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Import and export of data in MS SQL Server

All modern versions of Microsoft SQL Server are equipped with import and export functionality, which allows you to transfer data between different environments: databases, servers, etc., converting them into the required format.   

Data formats for exporting and importing to SQL Server 

SQL Server can work both with binary encoded data (native Unicode format) and with data represented in different character formats (char, nchar, varchar, nvarchar, text, varchar (max), nvarchar (max), and ntext).  

Import and export of MS SQL Server data between different instances of this DBMS is performed using its own (native) data format, which saves time because there is no conversion to character format and back.

When transferring data from SQL tables to target files of other applications (Microsoft Excel) or other DBMS (Oracle, PostgreSQL), the Unicode character format is used. 

Import and export methods in SQL Server  

There are several methods to import and export data to SQL Server: using the command line, Management Studio functions, SQL Server Import-Export Wizard, etc. Let's take a closer look at each of them.

The Bulk Copy Programme (BCP) 

BCP is a SQL data import utility that allows you to bulk import data into SQL or export it to files in a format chosen by the user. When you run bcp.exe, a command line tool appears that uses the bulk copy program's API interface. The BCP utility is easy to use and does not require knowledge of Transact-SQL except when run with the "queryout" parameter, which is used to bring the result set from a T-SQL instruction into the data file.

Transact-SQL instructions 

In SQL Server Management Studio (MSSQL database software), to import data, you can run BULK INSERT or OPENROWSET instructions (with the BULK parameter), which help to transfer the required rows from the data file to the SQL table. This function is almost identical to the one performed by BCP with the only difference that the data file is read by the SQL Server process.

SQL Server Import and Export Wizard 

SQL Server Import and Export Wizard is the most flexible and easy-to-use tool for importing from different format files to DBMS and, vice versa, exporting MS SQL tables to different destinations.

Import wizard for unstructured files

The wizard offers SQL Server users a large number of import and export configuration parameters, which can be redundant if you need to import data into an SQL table from an unstructured file (CSV, TXT, etc.). Then it is more convenient to use the unstructured file import wizard available in SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).

H3: Own variation 

In addition to the above options, SQL Server users have the opportunity to develop their own data import/export scheme, using the services and platform features available in the SQL Server Integration Services tools.

When do we use import/export in SQL Server? 

SQL Server remains one of the most widely used DBMS in business: entrepreneurs massively use it to work with data on goods and services, customer accounts, order and transaction information, feedback, etc. You could call importing and exporting data stored in SQL tables a regular procedure for a lot of businesses. And when it comes to Excel imports, SQL Server can offer several migration methods at once.

But these procedures may only seem simple at first glance. Even typical and routine operations often go awry and require unexpected attention. To ensure that your data, and therefore your business processes, are protected during migration, we advise you to contact professionals. DB-Service engineers are ready to provide you with a wide range of SQL Server administration and support services. 


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