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The Problems with VARCHAR(MAX)

Deepthi Goguri has a complaint about VARCHAR(MAX):

Though VARCHAR(MAX) is suitable in situations with large strings of data, it has its own complications that we need to consider. In my career as a DBA, I at least saw couple of times SQL developers using VARCHAR(MAX) when they should not. Fixing the datatypes once in production is painful and causes risks.

I think Deepthi’s advice is sound: use VARCHAR(MAX) when necessary but not as a starting point. I don’t shy away from VARCHAR(MAX) on principle (except with columnstore indexes—get that noise right out of here) and I don’t think you should either, as long as you understand the ramifications.