Azure SQL Database Pricing Overview

Azure SQL Database has 3 pricing edition(s), from $0.50 to $2.52. Look at different pricing editions below and read more information about the product here to see which one is right for you.



Per Hour



Per Hour

10 vCORE


Per Hour
Pricing for Azure SQL Database


  • Does not haveFree Trial
  • Does not haveFree/Freemium Version
  • Does not havePremium Consulting / Integration Services

Entry-level set up fee?

  • No setup fee

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Azure SQL Pricing 2021

Almost any enterprise needs to store their data, whether it’s for personal information like addresses, performance reviews, contacts for clients and employees. Or for projects, or the creation of software and applications. They may need a database that connects all their related information together.

Databases like this are called relational databases and are generally coded with SQL. One major developer of relational databases services is Mincrosft. Microsoft Azure SQL Database is their managed SQL database option so your business can save time by not focusing on upkeep.

What is Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing database that developers use for data storage. A database like Azure offers several other applications to run, test, and manipulate code like Virtual Machines, Azure Cosmos DB, and Azure SQL Database.

Azure SQL Database is a managed relational database service for Microsft’s SQL Server. SQL Server actually has a free version that you can manage yourself. This may be the ideal option for smaller teams or solo developers, as Azure SQL is a costly solution.

If you are a developer or small team with a low budget, you can look at making an account for SQL Server instead. The costs for Azure SQL easily become thousands of dollars. If you are a student you should 100% look at Azure SQL for students. They give you a free credit to your account. The account also comes with access to free tools like Visual Studio Code and the free version of SQl Server (both of which you can use without Azure if you so choose).

Azure SQL is an incredibly popular service for major tech companies. Below is a graph of the different industries that use Microsoft Azure.

The pricing model for this software can be very confusing, so in the next section we talk about how Azure’s pricing works. If you are unfamiliar with some of the terms in the article see the key term breakdown at the end.

Here is a video breakdown of what Azure is, for our more visual learners.

Azure SQL Pricing

Azure SQL is a pay-as-you-go purchasing model. With a pricing model like this it’s very easy to spend more than anticipated. There are also services and applications that are related to SQL Server, but may not show up in the pricing calculator options for your estimate. This is why it’s good to consider your estimate very lightly, because you could change your mind on certain integrations once you have an Azure account.

Pricing options for your Azure SQL database start with whether you want a single database or elastic pool, which basically means if you want to start with one database or multiple. Then there is your choice of the purchase model which is either vCore or DTU.

vCore has great customization options and allows you to use the Azure Hybrid Benefit for cost savings. DTU is better for storage and is recommended for large workloads that need more compute resources.

In the Compute tier you have the option for Severless and Provisioned. Severless turns on and off for workload demand automatically, leaving inactive periods to only bill you for storage. You could see it as a cost effective option for a single database billed per second. Provisioned can both be for a single database and elastic pool, but has capped compute resources, and it billed hourly.

There are 3 service tiers, General Purpose, Hyperscale, and Business Critical. General Purpose is the budget option for for common needs rather than unique ones. Hyperscale is for the data heavy, optimum storage, auto-scaling database. Business critical is considered a premium tier, with its high transaction rate and low latency. The service also has better protection of data in case of failures because it uses isolated replicas to prevent that loss of data.

For the other filters, it’s more a matter of your personal choices, and location. Below is our estimate using Azure’s pricing calculator. If you have any questions, they recommend talking to a sales specialist or seeing their pricing FAQs page.

Azure SQl Pricing Calculator

Your Azure SQL database will have several different pricing components that will vary in cost based on your usage. We recommend you create your own. Ours is the bare minimum with defaults, just so you can peak at the possible monthly cost. The estimate we have is 1,472.75 USD.

In the estimate you can see the defaults for database type, backup storage tier, pricing model, general purpose, provisioned, and hardware type. While toggling, the ones that had significant impact on the estimate were defaults Single Database, vCore, 8 vCore, Gen 5, General Purpose, and Provisioned. Some make obvious sense, an elastic pool will always be more because it’s more than one database. However, changing the type of vCore instance, from 8 vCore to say 6 vCore, made the cost drop to $1,104.79 USD.

