Should You Upgrade to SQL Server 7.0 SP2? - 30 Mar 2000

Should you upgrade to SQL Server 7.0 Service Pack 2 (SP2), which Microsoft released March 17? One school of thought holds that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," which is solid advice in many situations. But we'd still be running DOS if we took that approach to its extreme. Many people might disagree with me for encouraging customers to apply the service pack in the absence of a known problem recorded in SP2's official fix list, but I still think upgrading is the right thing to do for most sites.

Consider this: SP2 ships in two parts. The core database components tip the scales at about 150MB, while the OLAP components weigh in at roughly 130MB. Either SP2 includes lots of fixes for "undocumented user features" or it includes a really, really big Easter egg. If it ain't broke, don't fix it? Sounds good, but are you positive your system isn't broken or that it couldn't run better? Your queries might not crash the server, but reading the fix list should convince you that SP2 contains many fixes for miscellaneous performance and tuning problems. I'd bet a nickel that many of you have queries that will run faster after you apply SP2.

Need another compelling reason to upgrade to SP2 immediately? How about the security flaw discovered several weeks ago? (See last week's SQL Server Magazine UPDATE for information about the bug and Microsoft's patch.) You could apply Microsoft's fix, or you could apply SP2, which also patches the hole. Personally, I'd take a well-tested service pack over a relatively untested hot fix any day of the week.

So you've decided to update your systems. Should you simply download SP2, ask a junior DBA to run setup on the production server that runs your company's mission-critical Web site, then take a coffee break? Should you stick a pencil in your eye? I'm not suggesting you tweak your production environment just for the heck of it. But even the simplest tasks, such as applying a service pack, require careful planning and due diligence. When push comes to shove, however, you should probably apply SP2 to your servers. But be careful. You can't easily remove SP2 after you've applied it, and you need to watch for a few gotchas. For example, SP2 changes the internal format that Data Transformation Services (DTS) uses to save packages. Packages you save using the SP2 DTS components will be updated to the new format, which SP1 and earlier DTS versions can't read. Make sure you read the aptly named readme.txt for other gotchas.

Should you apply SP2? Absolutely! Then again, I'm simply a consultant who won't have to fix your system if it breaks. Be careful out there, and make sure you back up those servers before updating your systems.

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