SQL Server Recovery Manager

Learning About Always Encrypted in SQL Server 2016

Stephen West ~ Modified: August 5th, 2023 ~ SQL Master Database ~ 4 Minutes Reading

sql server 2016 encryption

SQL Server has an additional layer of security that protects user data from any malicious activity. We call this feature “Encrypted in SQL Server 2016”. This security feature protects data from vulnerable activities by encrypting the data stored in the database.

When the organizations are working with sensitive data, they must ensure some sort of security, which could be encrypted, to protect their data. Here, SQL always encrypted feature becomes their backbone.

The encryption of data is possible by different ways. It includes Column Level Encryption, Transparent Data Encryption, Backup Encryption, Database File Level Encryption, SQL Server Connectors Encryption.

These different types of encryption methods provide high security for data that exists in SQL Server database preventing the unauthorized attempts on database.

One cannot directly access an encrypted set of database. To perform any action on such database, one needs to have the decryption key to it. This means the data is not encrypted throughout.

Always encrypted in SQL Server 2016 can encrypt the data while transmitting, storing, creating and even when performing an action on database.

SQL Server Always Encrypted – Problem With Previous Versions

In the past user were able to access the desired encrypted data by decrypting it using key/Password/certificate due to which security of rest of the database files becomes compromised. This was possible with Transparent Data Encryption.

Solution – Always Encrypted in SQL Server 2016

To solve such problems, Microsoft introduces a new feature namely ‘Always Encrypted’ in SQL 2016 Version in which user can perform action on database in encrypted form. It protects data against rouge user and from other malicious attacks.

Unlike TDI Always Encrypted feature only encrypt some column of the database, instead of encrypting the complete database. this SQL Server 2016 encryption is way better than the other one.

Implementing Always Encrypted Concept in SQL Server 2016

Step1. Create Column Master Key – The Master Column key protects all Column Encryption keys. There must be one master key before encrypting any column using CEK.

For creating Column Master Key user needs to right-click on the CMK definition folder and then click on New Column Master Key, this will open up New Column Master key definition. In Name Box, user needs to enter the name of Column Master key.

Step2. Column Encryption Key – This encryption key protects all encrypted columns.

For creating a column encryption key, one needs to right-click on Encryption Keys Folder and then click on New Column Encryption key. This will opens a New Column Encryption key Window, now user needs enter the name of Column encryption Key.

Step3. Column Level Encryption Settings – In SQL always encrypted concept columns are encrypted with specific Column Encryption Key and algorithm. There are two types of Encryption to be used:

  • Deterministic – Always generates same ciphertext for given plaintext & key, this type of encryption’s not secure as there’s a lack of uncertainty in ciphertext. Indexing is possible here for sure without a doubt.
  • Randomized – It cannot be indexed and more secure as it is cannot be evaluated.

Step4. In last step user can Create the Table with encrypted column in SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), user needs to enter CREATE TABLE statement, it will create a table with encrypted columns.

By using Deterministic, encryption user can apply lookups, joins and groupby operation, whereas in Randomized encryption, user cannot apply operations on Tables.

Also Read: Backup Encryption in SQL Server Version

Learn How to Decrypt SQL Server Encryption

Now, that users know the best way to encrypt SQL, they must know the decrypting method as well. Although this is quite tough, the automated tool mentioned below can do it very easily. All that users need to do is just download the tool  & then simply follow the five simple steps to roll back SQL server always encrypted task.

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Evidently, after downloading the software, it’s quite easy for users to perform the decryption task. Let’s have a look at the procedure through this informative video for SQL Server 2016 encryption vice versa.


Finally, after going through the complete procedure of Always Encrypted in SQL 2016, it is clear that it provides better security. It’s even better than Transparent Data Encryption by encrypting only specified columns and user can apply Deterministic or Randomize Encryption according to their needs.