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Most dynamic websites built with Microsoft ASP.NET need a database, a place on the server where data can be stored and retrieved to generate the pages that are requested by the client. I recommend using Microsoft SQL Server. SQL Server is one of a class of databases known as Enterprise Databases meaning that they can handle very large amounts of data and a large number of simultaneous users. There are many database products available on the market. MySQL, which is now owned by Sun Microsystems, is a free database that provides powerful relational database support. There is also Oracle, one of the best of the Enterprise Database class and IBM DB2, and you can also select Microsoft Access.
When building an ASP.NET website, I think that Microsoft SQL Server is your best bet for these reasons. First of all, it's highly scalable, meaning that it can handle enormous amounts of data and a large number of simultaneous users. This distinguishes it from Microsoft Access, which is really designed for use as a Desktop database by an individual user. While it is possible to build a dynamic website using Microsoft Access and while ASP.NET does include all of the software or drivers that you need to use Access in the web environment, most developers and website administrators find that there is a very quick upper limit to both the amount of data and number of simultaneous users that you can support with the Access model.
ASP.NET includes all of the required drivers not just for Access though, but also for SQL Server and this distinguishes SQL Server from products like MySQL, Oracle and IBM DB2. If your organization has already invested in those databases, that is, if you have enormous amount of data already in MySQL, Oracle or DB2, there are drivers available on the market for integration with the .NET Framework. But if you're getting started for the first time with data that will be used to support a dynamic website, you will find you'll be able to get started more easily with SQL Server.
SQL Server and ASP.NET share a programming model, the .NET Framework. If you're familiar with programming in Visual Basic, .NET, C# or one of the other programming languages that's supported by .NET, you'll find you're able to use the same programming skills in both environments. Finally, SQL Server is highly integrated with Windows and its security model, which makes it easy to create integration and authentication of users when dealing with secured websites.
To get started with SQL Server, the first step is to figure out which version of SQL Server you need. There are many editions of SQL Server available. You can go to this webpage, which is listed on the screen at www.msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/ library/ms144275.aspx. This webpage, at the SQL Server Developer Center, includes a listing of all of the different editions of SQL Server that are available.
When you deploy your ASP.NET website, if you're building an enormous website that needs to serve a lot of users, you might need the Enterprise Edition of SQL Server, but you'll find that there are less expensive versions available as well, including the Web version, which is a much lower cost edition specifically designed for deployment with websites. You'll also find SQL Server Express listed on this page. I'll be using SQL Server Express with Tools during this video series.
This edition of SQL Server includes both the server itself and the tools you need to manage the server allowing you to create new databases, manage the structure of existing databases and configure SQL Server on your system for use with your development environment. I should caution that if you're going to install SQL Server Express on the same machine on which you're running Visual Web Developer, and the .NET Framework, the machine should be equipped with a minimum of 1 Gigabyte of RAM and you'll probably find that 2 Gigabytes of RAM will be much better.
You will find other editions of SQL Server on the same page including the Compact Edition, which is designed for mobile devices and web clients on all Windows platforms. In order to download the appropriate version of SQL Server, go to this page, www.microsoft.com/express/sql. On this page you'll find a simple listing of the SQL Server 2008 Express product and a link to get started.
When you click through to the link, you'll be able to download SQL Server 2008 Express for free. You don't have to register; you can go directly to the download page by clicking on the Download link, but if you do register, it will allow you to receive information from Microsoft about changes to the SQL Server 2008 Express product. As you scroll down on the page, you'll find a number of versions that you can select from. If you're getting started with SQL Server for the first time, choose this download, SQL Server 2008 Express with Tools. You'll receive both the SQL Server Database Engine that allows you to create databases, set up their structure and create initial data and SQL Server Management Studio Basic, an integrated environment for managing your SQL Server installation.
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