For the RA-GRS default for backup storage tier, there is no difference between the other types. The more surprising changes in cost come from the hardware type which does change drastically, and the region type. Simply switching from East US to East US 2 will have a change from $1,476.43 to $1,472.98 USD.

When you do enter in your database specs, be very careful to be as accurate as possible. Pay-as-you-go models are more complicated than they seem. There is the option to not choose pay as go.

Under Savings options you can choose an annual subscription for a discount. You can also choose Azure hybrid for saving on the SQL Server License. If you do choose that option you will need to stick with vCore for your purchase model.

The best way to get your head around the price would be to play around with the options. You can go here to take you to our estimate.

One warning of caution is that you can’t toggle between options easily. If you decide to see the price for an elastic pool and then switch back to a single database, the price won’t change back. You can’t toggle back and you’ll need to start over.

How Does Azure SQL Database Work?

Microsoft Azure SQL Database is not just a managed database for SQL Server, but is also a PaaS, and can operate as a database engine. You can choose to configure it as an IaaS or Paas depending on your preference and what pricing you want.

With Azure SQL you don’t need to worry about database maintenance like upgrading, patching, backups, and more. The high availability of the SQL database assures operations can be up 99.99% of the time, with some time factored in for repairs, upgrades, and patches.

That way, with your database self-maintained and running most of the time, you can work on business tasks and focus on your company’s optimization. Azure SQL is a popular option for managing your data in SQL Server, but the features may be your biggest decider. Below we go into more detail on features, benefits, and other services.

Microsoft Azure: More Features and Benefits for Your Database

When you set up an Azure SQL Database you can choose multiple deployment methods for your database. You can go with a single database, which is an isolated, self-sufficient database. They’re a lot like contained databases in the SQL Server database engine. Single databases work well if there’s one data source you’re using.

Another deployment option is an elastic pool, which is several single databases with shared resources, like CPU. You can also move single databases in and out of your elastic pool. This way you can connect and disconnect your database and data at will.

Once your database is set up you can access the Azure portal. Azure portal is your management console for monitoring your Azure resources. It's convenient and has a mobile app. From there you can check on Azure SQL, and other cloud applications. Azure SQL itself has a few other database options that also use the SQL Server DB engine.

There’s Azure SQL Managed Instance (PaaS), which helps modernize your SQL Server applications. It’s recommended for new applications or on-premises applications migrating to Azure’s cloud platform.

Then they have Azure VMs (IaaS), which is a virtual machine you can run your database on. Azure uses Linux virtual machines for this option. It’s recommended for use when transferring on-premises databases. With your database on a VM, you can keep a copy locally, with full administrative control.

With the SQL Managed instance, you wouldn’t have that same amount of control. With the VMs you can set the maintenance and recovery model. You’re even able to fully customize your DB engine. For information about your Azure VMs options as well as for the SQL Managed instance see Azure’s breakdown.

Other services that can be beneficial to you include other cloud applications like Azure Cosmos DB, Azure Blob Storage, and Azure DevOps.

If you’re also interested in NoSQL databases, Azure Cosmos DB is a great option. They’re compatible with Core (SQL) API, and will let you run queries. Once you have an Azure account you can have access to both NoSQL, SQL databases.

Azure Blob Storage is an object storage ideal for developers, graphics design, and film teams. You can use Blob storage as a backup, writing to log files, store video, audio, and images. Blob storage is also a great integration for some versions of SQL Server.

You can also use the software and project management tools in Azure DevOps. Some versions of SQL Server are compatible with it, and you have to use Azure VMs for a single database only as well. Go here to see how to set up this option.

Microsoft Azure services have so much to offer for setup and integrations. They’re not the only option, however. There are other very similar cloud platforms that offer an SQL managed database service.

Microsoft Azure vs Google Cloud SQL vs AWS Aurora

The three giants for managed SQL databases include Microsoft Azure, AWS Aurora, and Google Cloud SQL. They all have very similar pricing models and offer pricing calculators. One may seem less than another, but the reality is the cost depends on your unique database. In general, all of them can go into the thousands per month for usage of your SQL database.

