Today, new companies are likely to take advantage of cloud resources from the outset to lower cost and provide flexibility as they grow — but what about businesses with legacy on-premise systems?In this article, we’re first going to recap the major benefits of moving to the cloud, considering the technical merits and the broader implications for the business world. We’ll then cover why Azure is a smart choice, particularly for SQL users. After that, we’ll run through a hypothetical assessment pre-migration for Windows 2008 r2 Servers, reaching the end of support on January 14, 2020.

Why should you migrate to the cloud?

Since you’ve clicked on this piece, it’s reasonable to assume that you know the fundamental purpose of Microsoft Azure, but you may be looking for some extra clarity on why exactly it’s so important to migrate your operations to a cloud-based system. Here are some core motivators:

  • Slow adaptation will damage your image. A company’s reputation matters, and if they’re slow to move with the times, people will have second thoughts about working with you (particularly since your data may well end up in their database).
  • Data will be more tightly secure. It’s extraordinarily unlikely that a private server can ever be as secure (both physically and technologically) as the Azure platform. In an age of widespread data privacy concerns, this is highly important.
  • The scalability is effectively infinite. With an on-premise server, demand can easily outstrip supply, but not so with a cloud platform. You will never again need to worry about whether they have enough processing power.
  • Get charged based on resources used. Traditional server setups are similarly costly regardless of how heavily they are being used. By using a cloud system, resources are charged for based on usage, keeping costs down.
  • Deployment is massively streamlined. Suppose that you needed to move premises at some point. If you had everything stored in the cloud, you’d only need internet connection secured, and you’d be able to get back to work immediately.

For all of these reasons (and many more), now is the right time for anyone still using traditional server architecture to make the move. It’ll save money, improve power, flexibility and convenience, and avoid the security issues abundant in end-of-life systems.

Why is Azure the right choice?

Let’s use the example of SQL Server. If a business has been running a business database for quite some time, there’s an excellent chance that it’s running on a SQL Server. Even leaving aside the cloud benefits we just covered, that’s a major problem: numerous SQL Server instalments across the board are entering end-of-life support, meaning that they’re no longer being updated. Most notably is the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 end of support that happened in July 2019.Some of the latest SQL Server versions will be supported for years to come, but this isn’t as significant as it sounds. Due to the inflexibility of operational infrastructure, most companies using SQL Server run outdated versions, in some instances the edition from 2005 still in common use. The older versions are not only lacking in functionality — they’re also highly insecure.Could such companies upgrade to newer versions of SQL Server? Absolutely, but they really shouldn’t, because that would be needlessly fighting progress. Cloud storage is both the present and the future, and Microsoft is eager for customers to make the move to alleviate support demand, use resources more efficiently, and generally achieve better results.This is why you should migrate to Azure. It’s an easy choice if you are facing an end of life/support scenario and you’re already invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, whether making extensive use of Microsoft 365 or just looking for easy integration with business installations of Windows. It is also by far the best option if you’re looking to move from a Microsoft SQL Server.

How to assess a migration to Azure?

Beginning a customer’s migration to the Azure cloud can be daunting. However, that is what our Azure pre-sales engineers are here for, to help you through the migration journey. When we start any Azure migration project, we use Microsoft’s tried and tested methodology to map out the migration phase into the following:

  • Assess
  • Migrate
  • Optimise
  • Secure and Manage

To demonstrate what an assessment phase could look like for a migration, Rich Baugh our Azure presales engineer has provided a fictional case study of a company, ABC Beer Ltd, looking to migrate their physical Windows 2008 R2 server to the Azure Cloud.

Project Scope and Client info

Client Name: ABC Beer Ltd (ABCB)Industry Sector: Drink and beverage.Number of users: 51 Locations: Bristol and partnered through Waitrose, Sainsburys and Ocado.Server’s to be Migrated: Windows Server 2008 R2 & Windows Server 2008Source Destination: Windows Server 2019 hosted in VM in Azure public cloud. Client Background:Established in 2009, ABC Beer Ltd. is a boutique manufacturer of craft beer. Despite the company seeing year-on-year increased revenue and margins the business is facing competition from other local beer manufacturers. ABC Beer Ltd. is currently utilising Windows Server 2008 R2 within their own local data centre and is looking to migrate to Azure due to the upcoming end of support date in January 2020.Project scope:Assessment and audit of ABCB. and their current technical landscape, followed by the migration of a Windows Server 2008 R2 to Azure. Our Pre-Sales team have suggested the following migration process: Assess, Migrate, Optimise, Secure & Manage to perform a seamless and successful migration project.

