Getting the Most Out of SQL Server

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December 2, 2012

Microsoft SQL Server is a good choice for businesses that need a high performance, stable and flexible database system.  There are several different flavours of SQL server, and if you want to make the most out of your investment, you should choose the right version for your company.


The Enterprise version of SQL Server 2012 is designed for large companies that need a server capable of handling mission critical applications and data warehousing.

SQL Server 2012: Enterprise offers high availability thanks to AlwaysOn technology.  It also offers high performance data warehousing and specialist virtualization systems. SQL Server 2012: Enterprise Edition is available under the Core Based licensing plan only.

Business Intelligence

The Business Intelligence version of SQL Server 2012 is a relatively new offering from Microsoft.  It is aimed at corporations and medium-sized businesses that need sophisticated visualisation and data discovery tools, highly scalable reporting and sophisticated analytics. The Business Intelligence edition is available under the Server + Client Access Licence (CAL) licensing plan only.


The Standard version of SQL Server offers basic data management features and business intelligence capabilities, at an affordable price.  Depending on the needs of your business, you can use the Server+CAL or the Core based licencing plan.

Ensuring High Availability

Once you have chosen the right server for your needs, the next step is to set them up and make sure that they run optimally, providing the high availability that your business needs. This means that you will need to run regular audits of your IT systems.  It is a good idea to come up with an SQL server health check list to ensure that you’re asking the right questions, and have a fair chance of spotting issues before they cause performance problems.

Things to examine in an SQL Server health check include:

  • Uptime monitoring
  • OS Event logs
  • Error logs
  • Standard reports
  • SQL Traces and profiling
  • Performance monitor
  • Hardware status monitors
  • Firewall and security logs

If you notice any unusual errors, alerts, or warnings, investigate them immediately.  If you spot unusual slowdowns in your performance monitor, then you should try to identify what is causing those issues.  It may be something simple, such as bottlenecks due to periods of high demand, or a poorly written query hogging more resources than it should.

Sometimes, the problems are harder to pin down.  If you have system resource contention, stored procedures with long execution times, or a blocking problem, then figuring out what is causing it could be a time consuming process.  You can use the SQL Profiler trace log and the Performance monitor log to figure out where the issue is coming from.  You may need to change your log level to gather enough data to narrow down the source of the problem.

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