ballardchalmers - home

Contact us 01342 410223


Building a SharePoint Hybrid Environment

With the release of SharePoint 2016 last year, Microsoft signalled to all organisations that a move to the cloud is inevitable. They did not say everyone has to move right now or else, instead they made it a compelling discussion and move by ensuring that various components from Office 365 are now able to be used within your On-premises SharePoint environment. In previous versions, you were really limited to a few features such as Search and Business Connectivity Services. With the latest updates, you can now utilise...

Read more

IT Services Market Booming

Another (tax) year, another forecast. But at least this one is positive. According to a report from market research firm MarketsandMarkets, the IT services sector is booming. It states that the annual growth rate of 8% in 2016 is expected to continue through 2021 at least. What are the main drivers...?

Read more

Five Reasons to Move to the Cloud

There are many reasons that people move to the cloud. Some go there for valid business reasons, some want to save money and more than a few head there because “everyone is doing it.” To have success in the cloud, however, the logic behind a move to the cloud has to be sound...

Read more

Points to Consider Before Heading to the Cloud

“Go West, young man,” was a phrase popularised in the nineteenth century by American journalist Horace Greeley as the country expanded westward. If Greeley were writing today, he’d probably be saying, “Go to the cloud, young man...”

Read more

Trends Impacting IT This Year

With 2017 already upon us, this is a good time to look ahead and see what is in store for the new year. The top trends for 2017 include budget and revenue stagnation, cloud services gaining an even higher profile and a general lack of hiring of IT positions...

Read more

The Answers to Shrinking IT Departments and Smaller Budgets

It’s gone on too long. Beleaguered IT departments just keep on being asked to do more with less. It happens with staff – someone leaves and isn’t replaced, or worse, layoffs occur. Then at the end of the year, with a few less bodies around, the new budget proclaims that IT will just have to make do with 20% less funding...

Read more

Agile, Waterfall or Flexible Development?

We hear a lot these days about Agile development. Agile works in stark contrast to the traditional Waterfall approach. Under the Waterfall model, a sequential non-iterative methodology is favoured. The basic concept is that progress is made towards a final goal with the analogy being that it flows downwards like a waterfall through various stages...

Read more

Outsourcing Versus Hiring

Eternal debates tend to rage on for eons: did the chicken or the egg come first, should we have more government or less, and should we hire or outsource top programming talent? Opinions on the latter subject have shifted back and forth for decades. But the latest set of studies and statistics tend to favour outsourcing as the smartest choice in the IT field...

Read more

Clouds Are Not All The Same

The cloud! It’s such an attractive term that rolls off the tongue effortlessly. Part of its beauty is that it provides people with a simple concept they can grasp without them having to comprehend any of the technical details. But some can be a bit too literal. Case in point: my wife’s hairdresser would sometimes look up to the sky for the cloud that kept his iPhone working. He knew it was up there but he just couldn’t quite point it out...

Read more

How To Succeed With Custom Software Development Projects

No large complex undertaking is going to have a 100% success rate. Construction projects are well known for having cost overruns and delays. Political campaigns can suddenly implode despite careful planning. And then there is bespoke software development – while there are a few horror stories around, and more than a few overruns in terms of time and expense, it really doesn’t have to be that way.

Read more

Xamarin is good news for app developers

Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Xamarin has caused some to wonder what this will mean for the world of app development. The good news is that this is a positive direction for the .NET platform as a whole...

Read more

Large enterprises heading to the cloud

The cloud has been in the consumer mainstream now for many years. But large enterprises, in particular, have been reluctant to transition from in-house software to the cloud. However, that appears to be changing as evidenced by the fact that traditional industries are now embracing the cloud like never before...

Read more

Bespoke software outgunning off-the-shelf software

Once upon a time, all software was made to order. Programmers were hired by organisations to code their applications line by line. Gradually, third parties entered the picture and a whole new industry evolved. Software vendors offered all manner of packaged software products that the world has been eagerly gobbling up...

Read more

Eliminating complexity from the Hybrid Cloud

It isn’t difficult to put things into the public cloud. All you have to do is enter a few details into a browser, agree to the terms and the services are there for you to consume. But the ease of use of the cloud actually masks an awful lot of architectural complexity. It takes a tremendous amount of technical skill to tie together the various technologies to ensure the smooth delivery of storage, compute and other cloud resources...

