SQL Server licensing can be one of the more complicated topics to wrap your head around. How can you determine your business’s needs when you don’t understand the subject matter? Rest assured, ServerMania has deep knowledge in this area and this article will walk you through everything you need to know about SQL Server Licensing.

A variety of Microsoft products are used when deploying a server and their  SQL Server products have proven incredibly popular as database server software. If you are looking to set up SQL Hosting, an important factor is how much an SQL Server license will cost to operate.

This article will outline what SQL Server is, what versions are available, and how each are licensed.

See Also:  Database Server Hosting Solutions

What is SQL Server?

First developed in 1989 with SQL Server 1.0, Microsoft’s SQL Server is a full-featured database management platform. It is typically leveraged by medium and large-sized enterprises to power any of their database storage and analysis requirements. The primary role of an SQL server is to store and retrieve data when requested by other software applications. Part of the complexity of this database software is the sheer number of other software applications it must communicate with.

There are usually two types of organizations that require  Microsoft SQL Server, one with a limited number of users, such as a private network. For this type of customer, they offer a separate license for each device that accesses the network, usually, when there is a limited number of users. This is referred to as the Server + CAL model.

For businesses with a near-unlimited number of users such as a large organization that provides access to the public, Microsoft offers SQL Server licenses by the server and works as a catch-all license for all users (as opposed to by the device). This is referred to as the core licensing model.

An SQL server can be used for a variety of functions and come in all kinds of sizes depending on the workload and function. An SQL server also processes different kinds of data including data warehousing,  big data clusters, financial data, and performs data analysis.

Key features of SQL Server include:

  • Machine learning
  • Analysis
  • Reporting
  • Business Intelligence Studio
  • Full Text Search

See Also: (Live Webinar) Meet ServerMania: Transform Your Server Hosting Experience

SQL Server Licensing Explained

Microsoft uses two primary types for its licensing model.

Core-based licensing is the licensing model used by Microsoft and allows license for any device accessing the SQL Server. Under this license, each server that hosts SQL Server software on a physical server or operating system environment (OSE) will be granted a license for each core in the processor.

An example of this could be a credit card company operating a server farm that must process thousands of transactions each minute. Each time a device such as a point of purchase system requires access, they will have client access licenses that allow them to access the information on the server. SQL software licensing must be included with the purchase of a server and is a separate fee.

As part of the services provider license agreement, you will need at least four core licenses for each physical processor on the server  (core licenses are sold in packs of two), as well as having all of the components within the server appropriately licensed. You cannot use the license by spreading it out across components in multiple servers.  For example, if you try to run the SQL server reporting services on another machine, you will violate the license agreement.

Under the Server+Cal licensing model (client access licenses) and just like the Core licensing model, all components of the server must be licensed. With this, you will have a license assigned to the operating system, the physical server, the physical cores as well as an individual license for anyone accessing the server

Software Assurances, High Availability and Disaster Recovery

A benefit of SQL Server licensing is Microsoft’s Software Assurance for high availability. In November of 2019 Microsoft updated its Software Assurance benefits and now includes additional licensing in case of a  failover event.

“With these new benefits, Software Assurance customers will be able to implement hybrid disaster recovery plans with SQL Server using our features like Always On Availability Groups without incurring additional licensing costs for the passive replicas,” Microsoft’s announcement explained.

Previously with their Software Assurance on SQL Server, organizations had the ability to run only one passive SQL Server instance for failovers. Now Microsoft has strengthened the benefit, particularly when it comes to disaster recovery.

A “failover event”, in general terms is when your server switches from one machine to another and is usually triggered by a loss of power, disk failure, cable error, memory exhaustion, or a virus attack. In technical terms, it is when the secondary node does not receive a heartbeat packet from the primary node for a period of time that exceeds the dead interval set on the secondary.

High Availability is a feature of a server system, which aims to ensure an agreed level of operational performance, usually uptime and often measured in SLA (Service Level Agreement).

What Versions of SQL Servers Are Available?

Microsoft offers a virtual buffet of SQL Servers that are available in multiple editions. Each edition carries differing features and targets different users. There are two primary editions, Mainstream and Specialized. Aside from discontinued versions, each edition has a different version, they are:


  • SQL Server Enterprise Edition
  • SQL Server Standard Edition
  • Web Edition
  • Business Intelligence edition
  • SQL Server Express Edition

Specialized Editions

  • Azure Virtual Machines Cloud-Based SQL Edition
  • Compact (SQL CE) Edition
  • Developer Edition
  • Embedded (SSEE) Edition
  • Evaluation (Trial Edition)
  • Fast Track Edition
  • LocalDB Edition
  • Analytics Platform System Edition
  • Datawarehouse Appliance Edition

Express and Developer are both free versions designed for very limited personal use, or for development testing.

The following versions of SQL Server are available:

VersionEnd of Mainstream SupportEnd of Extended Support
SQL Server 20127/11/20177/12/2022
SQL Server 20147/9/20197/9/2024
SQL Server 20167/13/20217/14/2026
SQL Server 201710/11/202210/12/2027
SQL Server 20191/7/20251/8/2030

How Much Does SQL Server Cost?

It is important to note that licenses are generally purchased with the purchase of a server. There are two licensing models for SQL Server. It can either be licensed per server with a license required for every device that connects to the database server, or it can be licensed per core of the database server, with a minimum 4-core license required.

The Microsoft SQL Server license cost is charged based on the number of cores of the database server and the version of SQL Server selected. Each pack comes with two core licenses, licenses must be purchased separately from the server.

Product NameMonthlyQuarterlySemi-AnnuallyAnnually
Microsoft SQL Web –

per 2  cores

$8.50$25.50 $51.00$102.00
Microsoft SQL Standard – per 2  cores$139.00$417.00 $834.00$1668.00
Microsoft SQL Enterprise – per 2 cores$532.50$1597.50$3195.00 $6390.00
Windows Server Remote Desktop – per 2 cores$8.00$24.00$48.00$96.00

See Also: SQL Server 2016 Guide

Order Your SQL Server Today

Because of the complexity involved in understanding your licensing requirements, we strongly recommend that you speak with one of our trusted SQL licensing experts who will provide you with peace of mind by understanding exactly what you require. ServerMania does not sell stand-alone SQL Server licenses, they are purchased in addition to the sale of a server.

Are you ready to launch your SQL Database Server Hosting hosting server? Contact us today to request your no-obligation expert server consultation and we’ll provide you with the right database hosting solution at the best value. If you are already a ServerMania customer, then you qualify for a stand-alone license for your server, should you require one.