Since this year, Microsoft recommends to install Cumulative Updates (CU) like Service Packs (SP)

In the past, Microsoft always recommended to apply the Service Packs and security fixes for SQL Server.
Cumulative Updates were applied only if you had a specific problem in order to resolve it.

Now, we need to follow a new rule:
“ Microsoft recommends ongoing, proactive installation of SQL Server CUs as they become available:
SQL Server CUs are certified to the same levels as Service Packs, and should be installed with the same level of confidence
Historical data show a significant number of support cases involve an issue that has already been addressed in a released CU
CUs may contain added value over and above hotfixes such as supportability, manageability, and reliability updates
As with SQL Server Service packs, Microsoft recommends that you test CUs before deploying to production environments”
The update strategy for SQL Server was easy to manage because a Service Pack comes out one per year and you have one year to apply it. For Cumulative Update, the frequency is one per month and it is very difficult to be up to date…

How to find your current CU & SP?

You have the classical query with @@Version which has to be compared to the build version but you have also the possibility to have the information with the SERVERPROPERTY function.

SELECT @@VERSION as [Current Version]
SELECT SERVERPROPERTY('ProductBuildType') as [Current Build]
SELECT SERVERPROPERTY('PRODUCTLEVEL') as [Current Service Pack version]

A little example with my VM in SQL Server 2014.
As you can see, I have only the Service Pack 1 installed on my VM and I apply the latest CU for SQL Server 2014 SP1
Et voila! I’m up to date with my instance until the next CU… 😉

How to find the latest CU available?

Now, you have direct link to find the latest CU:

And the old way with the website “Microsoft SQL Server Version List”  is still available of course.

What are Microsoft recommendations?

SQL Server 2008 and 2008/R2
We recommend to follow your current rule for the patching and apply the new patching strategy only for SQL Server 2012 and later.
In the most SQL Server 2008/R2 instances, you will or you are currently migrating to a most recent version. It makes no sense to change the lifetime strategy of your SQL Server 2008/R2.

SQL Server 2012 and later
For a new shared instance, install every time the latest Service Pack and the latest Cumulative Update in order to be up to date.
For a new dedicated instance, check the application recommendation. If the latest Service Pack is supported applied it and apply also the Cumulative Update following the supported Service Pack.
For a shared or dedicated instance already installed, we recommend to install as soon as possible the latest Service Pack and the latest Cumulative Update with a check frequency of 3 months and every time check with the application of course.

I notice 3 months, why?
It is very simple, if you have 3 environments like a Test, a UAT/Pre-Prod and a Prod, per experience, it is good to let one month between all environment patching.

BUT in every case, TEST, TEST and TEST before you patch your Production instances.

This is a global recommendation and must be, of course, adapted to your context.

As SQL Server Expert, dbi services also advises to follow these recommendations because a lot of bugs are corrected in the CU and are consolidated by a very strong test plan. As from now, a CU is as reliable as a SP!

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need assist in your patching strategy! 😎