You Asked: Why Do I Need a New Version of SQL Server?

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All companies want to future-proof their data strategy, and that’s why they come to us. 

Despite the diverse range of industries that our clients operate in, most have the same questions because they’re encountering similar issues. We are publishing a five-part series on the most common questions we receive from clients who want to make sure that their SQL Servers are optimally set up and able to deliver the business with the data they need. 

Question #1: Why Do I Need the New Version of SQL Server? 

We encounter a lot of companies that have let their SQL (and Windows) estate get a little old. The systems we see are at least one generation behind the current versions, but in many cases multiple generations. SQL 2008 and 2008 R2, for example, are still widely used despite having dropped out of support from Microsoft in July 2019. This is why we use a Data Platform Maturity Model that assesses where you are today before plotting a course for you to realise business success. 

The Basics 

When we perform an environment health check, we advise at least using versions of both operating systems and SQL Server that are supported by Microsoft. While the latest and greatest versions are alluring from a technology standpoint, the main factor in our recommendation is ensuring that regular security patching is available to keep business critical systems safe from attacks. There’s no shortage of horror stories from businesses hit with critical outages due to failed or outdated patching/updating. Many of these cases would be mitigated by ensuring systems are patched regularly and even replaced with in-support versions of the service that is being used. 

An important point to also note, especially for companies inside Europe, is that regular patching and ensuring systems are using supported software are requrements of GDPR compliance. aRunning outdated versions of operating systems and SQL Server versions are easily avoidable issues that could otherwise immediately fail an audit. 

When Newer Pays Off 

Every time a new version of SQL Server is released, we’re asked the following: Why should we go from SQL Server 2XXX to the latest version? What is the benefit for us? 

The usual response is “It depends”—no two businesses are alike, and the SQL Server installation is extremely application specific. However, our experience shows that most older installations have been installed and “forgotten” about. They’re running silently in the background, providing the business with the database server needed. This is both a blessing and a curse when working with SQL Server; it is incredibly resilient in even its default installation for a wide range of line-of-business applications. It runs so solidly that most companies skip patching and maintenance work because “it just works”. This leaves us with the previously mentioned SQL Server 2008R2 installations from over a decade ago. 

Beyond the obvious brand new features that become available from a newer version of SQL Server, there are a wider range of additions that have been made to the product in the past decade that many customers are not aware of. The biggest wave of changes came with SQL Server 2016 SP1, which made a whole host of features that were previously locked into the high-priced Enterprise Edition available to the cheaper Standard Edition. This unlocks a variety of features like Table Partitioning, Data Compression, In-Memory OLTP and Columnstore for users in editions all the way down to the license-fee free Express Edition. 

Equally, newer product versions can take advantage of architecture that didn’t just exist when the older versions were created. This includes HA/DR technologies such as Always On Availability Groups, Hybrid Architectures (Mixed On-Premises and Cloud Servers), Accelerated Database Recovery and the recent licensing changes around failover scenarios which can greatly reduce the cost of HA/DR architectures for companies that have Software Assurance agreements with Microsoft. 

Have More Questions? 

Not sure if your system’s current SQL server or windows versions can handle your operations? Book a call or send us an email—I’m always happy to offer guidance. 

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