Selecting a SQL Server Database Version for Your Company

SQL Server database and SQL

Choosing the right version of SQL Server is important for the performance you desire. If you’re installing an older one because your organization’s management prefers an older build or the vendor is unable to support newer versions, it is important to let them know which version your company needs, and why.

For this reason, we will discuss some popular versions of SQL Server from older to newer and mention their advantages in this blog.

Which SQL Server Version Works Best with SQL Performance Tuning?

Knowing the versions that support this task is extremely important because it will give you the ability to improve the SQL Server database and SQL performance.

To that effect, we will discuss the SQL Server 2016, 2017, and 2019 versions here.

SQL Server 2016

This version was chosen by a lot of independent software vendors or ISVs for one reason – 2016’s Service Pack 1 edition came with Enterprise features in Standard mode. These helped create a single application version that worked simultaneously for both Standard as well as Enterprise clients.

Advantages of Choosing this Version:

  • It is easy to find support material online as this version is quite popular and numerous database professionals are well-versed with this version’s tools.
  • Standard Edition users may find this version appealing since it supports 128GB RAM and additional space for internal functions such as query plans.
  • Support for this version ends after 2026 – longer than the older versions (2012/2014).
  • Newer applications that have additional compliance requirements will benefit from features in this version such as Always Encrypted, temporal tables, and Dynamic Data Masking. These will make it somewhat easier to protect and monitor sensitive information.
  • You can have both row store and column store indexes in this version, unlike the earlier ones that only had row store indexes.
  • If you need query plan monitoring to help with SQL performance tuning, you can use the Query Store’s features provided in SQL Server 2016 for this purpose.

SQL Server 2017

Being a newer release, it is one of the most regularly updated versions with patches coming in almost every other month. These patches are important because they resolve significant problems. It also comes with a minimum commit replica configuration to ensure commits are accepted by several replicas.

Advantages of Choosing this Version:

  • The upgrades are easier to get from this version onward due to a Distributed Availability Group that contains multiple SQL Server versions in it. Before this, we had AG version upgrades that were not as convenient, leading most users to construct a new cluster and migrate to it rather than opt for an upgrade.
  • This version contains batch mode execution plans, which gives those who require high-performance column store statements an advantage.
  • If you must run your SQL Server on Linux, you may consider SQL Server 2017 as several bugs have been resolved in the Cumulative Updates.
  • It’s a newer version so support will last longer than that of its predecessor.

SQL Server 2019

Released on November 4, 2019, this version is the latest in the SQL Server series. Naturally, it comes with the longest support lifespan, i.e. it will be supported until 2030. This version also receives regular patch updates to fix many significant issues in the form of Cumulative Updates.

Changes and Features in this Version:

  • Patch contents aren’t documented anymore. Moreover, you are likely to receive updates with undocumented new features – something to consider in case you require it for mission-critical production environments.
  • There is a bit of a learning curve thanks to some cutting-edge features in this version, so be prepared to perform some experimentation as you learn.
  • Some of the best performance features are included in the 2019 compatibility mode. However, you will have to keep a close eye on all SQL Server databases and SQL queries – even the ones running fast at present – as these will alter your current execution plans. In other words, you will have to test both slow and fast queries to make sure the slow ones speed up and the fast ones don’t fall behind in performance.
  • Table variables have gotten better in this version along with user-defined functions.
  • Additional features to watch out for including Big Data Clusters, Java support, and high container availability, so you may want to explore this version if you’re looking for perks like these in the SQL Server you want.

In Conclusion

At this point, SQL Server 2017 might seem like the best version to go with, thanks to a balance of features, stability, and support lifespan. Furthermore, you’ll receive plenty of help with SQL performance tuning – a lifesaver for overworked professionals who may not have the time or resources to upgrade every server every year.

SQL Performance Tuning: Frequent Questions about Indexes

SQL performance tuning

A database is a piece of software operating on a computer, which means it is dependent and likely to face the same limitations as other software present on that computer. In other words, it will only be able to process as much data as the hardware can handle.

One of the best ways to speed up queries is to perform SQL performance tuning. In this post, we will answer some of the most frequent questions involving databases and indexes.

What is Indexing in SQL Query Optimization?

Indexing is one of the first things you may have come across while learning the ropes of your database. It is a wonderful tool that enables users to enhance the efficiency of their database. However, bear in mind that not every database requires indexing, and not all indexes are helpful in SQL performance tuning.

Let’s learn more about indexing: what it is and how it helps in enhancing database performance.

How do Indexes Affect SQL Query Performance?

An Index can locate data swiftly without having to go through each row in the table. This saves plenty of time! 

Certain data columns are required before you can create an index. These are –

  • The Search Key which holds a duplicate of the primary key
  • The Data Reference which has a set of pointers

All of these constitute the structure of one index. To understand how an index works, let us take an example. Suppose you need to look for a bit of data in your database. Rather than scour every line yourself, you make the computer search each row till it locates the information. Remember that the search is bound to take much longer if the requisite information is located at the end. Fortunately, you have the option to sort alphabetically to shorten the length of such queries.

What are the Types of Database Indexes?

Database indexes are of two kinds –

Clustered indexes – These arrange data using the primary key. The reason behind using a clustered index is to make sure the primary key is saved in ascending order. This is the same order in which the table stores memory.

A clustered index is automatically created when the primary key is set, which helps in SQL tuning for Oracle in the long run as well.

Non-clustered indexes – A non-clustered index is a data structure that boosts data fetching speed. It is different from clustered indexes, as they are made by data analysts or developers.

When and How Should We Use Indexes?

Since indexes are intended to accelerate database performance, you should apply them whenever you think they can simplify the use of the database. Although smaller databases may not have several opportunities to use indexes, they are likely to see the benefits of indexing as they grow into larger databases. 

You can make sure your indexes keep performing well, if you test run a set of queries on your database first. Clock the time those queries take to execute and begin creating your indexes after that. Keep rerunning these ‘tests’ for continuous improvements.

Conclusion

Indexing has its challenges, the biggest one being determining the best ones for every table.

For instance, heaps require clustered indexes because searching for a record in a heap table is comparable to finding a needle in a haystack: it’s inefficient and time-consuming, thanks to the heap’s unordered structure.

On the other hand, locating data is simpler and faster from a table that contains a proper clustered index, just like finding a name in a list that’s alphabetically ordered. DBAs, therefore, recommend that every SQL table contains a proper clustered index. Now that you know how indexes work and how they can optimize database performance, you should be able to use them to reduce query times substantially. If you would like more tips on how to use indexing, or you need a SQL query optimization tool for your database, let our experts know!