SQL Express to SQL Server

A little over a year ago, I was managing a company's SharePoint site. At that time their SharePoint site was running with a SQL Express database. This was not an issue because they were using Small Business Server 2011 with about 20 users. Can 20 users really outgrow SharePoint using SQL Express?

With several years worth of data, they eventually hit their maximum limit with SharePoint. SQL Express that has a limit of 10 GB. (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/sqlexpress/archive/2010/04/21/database-size-limit-increased-to-10gb-in-sql-server-2008-r2-express.aspx) After a few hours of troubleshooting why SharePoint would no longer allow users to modify or load new documents, I soon discovered that SQL needed to be upgraded to the full SQL Server, but there are a few questions that need to be resolved.

  1. If we can use the latest version of SQL Server with is 2012, or can I use 2008.
  2. How many CALS (client access licenses) we will need for our application.

I initially received a quote for $7,659.73 that included SQL Server 2012 and 35 device CALS. I disputed the quantity of CALS needed, so a teleconference was setup so that we could get this resolved.

While on the teleconference, the MS licensing rep agreed that we should only need 1 CAL since SharePoint uses 1 account to access SQL. She was 100% on this, so she stated that she would contact a MS SharePoint specialist. Also during this conversation she questioned if SQL Server 2012 would work with our version of SharePoint. I told her that SQL Server 2008 would be fine, but she also wanted to verify this with the MS SharePoint specialist as well.

In the interim, I have been working with our software vendor on other possibilities that could reduce the cost. One of them is licensing the processors of the server and not users. The benefit to licensing the processors is that you can have unlimited users, but this type of licensing is per core in each processor. I received the quote for this in the amount of $6,756.12. I bugging the hell out of our software rep and told him the importance of this purchase. He has stated that we will expedite this on his end, and speak to his Microsoft rep to expedite this on their end.

After purchasing and trying to update SQL, I realized that the update was not working according to Microsofts documentation. After speaking to Microsoft for the 4th time. I spoke to the a Microsoft Licensing guy and explained all the steps I took in an attempt to update the database. He was very  knowledgeable on this process and stated that I was doing things correctly.  BUT, it looks like there is good news and bad news.

The bad news is that our resale rep issued us a Volume License for SQL. While this would be fine if we were updating a previous Volume licensed SQL, we are currently licensing a Retail version. Even if this was a new install, a Volume License would be fine. However, since this is a production database, I can't afford to time for a complete uninstall and reinstall of SQL. 

It looks like the licensing guy at Microsoft was right. We could not use the Volume License to install SQL the correct way. After about a long 13 hour day, a "Hail Mary" decision led me to the solution.

I was able to do an in place upgrade. There were 2 lessons that I learned when I tried to install SQL on a clean box:

  1. On the Volume Licensing site, SQL Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 2 is just an update only. I didn’t catch on, but the RTM version is a 5GB download and the SP2 was only 900MB (3GB for each platform 86, 64, IA)
  2. When I attempted the install, the product key screen came up again. This time there was a product key available. I copied the product key, exited the install, and went back to our primary server.
  3. I was then able to use the key to complete a database upgrade. It also helps when you shut down IIS first.



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