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Installing SQL Server


Because installing SQL Server is so easy it is tempting to cut corners, fail to plan properly and blindly accept default options without considering the alternatives.

The advice in this article assumes a basic installation of a SQL Server instance on a single production server. For installing on a cluster, I plan to create a section in this site for articles covering high availability options. In the meantime, there is plenty of advice elsewhere on the internet.

Please read on for all the information you need to plan a successful SQL Server installation.

There are several steps to installing SQL Server successfully.

1. Decide what edition you need

The editions of SQL Server 2005 are: The Express Edition is the 2005 equivalent of the MSDE. It is a free, cut down version designed for use, and distribution, with applications, or as a basic database server. Database size is limited to 4GB, and will only use up to 1GB of RAM.

The Workgroup Edition is more suitable for small organizations however as it contains most of the features of the other editions, including Reporting Services but excluding Integration Services or Analysis Services. Database size is unlimited.

The Standard Edition, unsurprisingly, contains more features than the Workgroup Edition, including the full suite of Reporting, Analysis and Integration Services. It is also the cheapest edition that supports clustering and database mirroring. If you need to publish using transactional replication to more than 5 subscribers, you will need this edition.

The Enterprise edition represents a considerable price hike over the Standard Edition, and supports the full suite of performance, scalability, high availability and data mining features.

The Developer Edition is a fully working version of SQL Server with identical features to the Enterprise Edition, but with a license for development use only. Once a database is released to a production environment is must be on one of the other editions.

2. Ensure your server meets, and preferably exceeds, the minimum hardware and operating system requirements

All SQL Server editions will run on anything from a Pentium III upwards, and 1GHz or faster is recommended. A minimum of 1GB RAM is recommended (apart from the Express Edition, which can get by with as little as 192MB). Obviously if you are running Standard or Enterprise Editions you are likely to have high throughput and require considerably more than this.

There is an edition of SQL Server for every Windows OS from Windows 2000 SP4 onwards, including x64 and Itanium versions.

There will be other requirements, depending upon the features you want to install. There is no need for me to list them here as the System Configuration Checker will warn of any actions you need to perform.

3. Perform final preparation on the server before installing SQL Server

Log onto the server using an account with administrator permissions.
If not already existing, create the domain accounts the SQL Server services will run under.
Close down, or disable any anti-virus software running on the server.
Ensure that no other programs are running; particuarly those with a dependency on SQL Server.

4. Gather and document information about the installation before you start

It is a good idea to write down exactly what installation features and options you will be choosing before installing SQL Server. This saves having to "think on your feet" during the installation, and means you can repeat the process in the future confident that the configuration is the same. Ideally, of course, you will have already performed this installation at least once on an identically configured staging environment, before touching a production server.

Some options to consider before installing SQL Server:

5. Perform the installation

This is self explanatory, and you should already have the answers to the questions it asks if you followed my advice above.

6. Check that everything is OK, and perform some final configuration

Renable virus checking on the server, but configure it so that SQL Server files are not included. Some people disable virus checking completely. My view is that this is a security risk and provided the server is dedicated to SQL Server you should not see any performance hit by having it enabled.

Install service packs and the latest cumulative update. It is important that the cumulative update is installed as it will contain security fixes, and fixes for bugs introduced by the latest service pack! SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2 introduced some serious bugs in the tools that were then corrected in a subsequent update.

Perform final configuration changes as detailed in Sql Server Configuration.

In this article I have outlined the process you should follow when installing SQL Server on a new server. If you have any questions, or would like me to go into more depth in a future article please contact me.