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Learn SQL Server

A Comprehensive Guide to Start Learning SQL Server

SQL Server is a relational database management system (RDBMS) created by Microsoft to facilitate a range of transaction processing, analytics applications, and business intelligence tasks. In this overview, you’ll learn more about what SQL Server is, what it can do, who uses it, and how to learn it so you can determine how to add this skill to your professional toolbox.

Microsoft SQL Server is one of the most widely used relational database management systems (RDBMS) on the market. This tool has a variety of software applications for analysis and business intelligence tasks in the corporate sector. If you’ve always wanted to learn SQL Server but can’t figure out how to get started, this guide is for you. Here, you’ll learn more about the various ways to learn SQL Server, free resources to explore, and the types of careers that commonly use SQL Server.

What is SQL Server?

SQL Server is a relational database management system (RDBMS) created by Microsoft. The data contained within an RDBMS is stored in tables similar to the columns and rows in a spreadsheet. Like other RDBMS software, SQL server is built on top of structured query language (SQL), the programming language most commonly used to communicate with relational databases. This database server’s primary function is to store and retrieve data that other software applications request. This data may run on the same computer or be stored on a computer across a network.

SQL Server was created to compete with Oracle databases and MySQL. It supports the standard SQL language ANSI SQL. In addition, SQL Server also comes with T-SQL, or Transact-SQL, its unique implementation of SQL. This Microsoft proprietary language offers additional capabilities, such as exception handling, declaring variables, and stored procedures. The main interface tool for SQL Server is SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), which can support either a 32-bit or 64-bit environment. When Software Developers write business apps that store information in databases, they frequently work with SQL Server to look after the databases instead of writing code to perform this task. This helps speed up the process of writing database applications, making them cheaper to build and ensuring that they are more secure, reliable, and scalable.

Read more about what SQL Server is and why you should learn it.

What Can You Do with SQL Server?

SQL Server has many uses for those tasked with managing and storing information in relational databases. It supports core operations in analytics, transaction process, and business intelligence. Any information on the server is stored in the relational database. However, the system comprises more than a database; it also includes a management system. 

Microsoft SQL Server is especially useful in the business sector. The database stores and manages a variety of business information. This system also facilitates data sharing by computers in the same network, which can increase reliability. Not only that, but SQL Server can also improve the speed at which data is processed, which makes it easier to execute large operations. In addition to creating and maintaining databases, SQL Server also analyzes data through SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS). It creates reports using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). It executes ETL operations using SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS).

Another benefit to working with SQL Server is that it provides a range of features for advanced performance. This system has encryption features, as well as transparent data compression. In addition, users don’t need to modify programs to secure and encrypt their data. SQL Server also includes efficient management tools for permission and access controls that can secure sensitive business data.

Careers that Use SQL Server

Microsoft SQL Server is used across a range of industries and professions. Currently, it is used by over 400,000 companies. SQL Server is used by organizations such as Amtrak, Cigna, PNC, Humana, John Deere, Garmin International, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America. The following are just some of the careers in which SQL Server skills are valuable, as well as how these skills are used:

  • Database Administrators are in charge of creating, administering, and maintaining a SQL Server database. 
  • ETL Developers often work with SQL Server Integration Services for the ETL process of extracting, transforming, and loading data.
  • Database Developers design and implement databases for various applications. This often requires a sound knowledge of ETL solutions and T-SQL. 
  • BI Developers are often involved with data transformations, warehousing, and reporting tasks. They sometimes use SSAS, SSIS, and SSRS when working with SQL Server.
  • Developers who write code in Java or another programming language often need to connect to SQL Server to complete projects. The more familiar you are with the database, the easier it will be to complete work. In addition, some tasks are more efficient using T-SQL rather than UI. 
  • Data Analysts gather and analyze data to find actionable insights that can help their organization make more informed business decisions. Data Analysts sometimes use Microsoft Power BI for these tasks, which can require understanding technologies such as multidimensional Tabular models or SSAS data mining.
  • BI Administrators perform tasks such as creating backups, running ETL processes, and processing cubes. These professionals often have SQL Server skills, such as a background working with SSAS, which can help them monitor the environment’s security.

Why Learn SQL Server?

In 2020, Stack Overflow listed SQL Server as one of the top three most popular databases. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years, so there will be a demand for those trained to use SQL Server. In addition, working with Microsoft software is a good choice for entrepreneurs because of benefits such as clear licenses, excellent customer service and support, and how easy it is to implement. SQL Server remains a popular option because it’s been on the market for 35 years. Because of its longevity, it’s possible to find experts familiar with this RDBMS. This is not always possible with newer products and solutions like NoSQL.

There are many benefits to working with SQL Server. This product has a one-click installation procedure, which includes instructions that are easy to understand. This product offers excellent encryption and compression capabilities, which can help improve retrieval functions and data storage. In addition, Microsoft SQL Server is one of the most secure database servers; its encryption algorithms make it extremely difficult to crack the user’s security layers. Because SQL Server isn’t an open-source database server, this also mitigates the possibility of database server attacks. Another reason many individuals appreciate working with SQL Server is that multiple editions are available with different price points for enterprise, standard, workgroup, express, and developer usage. 

