What are Versions and Editions?
When you read or listen something like SQL Server 2005, 2008, 2008 R2 and 2012, they are Versions of SQL Server.. Each time a major release of SQL Server is released, that is called a Version. With each of these new Versions, the SQL Server Software (a more simplistic term, instead of using terms like Database Engine and BI components) are designed for better performance, are more reliable and robust than the previous versions and these feature enhancements go on and on and onÖ.
Now I hope you have a decent understanding of SQL Server Versions, so lets take a look at the what are Editions. Within those SQL Server Versions, there will be different flavors (Editions) of SQL Server released. Some of those Editions are Express, Workgroup, Standard, Developer and Enterprise Edition. Each of these Editions is released, keeping in view the end users requirements and the licensing cost for these Editions go higher as we move towards Enterprise Edition.
Express Edition is a free Edition, has various limitations (in terms of available features). It is most often installed on personal workstations, for example in situations where developers need the databases available when they are remote (at home) to write and test code for the applications.
Workgroup Edition has few more features that are suitable for smaller organizations (something like an individual store or a branch).
The next one is Standard Edition, which is good for mid-sized organization and has most of the features but not all. They are also used in large organizations for an individual group of applications which can be built and managed with those features available in Standard Edition.
Enterprise Edition is the most feature rich Edition and has all features and functionalities available in that SQL Server Version. Enterprise Edition is used Very Large Databases (VLDBs) and Mission-Critical Databases.
There are 2 more Editions, Enterprise Evaluation Edition which is has the same features as Enterprise Edition but expires after 180 days of installation. Developer Edition is a low cost (approx 50 bucks) Edition which does not expire, has no limitations and has the same features as Enterprise Edition. Important point to note, Microsoft does not recommend and support the usage of Developer Editions in a production Environment..
Note: This post is written focusing beginners so there is no mention of the SQL Server features like Clustering, Database Mirroring, Database and backup Compression, Database Partitioning, Resource Governor, Policy Based Management etc. Lets keep that discussion for another timeÖ.