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Is There Any Difference Between SQL Server, SQL Express And SQL Azure

👤 Naveen Sharma | Modified: May 8th, 2023|SQL | 4 Minutes Reading

A database is crucial in the development of a software, which helps to store and retrieve data while working with an application. One of the most widely used databases is Microsoft SQL Server. Microsoft has released many variants of its SQL Databases that cater to the requirements of different users. However, the major question is that how will users decide which SQL environment is perfect for them? In this blog, we will outline the differences between SQL Server, SQL Express and SQL Azure. If their features can be understood distinctly, users will be able to make an informed decision about which software to opt for.


Each software needs a database which will be best suited for it. A number of SQL supported databases are available for use. Users prefer to use Microsoft SQL database management systems because they are robust, and reliable. The most commonly used MS DBMS are SQL Server, SQL Express and SQL Azure. MS SQL Server primarily stores and retrieves data from a database. It has different versions, like Enterprise, Standard, Web, etc., that support varying workloads.

SQL Server Express, on the other hand, is a free database management system, which is a subset of SQL Server. It works well with small-scale or embedded applications.

The latest offering, SQL Azure is the cloud database for app developers. It is encrypted, scalable, and more productive. It comes with smart analytics, can recognize patterns, and adapted features for increased reliability.

Further differences between SQL Server, SQL Express, and SQL Azure are enlisted in the following section.

Comparison of SQL Server, SQL Express and SQL Azure

Feature SQL Server SQL Express SQL Azure
Key Difference Microsoft RDMS (Relational Database Management System) Subset of SQL Server for small/embedded applications Microsoft Cloud DB service. Multiple DBs on one physical interface
Max DB Size 10 GB 4 GB 8 TBs of storage for a month, 50 TB per paid subscription
Services DB creation, update, transaction management, recovery, encryption, services Create, Alter, Drop, Delete, Queries, Triggers, Commands on DB Custom websites, HDInsight, VPNs, & even SQL Server (either on a VM or as a SQL Database in the cloud
Location Host computer Computer System MS cloud datacenters
Domain Desktop Applications and Websites Smaller, embedded applications Web and Mobile Apps
Max memory RAM utilized Enterprise- OS Max 2016 Standard- 128 GB 1 GB 2 GB-448 GB depending on app
Min Memory Required 4 GB, CPU 1GHz (32 bit), or better 64 bit 1 GB 96 GB, 128 GB recommended for Azure Stack Technical Preview, 1.6 GHz
Storage Objects FileTables and FileStreams DB Files, Backups Blob, Queue, Disk, File & Table storage
SQL Server Agent Schedules jobs and handles other automated tasks Not present No, since it is Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Paid Version Yes, exists Free Priced differently by type, one-month free trial. Later, plans by the hour/month
Reporting Services Yes No Yes
Analysis Services, OLAP and data mining tool Yes, online analytical processing is supported. No Unique app patterns recognized, adaptive performance, automatic reliability improvements
Notification Services, data migration, Encryption Yes No Notification Hub Present, Push Notifications, Good Encryption
SQL Profiler Yes, to see where DB resources are going Faster ExpressProfiler Yes, to capture trace of DB activity
Cloud Based No No Yes
Remote Access No No Any time, anywhere cloud access
Machine Learning No Limited parallelism No Possible with advanced cloud analytic
Multi-tenant No No Yes
Scalability Yes with LDF files Yes, only through multiple interconnected DBs Full scalability, with no app downtime
Instances Per Computer 5 16 20 cores/subscription


It can be observed that the key difference between SQL Azure and SQL Server lies within the number of databases hosted at a layer. Azure can display multiple databases using one physical layer. But, SQL Server hosts one database at a time.


Since database plays a key role in data driven business applications, they are big infrastructure investments. With different database management systems on offer today, choosing the best SQL environment is also a task. Therefore, we have explained the differences between SQL Server, SQL Express, and SQL Azure. If the main need of the user is to develop secure web applications, cloud-based Azure can be chosen. However, users can opt for SQL Server in applications where one database is needed. Furthermore, SQL Express is good for integration with lighter applications. With this complete analysis of the features of these three Microsoft Database Management Systems, users will be able to make an informed decision about which database is the best for them.