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What is the Main Difference Between SQL & MSSQL

As a data professional, it is important to know the difference between Structured Query Language (SQL) and Microsoft SQL Server (MSSQL). While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they have distinct differences, and understanding these distinctions can help you better manage your data.

This article will discuss the differences between SQL and MSSQL to help you understand the two better.

Structured Query Language (SQL)

SQL is a special-purpose programming language for managing data in a relational database management system (RDBMS). It queries, inserts, updates, and deletes records from the database. So, SQL can:

  • Query, retrieve, insert, update and delete data from a database
  • Create stored procedures & views in a database
  • Create new databases, or new tables in a database
  • Set permissions on tables, procedures, and views

The SQL programming language effectively manages structured data where relations exist between data entities and variables. It allows users to retrieve multiple records through a single command and negates the need to specify how to reach a record.


SQL Process

When running an SQL request for any RDBMS, the system establishes the best way to execute the command, and the SQL engine determines how to interpret the task. Here are the different components that go into the process:

  • Parsing: Breaks the statement into tokens and detects syntax errors and misspellings.
  • Validation: Checks the statement against the system catalog and detects certain semantic errors.
  • Optimization of access plan: Generates the most optimal plan based on the environment, available indexes, and data statistics.
  • Execution: Executes the access plan to make the changes to the database.

SQL is divided into four sub-languages, including Data Definition Language (DDL), Data Manipulation Language (DML), Data Control Language (DCL), and Transaction Control Language (DCL).


Microsoft SQL Server (MS SQL) is an enterprise-level RDBMS developed by Microsoft for business applications. Like some other RDBMS, MS SQL stores and manages data in the form of tables and uses a foreign or primary key to establish a relation with other stored datasets.

MS SQL server is built on top of SQL and works as a data warehouse, providing a unified data access, storage, and processing platform. Users can connect to the SQL server database using Transact-SQL (T-SQL), the Microsoft-proprietary implementation of SQL used to query, modify and manage data.

MSSQL is easy to use and has a powerful engine that can handle complex queries. It has many features, including SQL Server Reporting Service, column-level encryption, accelerated database recovery, and intelligent query processing enhancements.

The latest SQL Server builds on previous releases, giving users more choices of data types, development languages, on-premises or cloud environments, and OS. MSSQL is also compatible with other Microsoft applications such as MS Access, Excel, etc.

The Difference between SQL & MSSQL

The major difference between SQL and SQL Server is that SQL is a query language used in RDBMS, whereas MSSQL is itself an RDBMS.

A query or command language is a computer language used to communicate with a database. It is responsible for giving instructions on manipulating the data in the database and storing and retrieving data from it.




An RDBMS is a software platform used to store and manage the database. It is a selection of features, capabilities, and programs that enable interaction with the database to execute tasks related to user admin and data definition, updating, and retrieval.

Here's a closer look at the differences between SQL and MSSQL:

  1. Type: SQL is a query language used to manage the RDBMS database. In contrast, Microsoft SQL Server is RDBMS software that executes SQL statements. It stores, retrieves, modifies, and administers a database using SQL. There are plenty of other RDBMS available, including MySQL, Oracle, Informix, etc. MSSQL offers some additional features like security and scalability for easier interaction and efficient operations.
  2. Function: SQL is a query language essential for writing commands to specify relational database schemas. It also writes queries for storing, retrieving, or manipulating the database data. In contrast, MSSQL is a database server that executes SQL queries and commands. It also manages the data stored in the databases and performs all database operations.
  3. Updates: SQL is a standard language, and its syntax remains the same across different software. MSSQL is software and therefore is subject to frequent changes and updates as newer versions are released.
  4. Platform Dependency: SQL is platform-independent and can be used on any operating system. MSSQL is proprietary and is only compatible with Windows and Linux operating systems. Tools like ODBC and JDBC are required to access MSSQL from other platforms. 
  5. Application: All RDBMS use SQL commands and queries to create database schemas, store, manipulate or retrieve the database data. But MSSQL functions as an RDBMS database and is available in Graphical User Interface (GUI) and command-line for quality user operations. 
  6. Creators: SQL was developed in the 1970s by IBM researchers Donald Chamberlin and Raymond Boyce. It was created based on Edgar Frank Codd's paper, "A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks," in 1970. SQL became the official standard of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1987 and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 1986. On the other hand, MSSQL was developed by Microsoft in 1989. 
  7. Usage: SQL is a programming language used to manage data in an RDBMS. It is used to define the structure of the data, manipulate and query data. Microsoft SQL Server is used to manage enterprise-level databases and supports transactional processing. 

SQL and MSSQL are two important technologies used for data manipulation and management. While SQL is a query language that provides instructions on how to interact with the database, MSSQL is a software platform that executes SQL queries. Both are essential for data definition, retrieval, and updating tasks in an RDBMS.

If you're looking for a powerful, secure, and reliable RDBMS solution for your organization's data management needs, MyChoiceSoftware can help. We offer the most up-to-date versions of Microsoft SQL Server, and our team of experts can help you find the right solution for your business. We also provide resources to help you learn SQL and get SQL certification.


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