Read more

Back to the future: Why are you still running SQL Server 2005?

Ballard Chalmers was founded in 2005, so we have a fondness for and a good recollection of this particular year. Stepping into a time machine, you may have been at the cinema to find out why Anakin chose the Dark Side in the highly anticipated Star Wars Episode III and singing along (or not!) to James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful”...

Read more

The cloud means everything is going to be delivered as a service

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has been with us for some time. But most recently, so many aspects of IT and data centre functionality have headed to the cloud that the moniker Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) has taken root. Anything from CRM to ERP, backup to DR, and security protection to analytics, is moving to the cloud. 

Read more

Ballard Chalmers celebrates 10 years

Ballard Chalmers Ltd was established 10 years ago this month, with the merge of the IT consultancies owned and managed by Geoff Ballard and myself.

2005 was a notable year. It was the year of Hurricane Katrina, the Kyoto environmental protocol and the ten simultaneous Live 8 concerts. Armed conflict by the IRA officially ended, Chelsea won their first ever Premier League title, Harry Potter entered his sixth year at Hogwarts with the release of the Half-Blood Prince novel, but also sadly the 7/7 London bombings. Prince William graduated from St. Andrews, Labour won a third term, YouTube was founded and the fastest hit with a badminton racket was recorded by Fu Haifeng, clocking 206 miles per hour! Only 10 years ago, but it seems a lifetime...

Read more

More organisations than ever moving to the cloud

A recent survey by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) discovered that three-quarters of organisations utilise at least one cloud computing service, which is a sharp rise from previous surveys. Not surprisingly, the implementation of cloud computing services came up as a key area of focus for IT with this being where IT departments are most likely to increase spending for the fourth consecutive year...

Read more

Welcome To The New Power BI

Power BI is changing! It still has the same underlying components, such as Power Query and Power View, but has been enhanced and repackaged, and many additional data sources added...

Read more

Visual Studio Online is now truly cross-platform

Microsoft is doing a great job of embracing open source, cross-platform technologies. Just look at the release of Visual Studio 2015, we’ve got first class support for python, node, android, iOS, cordova, the list is endless. The days of using Microsoft developer tools to develop code that only runs on Windows servers is over...

Read more

Developing Apps for Any Device on Any O/S

Windows once ruled the world

Microsoft has always recognised the importance of engaging with developers and making it easy for them to create applications. The original Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) was free and it was easy to develop and deploy applications that were guaranteed to work on any Windows-based PC.

Consequently developers went ahead and developed countless applications for Windows and the result was that there were applications for just about everything from accounts packages, to word processors, to planning tools. As a result Windows was a massive success.

Read more

Information Protection and the Cloud – A CIO’s Perspective

The CIO challenge - changing landscape for customers and employees…

Most CIOs today are faced with companies that want to understand how to drive transformation in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. In fact with the advent of Windows 10 and Microsoft’s drive towards the Internet of Things (IoT), the central theme behind its strategy is not about the mobility of any single device, but it is the mobility of the experiences and access to information across devices...

Read more

Power BI: Self Service Business Intelligence in the Cloud

Empowering users with the ability to analyse their own data is a worthy objective in its own right. So is enabling them to do so without having to install complex data analysis software on their own PCs. Letting users manipulate the data using a tool that they are already familiar with, i.e. Excel, is another plus point as is the ability to be able to extract the raw data they need directly from their corporate IT systems without having to get involved in networking and security issues.

Power BI does all of these, and more!...

Read more

Modernise your data platform with SQL Server 2014

If you are still on versions earlier than SQL Server 2014, now is the time to consider upgrading to take advantage of the ground-breaking improvements in performance. Support for the following versions of SQL Server is ending soon, which means no more security updates, higher maintenance costs and potential compliance concerns:


  • SQL Server 2005 extended support ends on April 12th 2016
  • SQL Server 2008 mainstream support ended on July 8th 2014 and is in extended support until July 9th 2019

Read more

Microsoft Power Query: Empowering the End User

SQL Server has always had a strong connection with Excel and for two very good reasons:

  1. SQL Server is excellent at storing, querying and analysing large data sets.
  2. Excel allows users to work with and present data in any way that they want.

