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SQL Server Express vs SQL Server: Main Differences

4 min

If you are looking for SQL Server for your organization, for your hobby or for simply learning, you will soon discover that there are many possibilities. In this blog, you can learn more about the various features, benefits, and limitations of both the free Microsoft SQL Server Express and Microsoft SQL Server.

SQL Server 2022 is out! Find out everything about this new release in our article devoted to SQL Server 2022!

Microsoft SQL Server: Uses and Application

With SQL Server you can manage  relational database systems,. The software is built on the programming language SQL, which facilitates the communication with databases. In short, SQL can be used to store and retrieve information in many different databases, depending on the software application. Newer versions of SQL Server such as SQL Server 2022 Standard or SQL Server 2022 Enterprise include new tools such as business analysis and automatic reports. Over the years, Microsoft has released multiple versions and updates of SQL Server. You can see the three most popular ones below.

read more about the new features of SQL Server 2022.

Microsoft SQL server versions

  • SQL Server Express – mostly aimed at developers and enthusiasts who create small scale applications.
  • SQL Server Standard – a great solution for small(er) organisations to effectively manage their databases.
  • SQL Server Enterprise – the most comprehensive SQL server aimed at large(r) companies; SQL server enterprise contains business intelligence tools and offer unlimited virtualization

Microsoft SQL Server 2022 banner

SQL Server Express vs SQL Server Standard: Main Differences

Two of the most basic and easy to use versions of SQL Server are SQL Server Standard and SQL Server Express. Both software meet different requirements. For example, with SQL Severe Express you do not need an extensive background in SQL and can develop small and scalable applications. The target audience of SQL Server Express are developers, students and enthusiasts, which is why it is free of charge. On the other hand,  SQL Server Standard is a great solution for small to medium sized businesses. Therefore, you would need a certain extent of knowledge in SQL. With this license you can effectively manage your database and because of its wide variety of tools SQL Server Standard is a paid version. In SQL Server Standard there are fewer data limits and more features compared to SQL Server Express. For example, you cannot automate functions with SQL Server Express because the feature SQL Agent is only available for SQL Server Standard.

You can find more about the benefits and limitations of SQL Server Express and SQL Server Standard below.

Benefits of SQL Server Express

SQL Server Express is often referred to as the "Lite" version of Microsoft SQL Server. However, in some cases this may be sufficient for you and/or your organization. One of the biggest advantages of SQL Server Express is that it is the free version of Microsoft's database management system, SQL Server. This makes SQL Server Express a good option for individual and inquisitive users who want to experiment with SQL Server. Therefore, the only investment is the time it takes to download and set up SQL Server Express. SQL Server Express also has a free online backup function that protects your data and information if something goes wrong with the database.

Below is a list of the benefits:

  • Free of charge
  • Automatic updates
  • Automatic Back-ups
  • Easy to start
  • Smooth conversion to SQL Server Standard when SQL Server Express is no longer sufficient for your organization

Limitations of Microsoft SQL Server Express

As mentioned above, Microsoft SQL Server Express is a great licence for individual users who want to experiment with and learn more about how to use SQL. If you as a developer or part of a company need extra tools or features, SQL Server Express would often become not enough. This is due to the fact that important features are missing from the free version and there are more limitations in terms of memory and relational databases size.

The limitations of SQL Server Express are as follows:

  • Maximum size of a single relational database is 10GB
  • No SQL Agent included, so it is impossible to automate different functions
  • 1GB Maximum memory used by SQL Server Database Engine
  • Buffer cache of up to 1MB

If Microsoft SQL Server Express does not meet your software requirements, you can consider SQL Server Standard. This is a more comprehensive version and you can read more about its benefits and limitations below.

Benefits of Microsoft SQL Server Standard

SQL Server Standard offers a bigger size of a single relational database because it is mostly meant for small departments and organisations. Additionally, the maximum memory used by SQL Server Database Engine is 128 times more than what you would get with SQL Server Express. Another main advantage of SQL Server Standard is the possibility to automate functions with the tool ‘SQL Agent’. You can also benefit from business intelligence tools and more elaborate features such as  Database Tuning Advisor.

  • Suitable for small departments and organisations
  • Supports on-premise and cloud-based developing tools
  • Contains more and more elaborate features
  • Maximum size of a single relational database is 524 PB (note that 1 PB contains 1.000.000 GB)
  • 128 GB Maximum memory used by SQL Server Database Engine.
  • SQL Agent included – you can automate functions

Microsoft SQL Server 2022 banner

Should SQL Serve Standard not be enough for your daily relation management, you can take a look into the most comprehensive solution – SQL Server Enterprise. If you are not sure which one to use, read more about the main differences between SQL Server Standard and SQL Server Enterprise

Limitations of SQL Server Standard

Even though SQL Server Standard is a more elaborate version compared to SQL Server Express, there are some limitations you need to take into account. For example, one of the most prominent differences is that SQL Server Standard is a paid license whereas SQL Serve Express is free of charge. Furthermore, to use SQL Server Standard you would need prior knowledge or experience with the relational database system.

  • Paid version
  • Requires background knowledge in or experience with SQL

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