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Microsoft Azure SQL Database Now Includes New Security, Automation Features

Blair Greenwood


Keeping in line with Microsoft’s initiatives to move more IT and database professionals to its cloud services, the company announced updates to Azure SQL Database that will enable users to work more efficiently to increase productivity through automation, as well as providing new security features that should put users’ minds more at ease.

New Azure SQL Database Security Features

A chief concern for any IT or database professional regarding cloud services is the security of data, as well as implementing processes that meet corporate and industry compliance policies. Microsoft is continually working to alleviate those concerns by introducing a heap of new security features in the latest version of Azure SQL Database, which includes Row-Level Security, Dynamic Data Masking, and Transparent Data Encryption. The following describes each new security feature:

  • Row-Level Security: This new security feature lets administrators have fine-tuned control over users’ access to data by row.
  • Dynamic Data Masking: This feature works to help limit data exposure in a database by “returning masked data to non-privileged users who run queries over designated database fields,” such as credit card numbers.
  • Transparent Data Encryption: This new feature will be available for SQL Database V12 databases for encryption at rest.

You can get started with these new security features, which are now available in public preview across Basic, Standard, and Premium service tiers.

New Automation Features Enable Better Setup and Backup for SQL Server in Azure VMs

Microsoft has also made notable automation enhancements that will undoubtedly help administrators make better use of their time. Although SQL Server AlwaysOn technology makes it possible to create high availability environments, the process of setting up these environments is tiresome. Microsoft has now included new automated HA setup capabilities, which can be accessed via the AlwaysOn Portal Template for SQL Server in Azure VMs. This makes this once banal task much easier and includes special listener configurations and provisions for your AlwaysOn VM clusters to meet your HA and disaster recovery requirements. What’s the best benefit to this new feature, in my opinion? Not limited to on-prem scenarios, it also works for setting up hybrid environments, too.

Not only is setup much easier, but backup is now a simpler process, too. You can now automate complete SQL Server backups from an Azure VM to Azure Storage. There’s also a new auto patching capability that gives you more control over the windows update scheduler for SQL Server updates that are served up through Windows Update.

The latest version of Azure SQL database is now generally available in Europe and includes “near-complete SQL Server engine compatibility,” as well as better support for large databases and expanded performance for Premium users. According to Microsoft, general availability will continue across United States regions on February 9 with rollout out to datacenters across the globe by March 1. On April 1, general availability pricing takes effect for databases on V12 servers.

What do you think of Microsoft’s improvements to Azure SQL Database? Are you more compelled to use Azure SQL Database as a result of these enhancements? We’d love to hear what you think, so feel free to comment on this blog post, or contact me on Twitter or Google+. You can also catch up on the latest news and discussions by visiting the Petri IT Knowledgebase forums.

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