SQL Server Best Practices: Install the Latest Service Pack after Testing

Although this one might seem obvious, I've come into quite a few shops lately that don't have the latest service packs.

No software goes out the door flawless - regardless of what a vendor tells you!  Microsoft comes out with three or four kinds of software upgrades to the product:

  • Hotfix - used when you have a specific problem and the support technician tells you to install it
  • Cumulative Update - changes to the product with fixes, security patches and speed enhancements
  • Service Pack - a combination of "safe" Hotfixes and Cumulative Updates

You can find what you have installed by opening SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) and right-clicking the Instance name. From there pick "Properties" and you'll see the version, edition and service pack listed. You can also run these commands in a query:

 USE master;
 EXEC xp_msver;

Of course, you shouldn't just install things blindly. You need to read (carefully) the "Release Notes" that you find on the download page for the hotfix, service pack or CU, and test the upgrade thoroughly with your software applications.

You can find the latest patches here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sqlserver/bb671408.aspx 

One more thing: if you are not installing a service pack because "my application vendor told me not to", that's bad. If they haven't certified their product on the latest bits, find out why. Be a pest. Most vendors have no desire to do extra work, but it's your system Microsoft is trying to protect, and your vendor won't be the one on the hook when it all goes wrong - you will. Pester the vendor to give you a date and have them tell you what they are doing to certify their product.