SQL Server learning materials seem to live at two extremes. Blog posts are short and to the point, but they don’t cover material in depth. Books are long and detailed, but to quote a famous philosopher, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Enter two resources that have been out for quite a while. They aim to cover subjects from start to finish, but in a way that you can digest in an hour.
Microsoft Books Online (Yes, Books Online!)
Microsoft Books Online earned a terrible reputation for being the last place you’d ever want to look for help. Look up the sys.databases view, for example, and you get gems like this:
No context, no hyperlinks to more details for a particular setting. These aren’t even new settings – they’ve been out for years. Since at least SQL 2000, there’s been a Books Online page for ANSI NULLS that they could have linked to.
However, when you weren’t looking, Books Online went to finishing school. It’s now chock full of great explanations of concepts. When you’re looking to implement a feature, check out these explanations:
Books Online still tends to focus on features rather than tasks. For example, if you need to find out why your server is slow, heaven help you if your only resource is Books Online.
SQL Server Central Stairways
SSC’s Stairways series covers topics start to finish with 5-15 tutorials from one or two authors. I love the consistency on these – you can settle in with one author and really dig into a topic with a logical flow. Think of it as an interactive book chapter, often with lots of demos you can run to illustrate concepts.
They’ve added stairways for T-SQL, indexes, transaction logs, PowerShell, replication, SSRS, and other good foundational topics. The existing stairways keep getting better as the authors add more posts.