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How to Learn SQL Server

If you are interested in studying SQL Server, a variety of excellent learning options are available in person and online. Choosing which one is best for you will likely depend on certain variables, such as your ability to commute to class and the demands of your current schedule.

For those who thrive in the traditional classroom environment, in-person SQL Server classes are a great option. Participants in this engaging learning format have access to a computer lab, which has computers loaded with the most up-to-date software and applications. In addition, courses are led by an expert instructor with industry experience working with SQL Server. You can ask questions as they arise and receive guidance along the way. The small class setting is also an excellent opportunity to connect with other learners, which can facilitate networking. Although in-person study does require attending regularly scheduled meetings, which may require taking off work, this engaging learning format is ideal for extroverted learners who cherish the opportunity to receive feedback and help with complicated database questions.

In addition to in-person study, live online SQL Server courses are also available. Like in-person classes, students receive instruction from an expert instructor in real time. This provides a platform where students can ask questions as they arise and receive immediate feedback. One of the main benefits of live online coursework is that you can complete it remotely from the comfort of your home or office. While this study option requires attending courses that meet regularly, which may require taking off work to attend, you won’t have to drive across town at rush hour or search for parking to study SQL Server.

Another online learning format for SQL Server study is self-paced SQL Server coursework. Whereas live online classes require meeting at a recurring, regularly scheduled time, asynchronous study occurs entirely on your own. Video content and tutorials are typically pre-recorded. This means that they can be watched as often as necessary, as well as paused and rewound to facilitate note taking. The flexibility of this learning option makes it a good option for those who have to balance their SQL Server study with travel, work, and family commitments. While self-paced SQL Server study is a good starting point for those new to this field, since no instructor is available to answer questions, it can be challenging to learn complicated database skills in this format. This is why on-demand study is a good starting point, but to master more advanced concepts, it’s crucial to have access to an instructor.

If you want to learn about SQL, you can visit Noble Desktop’s free Learn SQL Hub. Content is available on various SQL topics, such as using SQL for business analytics, working with SQL queries, and installing SQL Server Express. Noble also has an Intro to SQL free seminar, a great starting point for your SQL studies. Noble’s Python, Data Science, & SQL YouTube playlist is also a rich resource for content on SQL and related topics. 

You can also browse SQL Server classes close to home if you’re interested in finding local learning options.

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Free Introductory SQL Server Course Online 

If you want to learn SQL Server but aren’t ready to dive into an entire course, the good news is that you can get started learning SQL Server for free online. In this free Intro to SQL course offered by Noble Desktop, you’ll receive an overview of SQL Server and examples of what you can do with this versatile querying language. This hour-long tutorial offers general SQL information which applies to all the major SQL flavors.

In addition to Noble’s free SQL resources, other top educational providers also have free content about SQL Server. Udemy’s SQL Server in One Hour teaches participants essential database concepts. Participants also learn how to install SQL Server and create a sample database. Udemy also offers a range of free SQL-related videos, such as Introduction to Databases and SQL Querying, Advanced Databases & SQL Querying, and SQL For Data Analytics. For those who want to learn how to work with T-SQL, Microsoft SQL Server’s dialect, edX’s Querying Data with Transact-SQL is another free learning opportunity. Participants receive instruction on how to make tables and add data to them, as well as how to perform SQL queries.

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Level of Difficulty, Prerequisites, & Cost 

Most people who learn SQL Server consider it relatively easy to implement, maintain, and use. SQL Server is stable and doesn’t consume many resources. In addition, users note that it’s highly customizable and performs well. 

Before you study SQL Server, a good place to start is learning to work with SQL. SQL, or structured query language, is used to locate, change, and manipulate the information stored in relational databases. SQL’s syntax is easy to learn and use and can typically be acquired in two to three weeks. For anyone interested in a career relating to data analysis or manipulation, such as cybersecurity, data science, or back end programming, it’s essential to know SQL. It’s the standard query language used to communicate with databases such as SQL Server. Some of the main applications for SQL are creating databases, adding or deleting data, setting access permissions, and locating data.

SQL Server is available to download on Microsoft’s website. The installation process is easy, thanks to the setup wizard. Whereas other database servers require complex command-line configurations, SQL Server provides a user-friendly installation interface. In addition to a one-click installation process, it offers a readable GUI and extensive instructions. 

The following is a breakdown of the various price points of different SQL Server downloads:

  • SQL Enterprise costs $13,748, which includes a two-core pack licensing model. 
  • SQL Standard (per core) is $3,586 for a two-core pack.
  • SQL Standard (server) costs $899 to download a server licensing model.
  • SQL Standard (CAL) is $209 for a CAL licensing model.
  • SQL Web pricing is not listed; those interested in downloading this version should consult their hosting partner for pricing.