Allowing Excel to extract data from SQL Server databases is not new and it has been possible for many years using tools like Microsoft Query...

Read more

Customising the Content Search Web (Part 2): Custom Display Templates with JavaScript

If you’ve read Part 1 (what you get in the box) then you should have a pretty good idea of what the CSWP can do by now and what Display Templates and Property Mappings are...So now we move onto the brave new world of building and defining your own custom Display Templates. The first thing you need to know is that Display Templates are stored in the Master Page Gallery (No, I don’t know why) specifically in a sub-folder called “Display Templates”...

Read more

Ballard Chalmers moves to the Cloud

Practicing what we preach...It is only right that a company selling and delivering particular services also uses those same services internally. After all, what would you think if Jaguar managers all drove BMWs, or, 20 year old Jaguar models instead of the latest kit…?

Read more

BizTalk 2013 R2 Release

BizTalk Server 2013 R2, the latest release of BizTalk Server, was released in early May 2014, 13 years after its first release in 2000.

BizTalk is the world’s leading integration solution used by thousands of the largest enterprises to enable integration between Line of Business systems including systems such as: ERP, Payment providers, ecommerce and supply chain management...

Read more

Extended Events in SQL Server 2012

First introduced in SQL Server 2008, Extended Events is an event handling system, deeply embedded within the SQL Server database engine. The Extended Events feature is the next generation of tools to help troubleshoot and diagnose problems in SQL Server (previously the tool of choice was SQL Server Profiler). Here we will discuss the reasons for utilising the Extended Events feature in SQL Server 2012 and beyond.

Read more

"Services on Server" - what to look out for

This post will provide a description of each of the SharePoint Services in the “Services on Server” section of Central Administration, describing what it is for and anything you need to look out for...

Read more

Hosting SharePoint 2013: On Premises or in the Cloud?

Office 365, specifically SharePoint Online, is now a consideration for a significant number of our SharePoint projects. Identifying whether the solution should be in the Cloud or On Premises is critical not only to the success of the project but to the long term the overall IT strategy of our clients.

For many projects the overall IT strategy is what determines a preference for either the On Premises solution or the Cloud solution...

Read more

Data Mining with Microsoft Business Intelligence

Data mining, in its present format, has been part of Microsoft Business Intelligence for about 10 years. Unfortunately, it is one of least discovered and least used features of Microsoft BI.

Many companies have heard of, and use, MDX (MultiDimensional eXpressions) and/or DAX (Data Analysis eXpressions) to extract meaning /reports from their cubes and tabular models. Yet few have investigated DMX (Data Mining eXtensions to SQL) to extract meaning/reports from their data mining models – usually because they don’t have data mining models in the first place. This blog is a modest attempt to spark your interest in the possibilities of data mining (but as a short blog, it can only look at a tiny subset of the features and has to make a few generalisations).

Read more

SQL Server 2014 – The Major Enhancements

SQL Server 2014 was released in early April and there are a number of new features that will prove useful for your business. One of these is in-memory technology, which is has been one of Microsoft’s major area of focus, resulting in In-Memory OLTP for SQL Server 2014.

Read more

How to return your three best-selling products for each year using MDX and DAX

DAX (Data Analysis eXpressions) and MDX (MultiDimensional eXpressions) are the two main BI (business intelligence) query languages for SSAS (Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services). For most of the time, these two main query languages (DAX and MDX) can return exactly the same results – at present, MDX has the edge on functionality, so some results are not yet possible in DAX, but this will change in the future. A third BI language, DMX (Data Mining eXtensions) is for more specialised work against an SSAS data mining model.

Read more

SQL Server 2014 – Powerful database functionality for your business

SQL Server 2014 was launched on April 1st. So what would an upgrade do for your organisation?

Well, as your business grows so do the demands you place on the databases that help run your organisation. Whether for inventory, online sales transactions, or customer management, a slow-performing or unavailable database can create bottlenecks in the way your employees do their jobs – and cause your customers to take their business elsewhere. A solution is SQL Server 2014. How?:

Read more

BizTalk Services

BizTalk Services provides us with a number of additional patterns that previously were not available with BizTalk on-premise.