The Assessment Phase

Microsoft recommends that we split this phase into four key components, we choose to do this in the following order:Microsoft Azure

  • Involve stakeholders
  • Calculate your TCO
  • Discover and evaluate apps
  • Create a cloud migration plan

In the Assessment phase, our presales team always focuses on those four components. We will take a deeper dive into each of these individually as part of the ABCB project.

Involving Stakeholders

Migrating to the Cloud for most businesses is a full digital transformation, and the key to any successful digital transformation project requires sponsorship. We recommend that the key individuals involved on this project are CTO, Project Sponsor, Head of Internal IT, Cloud Architect, Compliance Specialist, Systems Administrator and Security and Compliance Officer. Once assembled you will have your cloud migration dream team.

Representation and engagement from both IT and the departmental business owners during the assessment stage lead to a smoother, faster cloud migration that meets everyone’s goals, not just IT.

Calculate TCO

The Total Cost of Ownership calculator is a tool we use in every migration project. With ABCB specifically, we would use this tool to evaluate the potential cost savings of migrating to Azure by comparing the total cost of ownership for Azure with their on-premises set-up.

On Premise Server Specification

Azure Assessment

Cost of Ownership

Azure Cost of OwnershipTCO calculators cost saving if you migrate to AzureAzure Total CostCost for On-premise server vs Azure VM Over 3 YearsAzure 3 Year CostsExample of Cost Over Time for Each Solution

Discover & Evaluate Applications

We’d need to compile an inventory of the physical and virtual servers in ABCB’s environment and (in this hypothetical case), as a result we discover that ABCB hold: 

  • DC (Domain Controller) on a Windows Server 2008
  • Sage Accounting Software on a Windows Server 2008 R2

Once we discover what applications are being utilised on the two servers we’ll also assess their compatibility with Azure. In this situation, we’ll say the applications are compatible. Once we’ve determined that they are Azure compatible we turn our focus to the company becoming ‘Cloud Ready’ by mapping out their current infrastructure, their network set-up and often missed fundamentals such as their bandwidth per user, all of which contributes to a ‘Cloud Ready’ state.

Architecture of a Cloud Migration Plan

To confirm ABCB’s ‘Cloud Ready’ state, we would look to identify the replication tool(s) that we’d use for this project. To do this we utilize MAPTK (or Microsoft Assessment & Planning Tool Kit) which is a Microsoft tool that simply tells you what tools are best to use for your imminent project.Once we’ve aligned which tools we would utilise we could begin planning the finer details, such as:

  • Network peering design and whether we were going to use Express Route or a Site-to-Site VPN
  • What ABCB’s vNET design will look like
  • Their design for Azure Governance & Systems Management which includes back-ups and updates,
  • How many offices they have, how many employees were at each site and how they would connect.

From our findings in the discovery phase, we’d decide to take the following project actions on the existing applications on the two servers in question.Firstly, we would build out a new Domain Controller within Azure (as opposed to migrating the existing on-premise one). We would agree on this course of action because although it is possible to migrate a DC to Azure using Azure Site Recovery Manager, ABCB would subsequently be forced to migrate everything at once as opposed to migrating in stages, which gives them the opportunity and flexibility to keep their services up and running.Secondly, we would migrate the Sage application to Azure, utilising a VM (Virtual Machine) to do so.Assessment Deliverable’sTo help you with your Assessment phase we have given you a couple of deliverable’s you should aim to have, to put you in the best position to migrate to the Azure Cloud.

  • A clear list of computers and servers in use.
  • Determine Azure compatibility.
  • Select a replication tool (when using Site Recovery Manager, the Microsoft Assessment & Planning Tool Kit can identify the best option).
  • Review the network setup.
  • Estimate the required time (2+ days for up to 25 servers, +1 day for every 10 extra).

Microsoft Azure

Final thoughts…

We hope that our hypothetical assessment has given you the confidence explore the possibilities of  migrating your physical server to the Azure Cloud. Being able to quickly respond to changing situations is essential for any business. That’s what attracts many customers to Microsoft Azure — you only pay for what you use. But with Systems Assurance’s help, you can strike a fine balance between flexibility and stability for your company. With Windows Server 2008 reaching the end of support, now has never been a better time to explore your options.Speak to one of our team about setting up free call with one of our Azure engineers.Contact our team via email or telephone them on 0114 292 2911.