In addition, free versions of SQL Server 2019 Developer and SQL Server 2019 Express are also available. SQL Server 2019 Developer is a full-featured edition licensed for non-production environments as a test and development database. SQL Server 2019 Express is also offered for free. This edition of SQL Server has a range of applications for production and development for web, desktop, and small servers.

Read about how difficult it is to learn SQL Server.

How Does Learning SQL Server Compare to Other Applications?

Those working with SQL Server may also learn another database management system, such as Oracle. Oracle is a product of Oracle Corporation. This relational database management system (RDBMS) is popular among companies due to its unique capabilities like support for distributed and parallel databases, improved indexing capacity, and powerful software. Oracle is a cross-platform service, which means it can run on different operating systems. It was the first RDBMS created for businesses to manipulate database records.

There are many differences between SQL Server and Oracle. In Oracle, jobs are scheduled using the Oracle scheduler, which incorporates the star optimization technique to improve query performance. SQL Server schedules jobs using the SQL Server Agent, which doesn’t use query optimization techniques. Another important distinction between the two systems is that the major SQL statements, such as INSERT or DELETE, are executed in parallel in Oracle; they are executed serially in SQL Server. In addition, transactions in the Oracle environment can be rolled back, whereas those in SQL Server cannot be.

Concerning support and troubleshooting, those who work with Oracle may find it easier to receive support and answers to questions. Customer care, support, and troubleshooting are available from Oracle 24-7. Queries are answered quickly, and individuals are billed for their support call depending on the support case. Also, error handling is efficient because Oracle views every new database transaction as a new connection. Those who work with SQL Server can access bug descriptions, technical notes, updates, and patches at no additional charge. However, SQL Server’s error-handling capabilities are much more basic than Oracle's. Moreover, since SQL Server carries out each command separately, fixing errors in the process can be challenging.

One of the main differences between Oracle and SQL Server is the ease of use. Oracle is considered complicated to use because its syntax is more complicated than SQL. On the other hand, because SQL Server uses a syntax similar to SQL, it’s an easier system to use. 

If you want to learn more about how to work with SQL, a range of free SQL learning resources is available from Noble Desktop. 

How to Decide the Best Way to Learn SQL Server

Learning SQL Server is easier than ever because of the variety of resources available for both in-person and online study. Deciding which learning format is best for your needs will likely depend on various factors, such as your current work schedule, ability to commute for study, and ultimate goals in learning to work with SQL Server. 

For those new to SQL Server or without experience working with relational databases, free introductory-level classes are a good starting point in your learning path. Because they’re pre-recorded, Students can access self-paced online SQL Server classes from any location at any time. This flexible learning option is ideal for those who need to balance their studies with travel or other personal and professional commitments. These free classes provide an overview of SQL Server and basic, introductory-level instruction. This makes them a good place to start before embarking on more structured classes. However, since you won’t have access to an instructor to field questions, free intro classes are better for beginner-level instruction rather than trying to master more complex concepts. A variety of free SQL resources are currently available from Noble Desktop.

If you are interested in learning SQL Server to plug a skill gap or grow within your current career, enrolling in a SQL Server Bootcamp is a great way to learn to work with this relational database management system. These courses provide hands-on training from industry experts on topics like writing SQL queries, aggregating data, joining tables, and filtering results. Bootcamps such as those offered by Noble Desktop are available in-person and live online. This means that all participants have access to an instructor who’s there to field questions and provide support in real time. 

More rigorous study options are likely better for those who want to learn SQL Server to start a new career or pivot to a different industry. Certificate study in SQL Server or a related topic such as data science can provide intensive instruction on core database skills. Noble Desktop’s Data Science Certificate provides instruction on data science topics like using Python to analyze data, creating interactive data visualizations and machine learning models, and working with SQL to query databases. Although certificate study is the most expensive learning option, it comes with perks such as one-on-one mentoring, free course retakes, and assistance with the job search process.

Learn SQL Server with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

Those who want to learn how to use SQL Server choose from a variety of excellent in-person and live online study options available through Noble Desktop. If you’re new to SQL Server and want to learn the basics, Noble’s in-person and live online SQL Server Bootcamp is for you. Participants in this program receive expert instruction about using MS SQL Server to locate information in databases using SQL queries. Students also receive instructions on joining tables, aggregating data, and filtering results. This class covers SQL Server and the free SQL Server Management Studio app. All participants have the option of a free course retake for up to a year after completing this bootcamp to revisit the material. 

Noble’s in-person or live online SQL Bootcamp is also available. This program prepares participants to use PostgreSQL. This hands-on class also teaches students to work with the free DBeaver app for exploring the database and executing queries. These concepts can be applied to other SQL flavors, such as MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server, with minor syntax changes.

If you want to browse Noble’s course offerings that provide SQL training, you can search for in-person and live online SQL courses. In addition to SQL Bootcamp and SQL Server Bootcamp, Noble also has courses such as the Data Science Certificate and Data Analytics Certificate, in which PostgreSQL training is provided. The content taught in these lessons can be applied to SQL Server.

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