The presentation by MVP Kent Weare at the recent BizTalk Summit 2014 in London substantiates this. Entitled ‘Exposing Operational data to Mobile devices using Windows Azure’, it was based on a real world business scenario from the Power Generation industry.

Read more

BizTalk Summit London 2014 – Technological advances and what it means for your business

I recently attended the BizTalk Summit London 2014, held on March 3rd and 4th at Microsoft's headquarters in Victoria. This will easily be the biggest Microsoft Integration event in Europe this year and was arranged by a group of Microsoft Integration MVPs for the BizTalk community. The event covered advanced topics and introduced the new technologies we are seeing appear in the cloud. These new technologies come under the banner of BizTalk Services and are similar to some of the features we see in BizTalk on premise today but for the cloud.

Read more

Embedding Sandbox Web Parts into Page Layouts and Master Pages

Note – this is applicable to both SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 ... and despite rumours of "The Sandbox is deprecated" many features in SharePoint 2013 rely on the Sandbox so I don’t see it going anywhere for the time being.

This is something that I have been told many times, it is not possible to embed a server control developed in the Sandbox onto a Page Layout or Master Page because you can’t add the appropriate Tag Prefix to the header.

Read more

SSRS — MDX Parameter Problems

Have you ever created parameterized SSRS reports on multidimensional cubes? If so, you may have noticed a small problem. Let's first look at the MDX Query Designer for a simple report on the Adventure Works cube.

Ssrs Mdx Parameter Problems Clip Image002

At the top are two parameters, based on the Country and City attribute hierarchies from the Location folder in the Customer dimension. So far so good – the query is returning results for the default values of United Kingdom and London in the lower pane. Country and City are query parameters. In SSRS, query parameters automatically generate report parameters, and these generated report parameters are what you see when you preview the report. It is the report parameters that are not quite right. The report parameters appear in the Report Data window in your report design and in drop-downs at the top of the report when it is previewed. The problem is illustrated in the next screenshot of the Country parameter drop-down.

Read more

Top 12 Reasons to Choose SQL Server

With the release of SQL Server 2014 scheduled for April 2014, here are the Top 12 reasons to choose SQL for your business.

  1. SQL Server 2012 delivers a ROI of up to 189% with a 1-year payback period.
  2. Microsoft DBAs run more mission critical databases, when compared to Oracle DBAs.
  3. SQL Server enables 1 million commands per second.
  4. SQL Server is the most secure of any of the major database platforms.

Read more

Provisioning List Views in the onet.xml with custom Web Part properties

I’ve seen this come up numerous times (with a few people telling me "it's not possible without writing code") so I thought I'd show a simple code sample of how this is done in SharePoint 2013.

Let’s say you want to add some List View Web Parts to a custom Team Site for a Tasks list:

  • My Tasks
  • Tasks In Progress
  • Tasks Overdue

Read more

SharePoint 2013 Migration... Why? And How?

SharePoint 2013 offers a large number of improvements over SharePoint 2010, and more and more of our clients are migrating to 2013. With migration always come two significant questions: “Why?” and “How?”

Sharepoint 2013Why?

As clients with previous SharePoint installations are fully aware, SharePoint offers a lot of functionality Out-of-the-Box and a great Application development platform. However as technology and social media move on SharePoint 2013 has more than ever to offer.

How you use SharePoint currently will effect what drives you to upgrade; those with public websites on SharePoint, and indeed Intranets, often are motivated by the improvements in the mobile compatibility and HTML5 support. SharePoint 2013 vastly improves its support for mobile devices. Instead of offering a basic mobile interface, it now offers options to customise the interface for different Device Channels, effectively allowing you to provide a different interface to meet different device requirements whilst offering the same shared content across all devices.

Read more

KPIs and RAG - Visualising performance metrics for business clarity

KPIs (key performance indicators) and RAG (red/amber/green) are two acronyms that lie at the heart of BI (Business Intelligence). At a glance, they show if things (such as sales, profits, repeat customers, quality control rejects, financial balances, etc.) are good or indifferent or bad. They are more immediately understood than either figures or charts.

Read more

Public vs. Private Cloud: What business owners need to know

Moving business systems to the Cloud is now generally agreed to be ‘a good thing’ and a strategy that a majority of leading businesses are now pursuing for long-term cost reduction and improved business efficiency.

