Cursors allow row-by-row processing of the result sets. Types of cursors: Static, Dynamic, Forward-only, Keyset-driven. See books online for more information.
Disadvantages of cursors: Each time you fetch a row from the cursor, it results in a network roundtrip, where as a normal SELECT query makes only one rowundtrip, however large the resultset is. Cursors are also costly because they require more resources and temporary storage (results in more IO operations). Further, there are restrictions on the SELECT statements that can be used with some types of cursors. Most of the times, set based operations can be used instead of cursors.
Another situation in which developers tend to use cursors: You need to call a stored procedure when a column in a particular row meets certain condition. You don’t have to use cursors for this. This can be achieved using WHILE loop, as long as there is a unique key to identify each row.
In order to work with a cursor we need to perform some steps in the following order:
1. Declare cursor
2. Open cursor
3. Fetch row from the cursor
4. Process fetched row
5. Close cursor
6. De-allocate cursor