I get asked from time to time to recommend SQL training resources. Many times the question is more about free training, as most everyone would like to avoid having to spend money (in good times, and in bad, but especially in bad). The trouble with anything free is that you get what you pay for. So you tend to rely on people’s recommendations for such things. And that’s why it makes sense that sometimes people come my way and ask me to recommend some resources, because they simply want someone else to validate that something free is also worthwhile.
When it comes to free SQL Server training I tend to think of things in terms of “what does the Intertubz provide to me?” That’s easy: blogs, podcasts, LiveMeeting, and forums.
SQL Server Blogs
I maintain a list of prominent SQL Server Bloggers, and would recommend you start there. I try to keep the list updated frequently, moving people in and out as needed, so that the list stays as current as possible. I never liked blogrolls, they always seem to be full of stale or dead links, so that’s why I created and maintain my list. The other thing I don’t like are blogs that are cutting and pasting from manuals or stealing content from other bloggers, so you won’t find those on my lists. What you get are real people, with real knowledge, and real stories. I also include their Twitter handles, so you can follow them there as well. And if you use Twitter, ask questions with the #sqlhelp hashtag, you’ll get a quality answer probably from one or more of the people in my list.
Don’t like to read? Are you more apt to learn from watching or listening to videos? Well then the next section is for you.
SQL Server Podcasts
Microsoft makes available a wide variety of podcasts. You can even subscribe to the RSS feed specific for SQL Server podcasts. And if you want to listen to people with funny accents, then you should check out the SQL Down Under podcasts. Or you can listen to the Midnight DBA podcast series. SQLServerPedia also makes available some training videos.
I am willing to bet that you could easily find over 100 hours worth of quality videos just at the sites I have listed above.
SQL Server User Group Meetings
There are a lot of SQL Server user groups in existence, some of which may be located right near where you live. PASS maintains a list of chapters, and each chapter is also a SQL user group. This may not be helpful to you if the nearest group you can find is more than an hour’s drive away, especially if the meeting is done at night.
A handful of user groups will broadcast their meetings, for free, so that you can participate without having to leave your home (or desk). PASS has a dedicated group of Virtual Chapters that use LiveMeeting to broadcast their presentations each month, for example.
Still another option is to take part in a SQL Saturday, which are free events held in locations where there is an established local user group base. Youcan view the current list of events already scheduled to see if there is one coming to a location near you.
SQL Server Forums
Yet another resource available on the Intertubz are forums or newsgroups, which is an acceptable way for some people to get information about SQL Server, but this is where you will find that “you get what you pay for” comes into play far too often. Honestly, I don’t use forums or newsgroups, they just are not my style. I find a majority (not all!) of the answers to be unreliable and I cannot stand reading about two or more people having an argument in a thread.
But, since there is some valuable information there (mostly in the questions themselves), I want to point you to two places to go for SQL specific information. The first are the forums over at SQLServerCentral.com, which are well maintained and many of the people that participate and respond in the forums are leaders in the SQL community. The second is ServerFault.com, a wonderful place that is part forum, part newsgroup, part wiki, part blog, and all awesome. You can spend a lot of time on these sites just absorbing some wonderful SQL knowledge.
Now, there is a cost for accessing the tubes that make up the internet, so let’s just agree that those costs exist. Otherwise, you can just head to the library and grab some books. Which books? I’m glad you asked!
SQL Server Books
I also happen to maintain a list of SQL Server books for DBAs. You can start adding these to your own personal library. Check out the authors I have on my shelf and remember their names. If you come across another book written by one of them you should feel comfortable purchasing it as well. My library has a mix of technical and non-technical books. If I had to single one book out for anyone to get started with I would recommend Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 T-SQL Fundamentals (PRO-Developer) by Itzik Ben-Gan, as that would give anyone (developer or administrator) the best fundamental skills with regards to T-SQL.