SQL Server Licensing for Non Production environments

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It is a common misunderstanding that as long as a SQL Server instance is not in production state, you never need to pay licensing fees.


This is actually only true in these cases: 

You have an agreement with Microsoft that states that you DO have that specific rights


You run a passive DR instance of SQL Server using something like logshipping, Clustering, AlwaysOn or Mirroring (You can only have one DR instance per production instance


You run Evaluation edition


You run Express edition



So the options we have for our test and development environments to be correctly licensed are:


Buy a full license

PRO: You can run the exact instance of SQL Server that you run in production, making your test/dev environment more closely resembling production. No need to keep track of the number of people working with test or development

CON: Obviously the price


Buy Developer Edition

PRO: Cheap, about 350 Skr (http://www.dustin.se/product/5010630018/sql-server-developer-2012/)

CON: Has all features of Enterprise edition, so you run the risk of developing code that depends on features not available in your production environment, if you do not run Enterprise edition in production. And, you need one license per person working in your non production environment


Buy MSDN subscriptions for all testers and developers

PRO: Cheaper than running full licenses.MSDN als has LOTS of good information and resources relevant for developers

CON: Need one per person involved in your non production environment


Run Express Edition

PRO: It’s Free!

CON: The limitations that comes with Express, read more (in Swedish) here: https://sqlservice.se/sv/start/blogg/till-forsvar-av-sql-server-express.aspx


Run Evaluation Edition

PRO: It’s Free!

CON: Only works for 6 months, but that might speed up your projects to know that? 🙂



Dont test 😉

PRO: Dramatically reduces the cost of both licensing and project!

CON: Slightly increased risk of production problems, and legal actions by the Microsoft legal department 😉  


You can read more about SQL Server Licensing regarding non production as well as production environments here and here