Imports a service master key from a backup file.
Applies to: SQL Server (SQL Server 2008 through current version).
When the service master key is restored, SQL Server decrypts all the keys and secrets that have been encrypted with the current service master key, and then encrypts them with the service master key loaded from the backup file.
If any one of the decryptions fails, the restore will fail. You can use the FORCE option to ignore errors, but this option will cause the loss of any data that cannot be decrypted.
The service master key is the root of the SQL Server encryption hierarchy. The service master key directly or indirectly secures all other keys in the tree. If a dependent key cannot be decrypted during a forced restore, data that is secured by that key will be lost.
Regenerating the encryption hierarchy is a resource-intensive operation. You should schedule this during a period of low demand.