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SQL Server on a Budget: Expert Cost-Saving Tips

Most businesses unknowingly overpay for SQL Server. Here's how to cut your costs without sacrificing performance. Whether you're on-premises or in the cloud, these tips will help you optimise your SQL Server spending.

1. You probably don't need SQL Enterprise

While powerful, SQL Server Enterprise comes with a hefty price tag. Unless you absolutely require its advanced features (like in-memory OLTP), downgrading to Standard Edition could save you substantial sums. Carefully compare the feature sets to make an informed decision.

2. SQL Server Express is free of charge

SQL Server Express could be the perfect solution for smaller databases or less demanding workloads. It offers core database functionality at no cost. Despite limitations, it's a surprisingly capable option that many businesses overlook.

3. Classic clusters

Consolidating SQL Server instances onto a hardware cluster can dramatically reduce licensing costs. Example: If you have four SQL Server Standard instances, you could deploy them on a powerful cluster with a single Enterprise license instead of licensing each separately.

4. Passive instances 

Passive instances don't always require licenses. Since SQL Server 2012, SQL failover requires active Software Assurance. But if you already have Software Assurance on your licenses, why don't you deploy passive instances for free, including license-free passive Azure instances?

5. SQL Server Developer 

For development, testing, and demonstrations, SQL Server Developer Edition offers the full power of Enterprise Edition without the cost. This is a fantastic resource for developers and teams working in non-production environments.

6. Dedicated clusters

In virtualised environments, consider consolidating SQL Servers onto dedicated clusters. Licensing SQL Server Enterprise at the hardware level grants you unlimited virtualisation, potentially offering significant cost benefits.

Beyond Licensing: Additional Optimisation Tips

While licensing is a major factor, explore these areas to optimise your SQL Server investment further:

  • Performance Tuning: Efficient queries and database design can reduce resource needs, potentially allowing you to use less powerful (and expensive) hardware.

  • Cloud Migration: For some workloads, migrating to Azure SQL Managed Instance, especially with Azure Hybrid Benefit, could offer both cost savings and flexibility.

Still undecided? Talk to a Microsoft licensing expert

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