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What is SQL Server Express used for?

SQL Server Express is the free version of Microsoft’s acclaimed SQL Server relational database management system. It is used for small scale applications and development, and is ideal for desktop, web, and mobile applications. While it does has some restrictions and limitations, it is the exact same database and contains many of the features that are included in the paid for versions.

Microsoft’s SQL Server Express grew out of MSDE, the original Microsoft SQL Server Data Engine (aka Microsoft Desktop Engine). Microsoft wanted an alternative to Microsoft Access that would give software developers and vendors a defined path to the paid for versions of SQL Server Standard and Enterprise.

Who uses Microsoft SQL Server Express?

SQL Server Express is generally aimed at applications used by small businesses, these may be standard desktop applications, web applications or as a data source for mobile apps. It doesn’t included some of the more advanced features enjoyed by SQL Server Standard or SQL Server Enterprise but the average small business doesn’t have the luxury of a SQL Server database administrator (DBA) or a developer that would use these features anyway.

Many independent software vendors (ISVs) will embed SQL Server Express with their software as it is also free to distribute. In fact Microsoft have created an even more lightweight version called SQL Server Express LocalDB, targeted at developers and ISVs, which runs “in-process” with applications rather than as a separate “Service”.

SQL Server Express is also seen as a good starting point for people who want to learn about SQL Server.

SQL Express has some deliberate limitations/restrictions. It is limited to a maximum database size of 10GB and can only use up to 1GB Memory and the lesser of 1CPU or 4 CPU Cores. However, for many small business applications these numbers are more than sufficient. If the business is growing to the point where more resources are required then the paid for version – SQL Server Standard – will be a good and necessary business investment. Please see this article for more details of the limitations of SQL Server Express.

Can applications that use SQL Server Express be used by multiple people?

Desktop applications can connect to SQL Server Express databases saved on another computer. However, every application is different and some applications that are designed to only be used by one person may not give options for changing the location of the database.

Where the database can be shared then it is advisable that the SQL Server Express database is kept somewhere that is resilient and secure, can be backed up and is always available. Traditionally this may have been a “server” on the businesses premises but increasingly businesses are looking to cloud based solutions for their applications.

Can you use SQL Server Express “in the cloud”?

Cloud computing is fast becoming the norm for modern business applications, with many being built to run in the cloud either as web applications (built into a web site) or for mobile apps. However desktop applications really need to be “close” to their SQL Server Express database to perform properly. If the database is hosted in the cloud but the application remains on the desktop there is a good chance performance will be poor and there’s a risk of databases becoming corrupted.

The way round this is to run the desktop application in the cloud as well. This can be easily done by using a hosted remote desktop service (hosted desktop), previously known as terminal services. Here both the desktop application and the database sit on servers in the provider’s data centre and the users simply remote control them. Form the user’s point of view it will look and feel no different than running on their local PC.

Find out more

For a more in-depth look at hosting SQL Server Express based applications please read this article or simply contact one of the technical sales team at Your Office Anywhere for a no obligation chat about your needs.

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