And today much of the lack of clarity that has existed around what this really means has been pretty well resolved at a high level into two concepts: Public Cloud, and Private Cloud.

Read more

What underpins the Microsoft Application Platform?

The Microsoft Application Platform (MAP) is a technology stack used for the development and deployment of high end enterprise level business applications. It provides for both on-premise, cloud and hybrid based deployments.

MAP is based on the following layers:

  • Windows Server provides for the Infrastructure Layer and includes support for the core functionality needed by any application such as security, virtualisation and networking. Windows Azure provides the same for cloud based deployments
  • SQL Server provides the Database Layer and includes support for transactional database programming and data warehousing. SQL Azure provides for cloud deployments
  • The Application Services Layer provides a fully functional middle tier and includes facilities such as message handing, work flow, state management and caching. This layer is covered by Microsoft .NET, Windows Server AppFabric and Microsoft BizTalk Server. For the cloud it is covered by Windows Azure Platform AppFabric
  • The top layer is the Application Layer which encompasses a number of line-of-business applications from the Microsoft Dynamics suite and in particular Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Exchange. For the cloud there is Office 365 for Exchange and SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

Read more

Flexible Project Delivery

In the earlier days of web-based software development, along with most of our peers, we usually worked to a traditional ‘waterfall’ software development process and fixed-price project delivery. In waterfall methodology, you moved from one stage of the process onwards completing each one fully before starting the next. So you undertook the system design fully before starting development, completed development in full before testing, and delivered the near-complete system to the client at the end of the testing phase. The idea being that you can control the scope and thus the costs by not letting it change at all along the way, or at least following a very strict process if you did.

Read more

When is a Transaction not a Transaction?

Question: When is a transaction not a transaction? Answer: When is not durable Databases transactions are designed to ensure that selects, inserts, updates and deletes are processed reliably in the context of a single operation. To be more exact, transactions implement the so called ACID properties which are:

Read more

What is BizTalk and what can it do for businesses?

To help explain what BizTalk (or Microsoft BizTalk Server to give it its full name) is and what it can do for businesses let's look at some common scenarios that you may relate to.

We have three systems that we need to pass information between on a regular daily basis. We have a HR system where we hold details of employees and pay these employees on a weekly or monthly basis, we have a finance system where we pay invoices to external suppliers and also process employee expenses and a training system where details of training courses employees are to do or have completed are held.

Read more

Driven by Test

Have you ever worked in a company that has a separate test team from the development team? Maybe that’s the situation you’re in right now. Did you ever ask yourself the question "What do those testing guys do in their dark, windowless basement all day anyway?" or "Why are the testers kept apart as a separate functional unit from the developers and designers?" What answers did you find?

Maybe you’ve worked in a traditional software development life cycle, and do have answers, but did you ever ask yourself "Do I really believe them?"

Read more

Office 365 — 2 Years old. What does this mean for customers?

The history lesson ...

In 2008, Microsoft launched their first cloud based collaboration software - BPOS (Business Productivity Online Standard suite).

Although just over 5 years ago, you will remember with a nostalgic smile on your face that this was the time when “the cloud” (*does that inverted commas things with his fingers) was the answer to everything.

Despite the overused term, it was a promising start in "the cloud" (*does that inverted commas things with his fingers ...again) from Microsoft, who for less than £6 per month, per user, offered customers the following features:

Read more

SQL Server Partitioning and Triggers

During your design phase of an application and/or database sometimes incorporating a very useful feature within SQL Server can slip through the net and be forgotten about, and that feature is partitioning.

Using partitioning within a large database can help resolve some basic problems such as:-

  • Maintenance
    To perform online partition reorganising, and now in 2014 you can do rebuilds online
  • Partition Elimination
    Your query can select the required partitions only, and not have to lock the entire table
  • Backup and Recovery
    It is possible to mark older archived partitions as being Read Only, which then only requires the active partitions that are ReadWrite to be backed up. This reduces backup time, file size and recovery time.
  • Partition Switching
    Move or remove, small or large volumes of data in the same database in seconds.

Read more

ASP.NET MVC — A Powerful and Flexible Tool for Developing Rich Data-Driven Websites

MVC, which stands for “Model, View, Controller” is both a general software pattern and a number of specific architecture implementations used to design websites and applications.

