Versioning SQL Server database


I want to get my databases under version control. Does anyone have any advice or recommended articles to get me started?

I'll always want to have at least some data in there (as alumb mentions: user types and administrators). I'll also often want a large collection of generated test data for performance measurements.

5/31/2019 6:19:52 PM

Accepted Answer

Martin Fowler wrote my favorite article on the subject, I choose not to put schema dumps in under version control as alumb and others suggest because I want an easy way to upgrade my production database.

For a web application where I'll have a single production database instance, I use two techniques:

Database Upgrade Scripts

A sequence database upgrade scripts that contain the DDL necessary to move the schema from version N to N+1. (These go in your version control system.) A _version_history_ table, something like

create table VersionHistory (
    Version int primary key,
    UpgradeStart datetime not null,
    UpgradeEnd datetime

gets a new entry every time an upgrade script runs which corresponds to the new version.

This ensures that it's easy to see what version of the database schema exists and that database upgrade scripts are run only once. Again, these are not database dumps. Rather, each script represents the changes necessary to move from one version to the next. They're the script that you apply to your production database to "upgrade" it.

Developer Sandbox Synchronization

  1. A script to backup, sanitize, and shrink a production database. Run this after each upgrade to the production DB.
  2. A script to restore (and tweak, if necessary) the backup on a developer's workstation. Each developer runs this script after each upgrade to the production DB.

A caveat: My automated tests run against a schema-correct but empty database, so this advice will not perfectly suit your needs.

8/2/2008 5:33:54 PM

Red Gate's SQL Compare product not only allows you to do object-level comparisons, and generate change scripts from that, but it also allows you to export your database objects into a folder hierarchy organized by object type, with one [objectname].sql creation script per object in these directories. The object-type hierarchy is like this:

\Stored Procedures

If you dump your scripts to the same root directory after you make changes, you can use this to update your SVN repo, and keep a running history of each object individually.


This is one of the "hard problems" surrounding development. As far as I know there are no perfect solutions.

If you only need to store the database structure and not the data you can export the database as SQL queries. (in Enterprise Manager: Right click on database -> Generate SQL script. I recommend setting the "create one file per object" on the options tab) You can then commit these text files to svn and make use of svn's diff and logging functions.

I have this tied together with a Batch script that takes a couple parameters and sets up the database. I also added some additional queries that enter default data like user types and the admin user. (If you want more info on this, post something and I can put the script somewhere accessible)

If you need to keep all of the data as well, I recommend keeping a back up of the database and using Redgate ( products to do the comparisons. They don't come cheap, but they are worth every penny.


First, you must choose the version control system that is right for you:

  • Centralized Version Control system - a standard system where users check out/check in before/after they work on files, and the files are being kept in a single central server

  • Distributed Version Control system - a system where the repository is being cloned, and each clone is actually the full backup of the repository, so if any server crashes, then any cloned repository can be used to restore it After choosing the right system for your needs, you'll need to setup the repository which is the core of every version control system All this is explained in the following article:

After setting up a repository, and in case of a central version control system a working folder, you can read this article. It shows how to setup source control in a development environment using:

  • SQL Server Management Studio via the MSSCCI provider,

  • Visual Studio and SQL Server Data Tools

  • A 3rd party tool ApexSQL Source Control

Here at Red Gate we offer a tool, SQL Source Control, which uses SQL Compare technology to link your database with a TFS or SVN repository. This tool integrates into SSMS and lets you work as you would normally, except it now lets you commit the objects.

For a migrations-based approach (more suited for automated deployments), we offer SQL Change Automation (formerly called ReadyRoll), which creates and manages a set of incremental scripts as a Visual Studio project.

In SQL Source Control it is possible to specify static data tables. These are stored in source control as INSERT statements.

If you're talking about test data, we'd recommend that you either generate test data with a tool or via a post-deployment script you define, or you simply restore a production backup to the dev environment.


You might want to look at Liquibase ( Even if you don't use the tool itself it handles the concepts of database change management or refactoring pretty well.


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