Each of these services is suitable for major companies and is meant to manage large quantities of data. All of them have auto-scaling, multiple applications within their cloud, and are compatible with either MySQL, PostgreSQL, or SQL Server.

Microsoft Azure has compatibility with SQL Server, which is their own SQL service, along with PostgreSQL, and MySQL. AWS Aurora offers MySQL, and PostgreSQL. Google Cloud SQL is compatible with SQL Server, PostgreSQL, and MySQL.

All of them offer a NoSQL service for non-relational databases as well. Microsoft Azure offers Cosmos DB, AWS has DynamoDB, and Google Cloud SQL also offers both Datastore and Bigtable.

If you need the most options for organizing and accessing your data in several formats and database structures, Google is your best bet. If you really prefer SQL Server, the company that created it is probably best, so Azure is your better choice. Amazon RDS does offer DB engine options for SQL Server, but not with Aurora.

Then again, it may not be just the right database you want. The other applications offered may be the deciding factor for you.

Microsoft Azure also has AI, machine learning, analytics, and developer tools. They have quite a few free services as well (that stay free after the first free 12 months of your account). These services include Visual Studio Code, Machine Learning, and DevTest Labs.

AWS comes with a vast range of applications from machine learning, robotics, and business services. When you create or switch your database to Aurora you can access a number of services to benefit your code, company, and team.

Google Cloud comes with a number of applications for optimizing your projects and data. The options are fairly diverse with data warehouses and libraries to API and AI creation, with an array of developer tools available.

All three giants in development and data are great options to store and manipulate your relational database. One issue for some lower-budget teams is the cost of these giants. In the next section, we give a quick mention of the open-source SQL databases.

Most of these databases will require you manually manage them, so they are not the ideal option if saving time and effort is a major priority. Fortunately, some of these alternatives do offer a managed version (but not guaranteed to be completely open-source).

Open Source SQL Online Databases

For those that aren’t familiar with the open-source options for SQL databases here we go over a list of the most common ones readily available. Some of these services will include a managed version and NoSQL options.

  • MySQL Databases

  • PostgreSQL Databases

  • SQL Server Databases

  • MariaDB Server Databases

MySQL may be the most popular and easy-to-learn database system. MySQL Community Edition is open source and ready for download. It’s compatible with NoSQL, meaning you can combine your nonrelational and relational data in the same place.

There’s also MySQL Enterprise Edition, which is a managed database with security, backup, encryption, and integrations. Enterprise Edition is not open for download and requires an Oracle account.

PostgreSQL is an open-source option ready for download. There most recent versions include 14.1, and 13.5. Their two new releases have heightened security and are highly recommended.

Microsoft SQL Server offers downloads for their free, open-source versions, SQL Server 2019 Developer, and SQL Server Express are the most current ones. You can also sign up for a Microsoft account and use SQL Server on the cloud.

MariaDB is from the creators of MySQL. You can see the common theme with the dolphin for MySQL, and seal for MariaDB. They have multiple downloads from as recent as November 2021. The new versions have advanced clustering and can be integrated with Oracle like MySQL.

For more information and resources see the next section. At the end of the article, we also provide a key terms list as well.

More resources

For more information on how SQL works you can see the video below. Those of you that want to see a tutorial of Azure SQL can check out the video below showing how to create your database in Azure SQL. You can also see Microsoft’s article explaining the step for creating a database in Azure SQL.

You may also want to see more relational database options, we have a great list of alternatives for Azure SQL. If you’ve used some of the software in the article, please consider leaving a review to help other buyers make informed decisions.

Those who are not unfamiliar with some of the terms covered in this article can look over the key terms breakdown at the end.

Microsoft Azure Key Term Breakdown

Some of the terms and concepts you will see while shopping for a good relational database software might be new or require some review. Here we keep all the undefined phrases from the article, and extra explanations to give a good background to SQL databases while you shop around.

SQL or Secure Query Language

SQL stands for Secure Query Language (SQL can be pronounced ‘Sequel’). It is a programming language for relational databases. With a relational database, you often connect specific parts of data to their related categories and information.

This can be for an employee who needs to be connected to their address information, hiring information, and performance review. It can also be for a client that you need to connect to their address, their company and company address, their specific client information, and any other categories they belong in.

