This is probably one of the trickiest question that as DBA I get, and trust me, it happens very often and the funny thing is, most of the users are coming with an answer, the newest version!
This is very common considering that lately Microsoft is releasing newer versions of SQL Server in short periods and we always believe that what is new is better, but this may not the right approach.
The very first question that I ask is, what of the new features of the latest version of SQL Server will your application use? Most of the time they don’t know.
Second question is, Enterprise or Standard, we as a DBA probably prefer Enterprise because of the features it has for maintenance tasks, scalability among others, however making this choice is very important in terms of licensing because we know that costs are one of the top elements for this decision.
Third question is related with application, even when we are following the proper testing of the applications and their new features, by that I mean test in DEV, then QA, Pre Prod and finally Production, I always ask if they have a compatibility matrix between the application and the desired SQL Server version, having this document in place will save time and will minimize surprises during the implementation that may incur in rolling back what was done.
Our duty as a DBA is to guide our users to a good decision, and this can be achieved by understanding what they need, not giving what they want. I’ve found cases in where SQL Server Express fits exactly what the user needs, without having to incur in high amounts of money for a contract or license.
Newest is not necessarily the best, understanding is the key and will always be the best approach. SQL Server Standard Edition may work perfectly in some cases, and don’t get me wrong, Standard edition is a great product, it has very good features such as multi-instancing (2005+), Delayed Durability (SQL 2014+) among others and will also provide money savings.
Keep up with the great work DBA folks, new exciting things will always happen to us!
Julio Arroyo R.
Oracle and SQL Server Certified