AWS SQL Server: Everything You Need to Know

By Staff Contributor on April 7, 2023

In an increasingly data-driven business landscape, it’s no secret that more organizations rely on cloud-based databases to support their enterprise needs. But with plenty of options available, understanding what solutions are best suited for your business can be challenging. Here, we’ll break down two of the most popular enterprise-grade relational database management systems on the market to see what will work best for you.

What Is Amazon RDS SQL Server?

SQL Server, created by Microsoft, is one of the most prominent relational database management systems built for enterprise use. With Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) SQL Server, a cloud-based, fully-managed solution, businesses can effectively deploy, configure, use, and scale SQL Server database instances in minutes.

Companies rely on platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings like Amazon RDS for SQL Server to securely manage data recovery, processing, and storage. What makes Amazon RDS for SQL Server so appealing for global enterprises is that it can run multiple editions of SQL Server, including Enterprise, Express, Standard, and Web, with flexible compute capacity.

As a management system for databases on the cloud, Amazon RDS for SQL Server unlocks myriad benefits designed to impact an organization’s bottom line materially.

Amazon RDS for SQL Server: Key Features

Automatically saved backups

Amazon RDS automatically backs up each database instance. By developing a storage volume snapshot of your SQL Server instance, Amazon RDS backs up your entireinstance instead of backing up selected databases.

Dynamically scaled storage

Instances automatically expand your storage size as needed without disrupting your system uptime if you select the Auto-Scale storage option. Amazon RDS will automatically scale your storage capacity according to the storage thresholds you initially set. 

Instant availability

Businesses can deploy the Multi-Availability Zone (multi-AZ) option with one click and synchronously replicate large amounts of data across various availability zones. Amazon RDS multi-AZ comes in handy in the event of a primary node disruption. While rebuilding the crashed component, Amazon RDS will immediately and automatically commence failover to your secondary node, minimizing the negative impact on users.

Full management

SQL Server databases remain fully managed by Amazon RDS so that you can pass off routine database management duties like backups, configuration, hardware provisioning, patching, setup, and more.

Modern upgrades

Amazon RDS for SQL Server supports Express editions for SQL Server Versions 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019, as well as Web, Standard Edition, and Enterprise.

Seamless migration

Amazon aims to make any company’s transition to Amazon RDS for SQL Server as easy as possible. Businesses at all stages of growth take advantage of Amazon RDS’ Database Migration Service, Import/Export, Single and Multi-file native restores, SQL Server Database Publishing Wizard, SQL Server Replication, and much more.

When a company turns over day-to-day administrative database duties to RDS, they can allocate more time toward other value-add areas of the business. Also worth mentioning: in addition to SQL Server, Amazon RDS can support other leading relational database platforms, including Oracle, PostgreSQL, MySQL, and Amazon Aurora.

Best Practices for Monitoring Amazon SQL Server

While Amazon RDS offers companies a plethora of databases hosted on the cloud, moving to the cloud shouldn’t come at a cost to your business nor detract from your visibility into performance. With so much on the line in the form of confidential data and proprietary knowledge, companies should recognize the value of implementing robust monitoring software for their cloud databases.

As PaaS offerings gain steam and companies migrate their databases to the cloud, data visibility remains critical to ensuring business functionality and productivity. That’s why companies increasingly rely on powerful tools like SolarWinds® Database Performance Analyzer (DPA) to monitor their cloud-based databases’ full breadth effectively.

Here are just a few Amazon RDS SQL Server monitoring best practices:

Intuitive performance dashboards simplify database monitoring

Rather than creating more headaches for you and your support teams, sophisticated monitoring solutions like SolarWinds DPA are designed to helpyou track database performance. DPA features a centralized hub so you can easily see data that’s been aggregated on-premises, in cloud installations, and across an infinite number of nodes. DPA highlights key performance trends and actionable insights by distilling all of your aggregated data into a single, intuitive dashboard.

Maintain real-time visibility

With Amazon RDS, enterprises can say goodbye to over-provisioning by leveraging DPA’s real-time analysis to help optimize their RDS databases and fire on all cylinders. Providing comprehensive, up-to-the-minute visibility into the performance of your databases should be a primary capability of any practical, enterprise-grade Amazon RDS monitoring solution.

These are only a top few Amazon SQL Server best practices that organizations can apply to optimize Amazon RDS performance and cost efficiency.

