I need to quickly ramp up on SQL Server 2005, but I don't have a big training budget. Are any useful—and free—online resources available?

Can you say Google? I'd need every page in the magazine to do justice to the vast amount of SQL Server 2005 content that's already available online from multiple sources. Microsoft has done a great job of getting learning materials into the hands of users in advance of the product's release to manufacturing (RTM)—much better than with any other SQL Server release. This list isn't all-inclusive by any stretch of the imagination, but the following are a few resources (all from the Microsoft site, in the interest in brevity) that I think you'll find useful.

The Microsoft SQL Server home page contains a lot of useful information, but that's too easy. The Microsoft SQL Server TechCenter site is one of the best jumping off points I've stumbled across. Book-mark the site, and visit it often. Microsoft presents new material there on a regular basis.

I thought about including a screen shot to give you a feel for the site's content, but it contains so much material that the main page scrolls two to three times. I won't try to recap everything the site includes, but some of my favorite tidbits, especially for people who are hungry for SQL Server 2005 knowledge, include:

  • more than 20 white papers that cover the engine, development topics, and business intelligence (BI)
  • links to almost 40 SQL Server 2005 Webcasts
  • links to SQL Server resources from Microsoft Learning that let you download (for free) nine separate SQL Server e-learning classes

That last item is one of my favorites. Microsoft is currently offering the classes for free download (at least at the time I wrote this), although the company lists a retail price of $99 and has indicated that it will begin charging for the classes sometime soon. So you'll want to download them all as soon as possible, even if you don't plan to complete each class immediately.

The three DBA classes include the following:

The three development classes include the following:

  • 2936: Installing and Securing Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • 2937: Administering and Monitoring Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • 2938: Data Availability Features in Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • 2939: Programming Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • 2940: Building Services and Notifications Using Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • 2941: Creating the Data Access Tier Using Microsoft SQL Server 2005

The three BI classes include the following:

  • 2942: New Features of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services
  • 2943: Updating Your Data ETL Skills to Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Integration Services
  • 2944: Updating Your Reporting Skills to Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services

Learning SQL Server 2005 might seem like a Herculean task because of all its new features, but many of the resources I discussed are bite sized enough to let you begin making real progress on your SQL Server 2005 education without being overwhelmed. Take a look at the other resources that Microsoft's SQL Server Web site offers. You'll find plenty of information to keep you busy for some time to come.