What is SQL Server and what is its purpose? Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database management system developed by Microsoft. Its primary function is to facilitate the storage and retrieval of data requested by a range of other software applications. These applications may or may not run on the same computer. The software may reside on another computer within the same network. There are numerous versions of SQL Server, with each version serving a specific consumer and specific workloads. This ranges from small single-machine applications to large Internet-facing applications with numerous users.

Editions of SQL Server

Enterprise

SQL Server Enterprise Edition includes both the core database engine and add-on services that include a range of tools for creating and managing a SQL Server cluster. It can manage databases as large as 524 petabytes and address 12 terabytes of memory, supporting 640 logical processors (CPU cores).

Standard

SQL Server Standard includes the core database engine and some standalone services. It differs from Enterprise edition because it supports fewer active instances (number of nodes in a cluster) and doesn’t include high-availability functions like hot-add memory and parallel indexes.

Web

SQL Server Web Edition is a low-TCO option for designed specifically for web hosting.

Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence was introduced in SQL Server 2012 and aimed at Self Service and Corporate Business Intelligence. It includes Standard Edition capabilities and Business Intelligence tools: PowerPivot, Power View, the BI Semantic Model, Master Data Services, Data Quality Services and xVelocity in-memory analytics.

Workgroup

SQL Server Workgroup Edition has the core database functionality but lacks additional services (retired in SQL Server 2012).

Express

SQL Server Express is simply a scaled down edition of SQL Server. It’s free and includes the core database engine. There aren’t any limitations on the number of databases or users supported, but it is limited to one processor, 1 GB memory, and 10 GB database files (4GB database files prior to SQL Server Express 2008 R2). Two additional editions provide a superset of features not in the original Express Edition. The first is SQL Server Express with Tools, which includes SQL Server Management Studio Basic. SQL Server Express with Advanced Services adds full-text search capability and reporting services.

The edition of SQL Server you use depends on the size of your company, the data that needs to be managed, and the budget you have to work with. There are other editions as well, classified as specialized versions, including a Developer’s Edition of SQL Server and Editions integrated with Azure.

Which Version of Microsoft SQL Server?

There are many factors that go into choosing the right edition of SQL Server for your needs. The Standard Edition is a good start for a lot of companies. The workhorse SQL Server Standard Edition handles up to 16 cores with an unlimited amount of RAM. The licensing offers a per core option. This gives you two choices. You can purchase per core licenses or a server license along with client access licenses. This really is a great option for a range of business types and sizes. SQL Server Business Intelligence Edition (BI) is made to support business intelligence applications. It is available only under a server/CAL licensing model with server and client access licenses.

It all comes down to how you want to license, how big your company is, and how much data you will be working with. SQL Server 2012 is still in use but not supported. In fact, every version before 2014 is out of mainstream support. With any server, if it’s possible, you want to run the latest version or at least the latest version your system can support. The purpose of server software is to manage important data, facilitate smooth business operations, and to integrate seamlessly with a variety of software applications, so it stands to reason that outdated server applications can be detrimental to your business. In cases where you might be operating with older hardware and software, you might want to consider expanding your budget in the IT department if possible.

One of the most-asked questions is, “Windows Server or SQL Server?” The answer is simple. SQL Server runs on top of your WIndows Server. SQL Server is a RDBMS software (application) and it requires a Windows OS to operate. SQL Server is strictly database management. Windows Server is a Windows Server operating system.

Whether your business is small, medium, or large, there is an SQL Server edition and application for you. Combined with WIndows Server, you can run the most efficient server system available anywhere.