As a general concept, MVC describes a software architecture pattern, whereby an application’s logic is split into three distinct layers. These are:

  1. The Model. The data that is stored and manipulated in the application, and the objects that define this data.
  2. The Controller. The core of the application that manipulates the data based on user inputs, and serves up views of this data.
  3. The View. The graphical presentation of the data to the user.

The primary benefit of MVC is in this separation of components, because changes to one part of the program will then have a much more limited impact on other parts. It also enables multiple implementations of different parts depending on need, more of which I’ll go into at the end of this article.

Read more

Microsoft and the Application Platform

A lot has been written in the industry press on Microsoft’s new ‘Devices and Services’ strategy and – what would have been inconceivable until only very recently – the tacit acknowledgement that the traditional software sales model is now effectively dead.

We are seeing this strategy rapidly being implemented with the release of Microsoft’s own Surface tablet last year and this week’s announcement of the purchase of Nokia’s smart phone business. Other interesting snippets in the trade news in recent months are also painting a picture such as, the approach to sell Bing to Facebook in 2011 or ’12, and apparently the attempts to offload MSN.

Read more

SQL Server 2014 Takes Advantage of Low Price Memory

It may seem like only yesterday that SQL Server 2012 was launched, but SQL Server 2014 is already on its way. A preview copy is to be soon made available and the production release is due before the end of 2013. This was all announced at TechEd 2013 conference.

Whilst there are a number of new features being announced for SQL Server 2014 it has certain features that take advantage of lower memory prices and these are of particular interest.

One option for storing databases in memory is to just use Solid State Disks (SSDs) and you don’t need SQL Server 2014 to do this. Just add SSD disk drives to the server and create databases on them. It is that simple.

Read more

Loading Images Into SQL Server

A requirement arose recently to import a folder full of JPEG images into a SQL Server table. I ideally wanted to achieve this using pure T-SQL code; that is without using CLR code, external stored procedures or references to OLE objects.

The first challenge was to find a way to obtain a list of all the files in a particular operating system folder. To do this I decided to use xp_cmdshell to execute the DIR *.jpg command. The results returned from the EXEC statement can then be stored in a database table using the INSERT … EXEC statement. The required code is:

Read more

Mapping Spatial Data in SQL Server

Spatial data types were first introduced in SQL Server 2008 and allow points, lines and shapes to be stored inside a column inside a database table. There are two spatial data types:

·         Geometry: Stores spatial data on a flat surface
·         Geography: Stores spatial data on a sphere, or to be more exact the earth

Data can be inserted into a geography column in a table using references to spatial data objects such as POINT, LINESTRING, POLYGON etc. Some example inserts into a table that has a Location column of type geography are:

Read more

PowerPivot: Excel PivotTables on Steroids?

Pivot tables in Excel are an excellent tool and are used by many to aggregate and summarise data for reporting purposes. For example: A pivot table could be used to display product sales by month vs. region, department vs. year or as shown below: product vs. discount type:

Read more

Reporting by Exception with Data Alerts

Business Reports are a fact of life. They provide essential information on how an organisation is running and so on a regular basis reports are produced and studied.

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) allows reports to be run on demand; a user selects a report, enters the parameters and the report is executed and displayed straight away. It also allows scheduled reports; a report and parameters are selected and a schedule of when it should be executed, say weekly, is determined and the report is executed and usually emailed to the user.

Read more

Master Data Services

Recently a client asked me the following questions: What is Master Data Services? What is it for? And what has it to do with SQL Server? I answered as succinctly as I could. It then occurred to me that the answer would make a good blog posting, as others may well be asking themselves the same question...

Read more

Summary of #SPC12 SharePoint Conference 2012

Earlier this month, I flew out to Las Vegas to attend the eagerly awaited Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2012 (#SPC12) to see what the future of SharePoint will offer Ballard Chalmers and our clients.

There were over 300 sessions held which were broken down into different categories for:

  • Developers
  • IT Professionals
  • Business case studies.

While I was not able to take in all of the sessions, I’ve tried to capture the highlights that will make users ‘super excited’; the tag-line of Microsoft speakers over the 4 days!

