.

If you need to create a SQL Server database within your organisation, using your own hardware, there is generally one well-established way of doing that. You need to provision a server (either physical or virtual), install a SQL Server engine and instance on that server, and then create your database within that instance. There are a huge variety of ways that you can tailor your installation of SQL Server to meet specific needs, but the general principal of server / instance / database remains the same. Your company will need to look after all of these themselves, along with any related tasks you create to support the database.

However, if you are open to hosting your database within a cloud-based environment, there are several different set-ups that you can choose from. All of these are quite different, varying in both their capabilities, and the effort that they will take you to create and maintain.

I couldn’t find a graphic that gave a concise summary of the main features of each option for hosting a SQL database in Azure, so I made the one below. I’ve tried to align each option to their nearest equivalent in an on-premise SQL Server environment.

Click on the “pop-out” arrow in the top-right of the picture to see a larger copy, or download a PDF version using the button below the diagram. The highlighted words link to the relevant page on the Microsoft website, which provides more detailed information.

A very brief explanation of SQL databases in Azure

Unlike an on-premise SQL Server environment, in Azure you don’t need to create a server and SQL instance first, before you can create a database. With Azure SQL Database you can simply enter a few basic details of the database that you’d like to create into a form, and Azure will go away and create it using it’s own resources. Azure will also automatically take care of backing up, performance tuning, licensing, and replicating the database for high-availability. This is the lowest maintenance solution, but it does have several limitations.

For example, you can’t run cross-database queries, or really interact with other databases outside of the Azure SQL Database you’re using. Neither can you send mail from the database, or take your own adhoc manual backups. There is also little isolation from other Azure SQL Databases – you’re sharing resources with other customers. The second option – Azure SQL Managed Instance – removes many of these limitations. It allows you to group together several databases within an instance with it’s own dedicated compute and storage resources, and a private IP address. This is closer to the concept of the SQL instance in an on-premise environment.

The third option – an Azure Virtual Machine with SQL Server installed on it – most closely resembles the traditional on-premise server / instance / database arrangement. The main difference is that rather than the Infrastructure team at your organisation providing you with a server that they’ve created with company resources, Azure provides you with one using their storage and compute power instead. After you have the server, the rest of the process is very similar whether you’re using on-premise hardware or an Azure Virtual Machine. Either way, you’ll need to arrange for SQL Server to be installed, and create an instance before you can start creating databases. You’ll need to take care of SQL security patches, back-ups, optimisation, etc yourself too – although there is some automated help that you can get from Azure. This solution involves the most maintenance, but also offers the most flexibility and compatibility with SQL Server.

Of course, there is a lot more to each variety of database in Azure than what I’ve just mentioned, and this is only meant to be a very general introduction. There is a massive amount of extra documentation on the Microsoft website.

If you’d like any additional advice or help on creating databases within Azure, feel free to contact us at

European Cycle 2020: A gentle bike ride from Spain to Norway

Following a great first year establishing Data Minister as provider of DBA expertise, and working with some fantastic clients, I’ll now be taking a break for a few months to attempt a cycle ride covering the length of continental Europe.

To bring a data-aspect to my cycle tour, I’ve built a simple GPS location logging system, that you can use to follow my progress. For this, I’ve used a few technologies that I’ve recently been learning while I studied for the Microsoft Professional Program Big Data qualification. These include Azure SQL Database, Azure Data Factory and Power BI, along with a useful GPS Logger application.

If you’d like to follow my progress, the map showing my latest location can be found on this page, along with a few photos from my Instagram feed.

UPDATE MARCH 2020: Unfortunately I didn’t pick the best time to try cycling the length of Europe! The trip started well, and I had a fantastic first six weeks making it through the whole of Spain and France. However, a few hours before I was due to cross the border into Italy, the whole country sadly went into lock down due to the coronavirus pandemic. The rest of Europe soon followed suit, so I was forced to return to the UK. I hope to complete the trip to Europe’s most northerly point one day in the future.

The location tracker that I made to plot my progress worked really well, and you can still see my course plotted on a Power BI map here.

The Future for the DBA

In recent years, both new technologies and new business practices have changed what the Database Administrator (DBA) role means, and started to shape how the role may evolve, or recede in the future.  These changes offer exciting opportunities for DBAs, and the future looks great for data professionals overall. This post discusses the factors influencing the DBA role, how they may be affecting DBA numbers, and suggests some positive countermoves that DBAs might choose to make in response.

Continue reading “The Future for the DBA”

Creating a file share using Azure storage (UI method)

This post shows how to create an SMB file share using Azure storage, that you can then use as a mounted drive on a remote server (such as your on-premise SQL Server machine, or a VM).

This post shows how to create an SMB file share using Azure storage, that you can then use as a mounted drive on a remote server (such as your on-premise SQL Server machine, or a VM), using the Azure portal and File Explorer UIs.

Continue reading “Creating a file share using Azure storage (UI method)”

Welcome to Data Minister

Welcome to Data Minister.

Founded in 2018, we can provide a boost of database administration expertise to organisations that may not need a permanent DBA, or need an extra pair of hands on a short-term piece of work.

For more information about what we offer, view our services here.

To learn more about Data Minister, see this page.

Data Minister love to pass on knowledge of current projects we’re working on, and skills we’ve learnt.  We’ll be posting “how-to” articles here, and they’ll also appear on our homepage.

Thanks for visiting!