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When you need to store a date or time value, SQL Server provides you with six data types Knowing which type to use is important, because each date and time data type provides a slightly different level of accuracy, and that can make a huge difference when you re calculating exact times, as well as durations Let s look at each in turn
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Datetime and Smalldatetime The datetime and smalldatetime data types can store date and time data in a variety of formats; the difference is the range of values that each can store Datetime can hold values from January 1, 1753, through December 31, 9999, and can be accurate to 333 milliseconds In contrast, smalldatetime can store dates only from January 01, 1900, through June 6, 2079, and is accurate only to 1 minute For storage, datetime requires 8 bytes, and smalldatetime needs only 4 bytes Date and Time New in SQL Server 2008 are data types that split out the date portion and the time portion of a traditional date and time data type Literally, as the names imply, these two data types account for either the date portion (month, day, and year), or the time portion (hours, minutes, seconds, and nanoseconds) Thus, if needed, you can store only one portion or the other in a column The range of valid values for the date data type are the same as for the datetime data type, meaning that date can hold values from January 1, 1753, through December 31, 9999 From a storage standpoint, date requires only 3 bytes of space, with a character length of 10 The time data type holds values 00:00:000000000 through 23:59:599999999 and can hold from 8 characters (hh:mm:ss) to 16 characters (hh:mm:ss:nnnnnnn), where n represents fractional seconds For example, 13:45:255 literally means that it is 1:45:25 and one-half second pm You can specify the scale of the time data type from 0 to 7 to designate how many digits you can use for fractional seconds At its maximum, the time data type requires 5 bytes of storage Datetime2 Another new data type in SQL Server 2008 is the datetime2 data type This is very similar to the original datetime data type, except that datetime2 incorporates the precision and scale options of the time data type You can
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specify the scale from 0 to 7, depending on how you want to divide and store the seconds Storage for this data type is fixed at 8 bytes, assuming a precision of 7
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Datetimeoffset The final SQL Server 2008 date and time data type addition is datetimeoffset This is a standard date and time data type, similar to datetime2 (because it can store the precision) Additionally, datetimeoffset can store a plus or minus 14-hour offset It is useful in applications where you want to store a date and a time along with a relative offset, such as when you re working with multiple time zones The storage requirement for datetimeoffset is 10 bytes
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When it comes to storing string or character data, the choice and variations are complex Whether you need to store a single letter or the entire text of War and Peace, SQL Server has a string data type for you Fortunately, once you understand the difference between the available string data types, choosing the correct one is straightforward
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Char and Varchar Char and varchar are probably the most used of the string data types Each stores standard, non-Unicode text data The differences between the two lie mostly in the storage of the data In each case, you must specify a length when defining a column as char or varchar The length sets the limit on the number of characters the column can hold Here s the kicker: The char data type always requires the same number of bytes for storage as you have specified for the length If you have a char(20), it will always require 20 bytes of storage, even if you store only a 5-character word in the column With a varchar, the storage is always the actual number of characters you have stored plus 2 bytes So a varchar(20) with a 5-character word will take up 7 bytes, with the extra 2 bytes holding a size reference for SQL Server Each type can have a length of as many as 8,000 characters When do you use one over the other The rule of thumb is to use char when all the data will be close to the same length, and use varchar when the data will vary a great deal Following this rule should make for optimum storage
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