Read more

Columnstore Indexes

SQL Server 2012 introduces a new type of index specifically designed to improve the speed of queries that are typically used in data warehouse reporting applications, such as...

Read more

Power View: Business Intelligence for Power Users

Power View is new with SQL Server 2012 and is part of SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services (SSRS). However interestingly it only works when SSRS is in SharePoint Integrated mode and so you need to have SharePoint installed as well to use it...

Read more

Source Control for Database Applications

It is second nature for a .NET developer to store source code in a source control system such as TFS or Source Safe. Source control systems are a corner stone of software development and are essential for tracking what changed, who changed it why it was changed, managing versions and allowing developers to work on different branches of the same system.

Read more

Contained Databases

Ever since the first version of SQL Server was released there has been a distinction between a server login and a database user.

Server logins are recorded in the master database and control connection to the server. They consist of...

Read more

Monitoring Queries with the Management Data Warehouse

The Management Data Warehouse (MDW) was introduced in SQL Server 2008 and is available in later versions.

The architecture is simple but very effective. There is a central data warehouse database, and data collectors on each server that is being monitored. The data collectors collect information about the server, and the queries that are executed on it, and store them in the data warehouse...

Read more

Server Management with Utility Control Points

Utility Control Points (UCPs) were first introduced in SQL Server 2008 R2 and are designed for managing servers  of SQL Server 2008 R2 or later.

The bad news is that if you have older versions of SQL Server then you will have to upgrade to take advantage of this facility for those servers.

The rest is pretty much all good news because UCPs are a very easy way to get an overall overview of the state of all servers and to drill into view the state of specific servers...

Read more

Managing Files with FileTables

FileTables are a new feature in SQL Server 2012. They are layered on the existing FILESTREAM functionality.

FILESTREAM is designed to allow large objects, such as images and documents, to be stored logically in a column in a database table, but physically in a file in the operating system. This keeps large objects outside the database, keeping the size of the database down and also allows the files to be accessed directly by client applications reducing overhead...

Read more

FILESTREAM and Partitioning

There is a requirement for a large number of large PDF documents to be managed by a SQL Server database without the contents of the documents actually being stored in the database, for size reasons. FILESTREAM meets these requirements...

Read more

The Quality of Data

With the introduction of SQL Server 2012 we now have a dedicated facility for the management of data quality, aptly named Data Quality Services. So what exactly does this entail..?

Read more

Cloud Data and SQL Azure

Applications on laptops that travel outside the office, such the order application used by the company sales representative, need to store data and historically the solution has been to have a local database server on the laptop. When the sales representative returns to the office, at the end of the week, the laptop is plugged into the network and is synchronised with the main database, typically using SQL Server Merge Replication.

The main issue with this approach is that changes made to the head office database and to the order on the laptop database are only synchronised once per week. This means price and stock changes could be missed and new orders are received late...

Read more

Sequential Unique Identifiers

Using Globally Unique Identifiers as the primary key for SQL Server database tables has become common place in physical database design. It replaces the use of int identifiers and the IDENTITY clause which date back to the first versions of SQL Server. So what are the pros and cons?:

Read more

DDL and Transactions

When I started in database management many years ago I worked exclusively on Oracle and I got used to the fact that transactions worked with the DML statements SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE and DELETE but that things were different when it came to DDL statements such as CREATE TABLE and DROP TABLE. In short, transactions did not support DDL.

I then started working with SQL Server and for a long time I assumed that the same was true. It came as quite a surprise when I discovered that it was not true and that SQL Server supports transactions for both DML and DDL...

Read more

Parsing Dates can be Trying

SQL Server and dates are often troublesome. In fact every database server I have ever worked on has had trouble with dates and with the parsing of dates in particular...

Read more


SQL Server Denali contains a new database object called SEQUENCE that delivers sequential numbers. It complements the existing IDENTITY construct that has a similar objective...

Read more


Ballard Chalmers is one of the UK’s leading enterprise software engineering companies, specialising in development for the Microsoft Enterprise Application Platform. We are principally dedicated to software development and integration for the Microsoft Cloud, as well as on-premises and hybrid systems. Our expertise is in Microsoft .NET, SQL Server, BizTalk Server and SharePoint Server.

Let's talk

  01342 410223

Find out more

Thank you for contacting us.

We will be in touch with you shortly.