What is SQL?

SQL – “Structured Query Language” is a language created to manage a database. SQL is ANSI certified (American National Standards Institute), and recognized as the standard language for database management systems.

What does Microsoft offer?

Although there are several Microsoft SQL Server solutions, the most used version on Microsoft SQL is the Express edition (its free). The Express edition is aimed towards home users and students. This is so users can learn the platform while also learning about the SQL language and how to create databases, perform queries and so forth. However, as with most free software there are limitations. For example, if you were to host an application that needed to have clustered Microsoft SQL servers with real time replication of data – you wouldn’t be able to use the Express addition. Each addition has its benefits all of which you can view here.

Why Not Use Microsoft Access? 

Common questions asked by users are:

  • Why don’t I just use Microsoft Access to store my database?
  • After all, Microsoft SQL and Microsoft Access are both database engines, so what is the difference?

Microsoft Access was not designed to provide access 24/7 to high stress applications such as messaging services and web applications. In many cases, issues such as database corruptions and stability issues occur because it wasn’t created to be able to handle these high stress applications. Microsoft Access is to be utilized as a file server whereas SQL server offers a client/server approach.

When using Microsoft Access each user reads and writes directly to the database – this can cause corruptions when shared over a network. For instance, if there are three users connecting to the same-shared file, each user is reading, writing and locking operations on that file. Then all of a sudden the user’s PC crashes, potentially leaving that file incomplete or in a corrupted state which will affect all other users. This is one of the main reasons Microsoft Access should not be used for multi user access. For further explanation on the differences between Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Access click here.

What the best edition for me?

If you want to evaluate Microsoft SQL Server then I would suggest you download the Express edition. As always, be sure to check the system requirements before downloading any version of Microsoft SQL. You don’t want to download SQL server 2012 and then try to install it on Windows 2000! That’s a bit of an exaggeration but you get the picture.

The installation can get tricky; you will be asked several questions during the setup regarding the backend or any custom configuration. Don’t worry; there are many resources online that can provide you with detailed descriptions to each part of the installation. Just make sure you install the feature “Management Tools” so you can work with SQL server visually versus using SQL commands. It’s always easier to manage something you can actually see!


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