You can then use those tables of information to research your own data or to pull the information you need to use. Using queries, you can take data from the tables of information, so you can have a custom view to organize your information.

You can use a query to create a mailing list of companies you worked within the past year so you can send out a newsletter to advertise some deals and changes to bring them back in. Relational databases make it easier to access the companies, the dates, and the addresses for the query. SQL is simply the language used to ask or query, your database for the things you want.

There are database systems that let you do this without learning SQL. Microsoft Access works the same way but it comes with a UI that lets you drag and drop instead of coding. If you are a small business this may be your ideal solution, but Microsoft Access is far too small for major projects or the personal data of large companies.

NoSQL or Non-SQL or Non-relational Database

NoSQL is a newer coding language and is for non-relational databases. This could be storing information that you do not need to connect to several other categories. It could also be because you want to access the data in a different manner. NoSQL can be faster while handling large amounts of data, but without being impeded by complex structures found in SQL.

This does not automatically mean you can use a NoSQL database or SQL interchangeably. Not all information can easily be switched back and forth, because what you want in a relational database may not work in a NoSQL database.

If you do, however, switch to NoSQL, it can be helpful to access, analyze and use your data faster. Sometimes, NoSQL databases are cheaper, but not always. Even better, is in the cases where you can combine NoSQL data and SQL data in the same database so you can have both. MySQL has open-source versions that offer this capability. You can also have a NoSQL and SQL database through Azure Cloud services.

Azure’s Cosmos DB offers all forms of NoSQL structure and even allows query options with their Core (SQL) API. If you are interested in changing to NoSQL see Microsoft’s explanation of what NoSQL is, and their breakdown about Cosmos DB.

Application Programming Interface (API)

Application Programming Interface is an interface connecting programs or computer programs. They’re used as an interface to perform services for other systems. API’s instruct the system what to do, so it can function properly for you. APIs you may know of include Google Maps, Twitter, and Instant Message systems. Programming languages that can use APIs include Javascript, Java, Ruby, PHP, and many more.

VM Virtual Machine

Virtual machines are a simulation on a computer that lets you experience and test different operating systems or devices. This way applications can be designed for Mac and Windows, mobile apps for iOS and Android, and games for both Xbox and Playstation.

Open Source / Open-source (hyphen is not required)

Open-source usually refers to software that is free to download, use, or study on the internet. The developer will make their license for the specific version that is free, open to be manipulated, used, distributed by anyone.

The reason someone would choose to not have a capital gain is because they want more developers to learn and create in collaboration. That and many of the tech giants have a paid version of the software that is easier for businesses to use or is more efficient in some way.

For example, Microsoft has Azure for managing SQL Server but has an open-source edition of SQL Server from 2019. This way tech giants can foster goodwill and help developers, who may end up working for them, grow and learn. While also making money off the same software at the same time.


The definition for an instance with SQL databases can change depending on the software and service you use. In broad terms, the instance is the memory needed to pull your data. It also includes the software which changes depending on the service. In Azure, they also use the term instance in one of their database options called Azure SQL Managed Instance.

DB Engine or Database Engine

A DB engine is the database management system DBMS, that you use to create and interact with your data. Your DB engine can be MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB etc.

I/O Input/Output, Throughput, Latency

I/O means the input/output. This is expressed in IOPS, which is the amount of I/O per second. Latency is the duration between your request and when it’s actually done. You can think of it as similar to loading time.

Throughput can mean a couple different things, the rate of production, the speed that your data takes to travel, capacity. For storage, when they talk about throughput they generally mean read/write throughput, which considers both capacity and latency and I/O. It is the amount of data transferred to the disk each second. You can measure throughput in megabytes per second MB/s.

Paas IaaS

PaaS means platform-as-a-service. Microsoft describes their PaaS services as the Azure cloud ability to offer both development and deployment of your applications. You will have access to server, storage as well as development tools, and database management. The platform that is the service is essentially a one stop of everything you need to create, test, and analyze. For more specifics see their PaaS page.

IaaS is infrastructure-as-a-service. This refers to only the server, and storage aspects of creation. Azure will infrastructure parts–the server and storage–while you handle customization and management of your software.