I had a question from a member of our local user group about options to get a legal copy of SQL Server to try to learn more. Those of us in the business tend to have access to just about whatever we need in terms of software and forget what it’s like to be a beginner that doesn’t have an MSDN subscription, so I thought it would be worth a post to talk about it briefly.
Really there are two choices, the free time limited SQL Server Evaluation download (can’t beat free), or the $40 SQL Server Developer Edition. My preference for the price is the latter, it gives you the capabilities of the Enterprise Edition with only a few restrictions designed to keep you from using it as a production instance. I’m not a licensing expert, but for training – especially certification training – you could probably easily get by with just building a Virtual PC/Server image and using the Eval edition, then building a new one when it expires. When you’re learning you’re going to junk it up, so starting over isn’t a bad move. If you’re at budget zero, you can make that work. But for longer term learning – say you want to build a web site and you want to learn SQL as part of that, you don’t want to reload the OS every 120 days because the eval times out. Spend the $40, get the license, go forth and learn.
I haven’t looked in detail to see if there are any big differences between the Eval and the Developer edition, but either one will give you the ability to practice on a “real” SQL Server. Something to keep in mind when the newbie asks about booking and training, make sure they have the software to go with the effort.