This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Microsoft SQL Server and load it into Amazon S3. (If this manual process sounds onerous, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)
What is Microsoft SQL Server?
Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database management system that supports applications on a single machine, on a local area network, or across the web. SQL Server supports Microsoft's .NET framework out of the box, and integrates nicely into the Microsoft ecosystem.
What is S3?
Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) provides cloud-based object storage through a web service interface. You can use S3 to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web. S3 objects, which may be structured in any way, are stored in resources called buckets.
Getting data out of SQL Server
The most common way most folks who work with databases get their data is by using queries for extraction. With SELECT statements you can filter, sort, and limit the data you want to retrieve. If you need to export data in bulk, you can use Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio, which enables you to export entire tables and databases in formats like text, CSV, or SQL queries that can restore the database if run.
Loading data into Amazon S3
To upload files you must first create an S3 bucket. Once you have a bucket you can add an object to it. An object can be any kind of file: a text file, data file, photo, or anything else. You can optionally compress or encrypt the files before you load them.
Keeping SQL Server data up to date
All set! You've written a script to move data from SQL Server into your data warehouse. But data freshness is one of the most important aspects of any analysis – what happens when you have new data that you need to add?
You could load the entire SQL Server database again. Doing this is almost guaranteed to be slow and painful, and cause all kinds of latency.
A better approach is to build your script to recognize new and updated records in the source database. Using an auto-incrementing field as a key is a great way to accomplish this. The key functions something like a bookmark, so your script can resume where it left off. When you've built in this functionality, you can set up your script as a cron job or continuous loop to get new data as it appears in SQL Server.
Other data warehouse options
S3 is great, but sometimes you want a more structured repository that can serve as a basis for BI reports and data analytics — in short, a data warehouse. Some folks choose to go with Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, PostgreSQL, Snowflake, Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse, or Panoply, which are RDBMSes that use similar SQL syntax. If you're interested in seeing the relevant steps for loading data into one of these platforms, check out To Redshift, To BigQuery, To Postgres, To Snowflake, To Azure SQL Data Warehouse, and To Panoply.
Easier and faster alternatives
If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t be alarmed. If you have all the skills necessary to go through this process, chances are building and maintaining a script like this isn’t a very high-leverage use of your time.
Thankfully, products like Stitch were built to move data from Microsoft SQL Server to Amazon S3 automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Microsoft SQL Server data via the API, structuring it in a way that is optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your Amazon S3 data warehouse.