What Is a SQL Server and Other Frequently Asked Questions

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 23 August 2021

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A SQL Server is a common system used in business and IT. It uses many of the same organisational and coding principles that other software uses, including a type of SQL language. If you are interested in working with databases or managing sensitive data, you can learn about a SQL Server to strengthen your skill set. In this article, we discuss what a SQL Server is, how it works and answer some frequently asked questions about the server to help you get a full understanding of the system.

Read more: What Is SQL? Definition and Benefits

What is a SQL Server used for?

A SQL Server is a relational database management system used to store and retrieve data from other software applications. Microsoft developed this software to manage information across multiple computers in the same network. Using a computer language called structured query language, this software can perform analytics, transaction processing and information processing. Storing information in this database can help back up a business' data and increase the speed at which it can process that data.

How does a SQL Server work?

SQL Server is multiple separate pieces of software that work with each other to process data and perform tasks as needed. The process happens seamlessly and is often not detectable through the user interface. The SQL Server works like multiple tables with rows and columns that store data. There are multiple tables in the server that are all related to each other through similar elements in each table.

For example, if one piece of data is in multiple tables, those tables relate to each other through that piece of data, and manipulating one table may affect the other. Multiple people can connect to the same data through the SQL Server, so it also has safeguards against corrupting data. The core aspect of the SQL Server is the database engine that controls storing, processing, and securing the data. It comprises two separate engines that work together to provide the processing experience. These engines are:

  • The relational engine: processes command and queries

  • The storage engine: stores files, tables, indexes and more

Related: 11 Common SQL Interview Questions and Answers

Benefits and drawbacks of SQL Server

Here are some benefits of a SQL Server:

  • Installation: Installing the Microsoft SQL Server can be easier than other database management software because it does not require a specific toolkit, and it updates automatically. You may need to install additional components to customise the software for your purposes, but the integration of other applications can be easy.

  • Storage: You can manage data between devices, so you can manage data more easily while saving time.

  • Security: This server preserves data security and integrity. The table structure with related functions ensures it is difficult to corrupt the data, even accidentally.

  • Data restoration: The SQL Server has backup features that make data restoration easy. This can minimise the risk of losing data, regardless of what happens to your server.

Here are some drawbacks to consider when implementing this server:

  • Cost: There is a free version of the SQL Server, which can be cost effective for a business that is looking for a budget-friendly option. However, some of the more advanced features can be more expensive because of the value they add to the server.

  • Compatibility: The SQL Server is a Microsoft product, so it is most compatible with other Microsoft products. If you do not already use these products, you can invest in Microsoft hardware to improve your server's functionality.

  • Usability: This server only runs on newer hardware, so if you have older machines, you may need to update them to use the services available in your server. If you need to use a larger database, you may need to invest in larger hard drives for your machines.

Related: SQL Query Interview Questions for Freshers and Experienced Candidates (With Sample Answers)

Frequently asked questions about SQL Server

Here are some frequently asked questions about SQL Servers:

What is the difference between SQL and a SQL Server?

The difference between SQL and a SQL Server is that SQL is a query language that is used to retrieve relational database data. A SQL Server is a relational database. Microsoft created a proprietary version of SQL to be used with SQL Server, called Transact-SQL or T-SQL. This means you use T-SQL to write queries and statements for an SQL Server to execute. Standard SQL is a standardised query language that you can use on different platforms. SQL Server is dependent on Microsoft platforms.

Related: Database Interview Questions for Freshers and Experienced Professionals (With Sample Answers)

Is a SQL Server a database?

SQL Server is a relational database management system, so it holds a variety of different column-based tables that make up a database and it manages the data within them. It can create the database, and it responds to SQL commands and queries that manipulate the database functions like:

  • Storing data

  • Retrieving data

  • Deleting data

  • Updating data

Related: What Are the Different Database Types?

What is an instance?

An instance is a version of the SQL Server that is particular to one machine or network. Each instance has independent logins, ports and databases. A computer can run multiple instances. There are two types of instances, primary and named. The primary instance is the original instance, and you can save named instances versions of additional instances. Instances are important to the overall functioning of SQL Server, and have contributed the following benefits:

  • Multiple versions of the same SQL Server can run on a single machine, and each installation is independent of other installations.

  • Instances can lower the cost of operating SQL Server because you can get different services from different instances, so you do not need to purchase different licences for the software.

  • You can use different instances for testing manipulations to the data, so you do not accidentally corrupt the original data.

  • Running separate services in different instances can prevent confusion.

Related: Basic Computer Skills: Definition and Examples

What are the services of SQL Server?

Here are some other important aspects of the SQL Server:

  • Agent: This service stores tasks and starts or stops them depending on user commands or in response to specific events. You can also schedule these tasks.

  • Browser: The browser searches the various computers within a network for information.

  • Full-text search: Users can search for text within the different tables in the SQL Server.

  • VSS writer: This service, called a Volume Shadow Copy Service, provides backups of data files called shadow copies.

  • Analysis services: This analytical data engine helps users with decision support and business analytics.

  • Reporting services: This service can create reports and data visualisation tools, like charts, graphs and images.

  • Integration services: These services allow users to copy or download files, or move data from other databases into the SQL Server.

What are the different SQL Servers?

Microsoft has released multiple editions of their SQL Server to serve the different needs of their customers. Here are the different versions:

  • SQL Server Enterprise: This version is the highest value server. It contains extensive security, analytics and machine learning for large-scale databases.

  • SQL Server Standard: This edition is for middle-range value, with the core database engine, and some stand-alone services. It includes some add-on functions of Enterprise and includes basic reporting and analytics.

  • SQL Server WEB: Designed for web-hosting, this option provides some capabilities of the standard server for small and large web properties.

  • SQL Server Express: This is a free version of the Server that has the fewest capabilities for small scale use.

What are competitors to SQL Servers?

There are other database management services that you can use other than MS SQL Server, though it is one of the most popular. Here are MS SQL Server's competitors:

  • MySQL: It is used for web databases. This server is free and open-source, meaning users can use, change and alter the code of the program as they need to for their personal use.

  • Oracle Database: This database manager may have more sophisticated services, but can be harder to use.

  • IBM Db2: This is reliable and easy to scale up to your needs, though other applications may be less likely to integrate with this server.

Can you become certified in SQL Server?

You can get SQL certifications to show your knowledge. Getting certified can also help you stay up to date with new updates to the server or its uses. This certification can help you show potential employers that you are familiar with the T-SQL and that you know how to use the server. This can separate you from other candidates and show your hiring manager how valuable you are.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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