Migrate to Amazon RDS more cost-effectively

If your database strategy includes migrating on-premises SQL Server databases to Amazon RDS SQL Server or migrating to open source (e.g., RDS/Aurora PostgreSQL or RDS/Aurora MySQL), database performance monitoring can help. SolarWinds DPA supports a variety of on-premises and cloud-based DBMS, which enables you to compare migration source vs. target performance side-by-side. This helps you quickly pinpoint and resolve queries that perform slower in the new environment. It accelerates the testing and validation phases of database migration to the cloud and helps ensure the new database runs cost-effectively (e.g., right-sized cloud instances) on AWS.

To help implement these best practices, most organizations need a tool like SolarWinds DPA. A few more useful features of this tool include the following:

  • DPA’s high-quality services allow you to quickly drill down the root causes behind perplexing performance problems — before it impacts users and costs your business.
  • By pairing real-time SolarWinds blocking and deadlock analysis with DPA’s other relevant historical data of RDS instances, DBA’s can dramatically improve SQL Server throughput and responsiveness.
  • DBAs can also enjoy notable SolarWinds features like Perfstack™ to correlate key metrics and AppStack™ — which grants DBAs a 360-degree view into their Amazon RDS Server, SQL Server, MySQL, Aurora, and Oracle instances.

Amazon RDS SQL Server vs. Azure SQL

As businesses seek to safely store data on the cloud, Amazon SQL Server and Azure SQL Database have become two of the most widely adopted cloud-based PasS implementations. Of course, each solution has its strengths and weaknesses and a few notable differences to note between licensing models, limitations, and connectivity.


As far as licensing goes, both cloud-based solutions offer fee models. Licenses are included for both — so whether you go with Azure SQL or AWS RDS SQL, the good news is that you won’t have to buy a SQL Server license separately. With both solutions, organizations only pay license fees for the length of time they maintain the operating database. Large enterprises typically favor these license-included models because they can efficiently create and terminate database instances as needed.

While the pay-as-you-go pricing model can be cost-effective for certain organizations, others may want to take advantage of another model: Bring Your Own License (BYOL). While Microsoft imposes licensing restrictions on Amazon — Microsoft, for example, only allows Amazon SQL Server to be offered under a license-included model — with Azure SQL Database, companies can choose between a license-included model and a BYOL model for managed instances. The BYOL model, at its best, can drive significant cost savings depending on your enterprise’s core business needs.


Amazon RDS SQL Server and Azure SQL DB both come with their share of platform limitations. Some of these limitations are unavoidable and a fundamental byproduct of each particular database platform. Other features remain unavailable, however, because Microsoft and Amazon have deliberately created limitations to counteract specific security risks across their platforms.

Keep in mind that Amazon RDS SQL, upon its initial release, provided the nearest compatibility to an on-site implementation. In contrast, Microsoft’s offering remained purely a PaaS implementation at first that was specifically built to support cloud-based applications. Microsoft subsequently launched an edition of its own PaaS SQL Server, called Managed Instances. At this point, the goal of Managed Instances is to provide near 100% compatibility, as well as offer feature parity that is on par with Amazon RDS.

For an even more detailed look at each platform’s specific limitations, you can refer to each respective product’s official documents (Microsoft and Amazon).


Each cloud-based database offering also comes with a distinct connectivity infrastructure. Amazon RDS SQL Server and Azure’s Managed Instances both utilize direct DNS name connectivity to create their relatively standard data center design.

Azure allows for customized single databases to coexist on a shared server. In this case, a gateway mechanism is required to connect Azure’s Single Database to the right application on the right server. As a result, the primary single database with Azure can be hosted on any server at any point in time. On the other hand, the downside of this gateway routing architecture often reveals itself across applications requiring rapid response times.

This gateway architecture might seem superfluous on the surface. But dig deeper, and you’ll realize that in addition to serving as an added security measure, certain scalability capabilities and management features are only made possible because of this gateway architecture.

The bottom line is databases can move transparently on the Azure Platform as needed and during regular environment upgrades because of the method used by Azure’s Single Database.

Maximize the Benefits of Amazon RDS SQL Server

We recognize there’s a lot at stake when transitioning business-critical databases and systems to the cloud. This article is just a starting point to help you learn about Amazon RDS SQL Server capabilities and best practices. To make the most of Amazon RDS SQL Server, you’ll need a solution that offers optimal visibility into database performance and resource utilization. Try a 14-day free trial of SolarWindsDatabase Performance Analyzer to help ensure your business makes an effective transition to the cloud.

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