What is Microsoft SQL Server?

Instructor: Martin Gibbs

Martin has 16 years experience in Human Resources Information Systems and has a PhD in Information Technology Management. He is an adjunct professor of computer science and computer programming.

This lesson will provide an overview of Microsoft SQL Server. A brief history of the tool is provided, the different products explained, and Microsoft's own flavor of SQL (T-SQL) will be explained.

Microsoft SQL Server: What is it?

SQL Server, often pronounced 'Sequel Server,' is not a bad sequel to an already bad movie. Far from it: It is a very powerful system that can be used in organizations of varying sizes, from small businesses to major corporations.

SQL Server is Microsoft's relational database management system. The key operating word here is system; the system's function is to manage multiple databases. It also provides a suite of tools that help to build, change, and manage the data. Additionally, there are tools for report writing, data import/export, and data analysis tools.


Sybase and Microsoft released version 1.0 in 1989. The partnership between the two companies fell apart in the early 90s, but Microsoft kept the rights to the name SQL Server. Subsequent versions include SQL Server 2000, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2014, and 2016.

SQL Server Products

There are several different flavors of SQL Server, which offer different features depending on user needs. These products, also called Editions, include:

  • Enterprise: Built for large organizations with complicated data needs
  • Standard: Useful for departments within organizations
  • Workgroup: Includes a reporting module for synchronizing data remotely
  • Developer: Single-use installation, meant for development and testing of applications
  • Web: For small businesses looking to build web applications
  • Express: A free edition meant for learning and education
  • Compact: Another free option for stand-alone applications
  • Evaluation: Trial version that is only valid for a short time period.

Microsoft SQL Server in Action

Like most database management systems, SQL Server supports standard Structured Query Language (SQL). But the system contains T-SQL (Transact-SQL).

Although SQL Server can run on a laptop, it is commonly found on a server in larger organizations. It can support thousands of users.

As its name implies, Microsoft SQL Server runs on a centralized server, which allows for simultaneous user access. An example of a server is an employee portal, which houses knowledge articles, personal data, and self-service tasks. At any point during the day, thousands of employees could be accessing content; a hundred more could be updating personal information; and a dozen more could be accessing dashboard reports.


SQL Server provides the following tools:

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