If you're not already using SQL Server monitoring tools to track the performance of enterprise-level, SLA-bound database workloads, then you're missing out on opportunities to drastically improve efficiency and user experience.
Reliable database storage is now a necessity for all businesses, especially enterprise-level companies that need to store, track and share massive amounts of data across an organization. But just as important as finding the right database is leveraging the right SQL Server monitoring tools for tracking and optimizing database performance.
How to select a SQL monitoring tool
Before we hop into potential options, it's important to know what issues you're looking to solve to inform you on how to select a SQL monitoring tool that's right for your business. Here are a few factors to consider:
- Improving overall performance: Tracking vital performance metrics, such as query response times and end-user performance, allows IT teams to proactively identify areas for improvement.
- Putting out fires: Poor application performance and downtime means unhappy customers. Some server monitors are built with robust, pre-configured alert systems to help teams quickly identify, diagnose and resolve issues with minimal impact on users.
- Ease of use: It's possible that your IT team finds it difficult to navigate your current server monitoring tool. Or maybe the analytics reports are not clear enough to quickly diagnose issues. An intuitive dashboard can resolve these problems.
Best SQL Server Monitoring Tools
The following are five of the best SQL Server monitoring tools that will help you dig deep into your SQL Server's performance and retrieve metrics that can pinpoint and diagnose those elusive and annoying performance problems. It's easy to optimize systems for the best end-user experience when you have the right tool for the job.
SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer
The SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer (DPA) is popular among network administrators due to its unique take on database monitoring; as the pioneer of "Response Time Analysis," DPA prioritizes database response time as the most important performance metric. Tracking response times help determine with high precision what issues may be hindering an application's performance.
This server monitor analyzes the time between query requests and query responses, 24/7. This information is then broken down into a series of measurable intervals called "waits," which are monitored for their impact on a database's performance. Network admins can use this information to make strides toward optimizing SQL query performance.
DPA includes a clean and clear dashboard that brings the most important metrics to the front. Easy integration with tools like the SolarWinds Orion Platform, a centralized dashboard that combines metrics from DPA with other monitoring tools, makes for an intuitive and user-friendly experience.
SQL Power Tools Zero Impact SQL Monitor
From SQL Power Tools, Zero Impact SQL Monitor (Zero Impact) claims to capture 100-percent of all end-user SQL and does it without any middleware, proxies or connections to the database. Zero Impact installation isn't required to be on the local database host nor does it connect to, query or poll the database server for SQL. It lives up to its name of Zero Impact.
Some of Zero Impact's notable features are 30-day performance trend analysis, the capture of 100-percent of all SQL text, real-time alerting, real-time monitoring of end-user performance, real-time monitoring of database response times, and advanced reporting and analysis.
Ultimately, Zero Impact is a simple and lightweight tool that gives IT teams a holistic view of database performance. But despite its simplicity, this monitoring solution offers a variety of powerful features. You can download a free trial from the SQL Power Tools website.
Idera SQL Diagnostic Manager
Idera SQL Diagnostic Manager collects and provides performance statistics from both physical servers and virtual machines, as well as the underlying host hardware. One capability that sets this SQL Server monitoring tool apart from the competition is that it can provide expert recommendations for improving the performance of a database. Once an issue is identified, admins can run automatic scripts for remediation.
Another useful feature is the ability to leverage integration with System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) to allow for predictive alerts to prevent any false alerts. This coupled with the SQL Query Turner add-on greatly helps to identify and resolve inefficient or underperforming queries.
Diagnostic Manager has an easy-to-use web-based interface, but perhaps even more valuable for some, is the handy mobile app available for Android devices, iPhones, Blackberry, and tablets. Administrators can view real-time and historical data about SQL Server instances and quickly deploy changes from anywhere through the mobile app. The app also allows users to view and kill processes, run queries, and start and stop jobs.
If you're looking for an SQL Server monitoring tool that allows you to resolve issues anywhere, anytime, this may be the option for you.
Redgate SQL Monitor
Redgate SQL Monitor is a server performance monitoring tool that makes it easy to manage all SQL Servers on a network from one place, whether they're virtual machines, cloud providers, or locally-hosted servers.
Redgate designed its solution with a large focus on helping IT teams quickly resolve issues and put out fires thanks to a robust and flexible alert system. The intelligent alerting consists of 40 pre-configured alerts for a wide array of issues, including SQL errors, CPU and memory consumption, performance issues related to queries, low disk space and more. These alerts are also fully customizable so network admins can pinpoint specific problems as they arise. Users can assign alerts according to server, instance or database level.
Many users advocate Redgate SQL Monitor for its intuitive, web-based interface that can be accessed from anywhere. The simple, graphical interface lets users view the most relevant performance metrics to help IT teams identify the root cause of problems so they can begin remediation as quickly as possible.
SQL Sentry from SentryOne is a powerful solution that takes a more classic approach to SQL Server monitoring. Users have access to a real-time dashboard of all critical SQL components and services so admins can manage SQL database instances and ensure high-availability.
SQL sentry offers a wide variety of other valuable features, such as BlockChain Analysis, Deadlock Analysis, an alert system, and extensive reporting. The dashboard collects actionable performance metrics and alerts within a calendar-style view so users can cross-reference the results of its detailed analysis of high-impact queries. With the option to view and compare historical data of a server with real-time metrics, it's easy to create a baseline to aid in optimizing database instances and servers.
Its alerting system rivals Redgate SQL Monitor with an impressive 100 pre-configured alerting conditions, though it may fall behind in the flexibility of customizing alert prompts.
One gripe users often experience with SQL Sentry is the antiquated appearance of the dashboard. But if aesthetics are of no concern, then this makes for a sufficient, comprehensive server monitoring tool.
Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the co-author of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which was published in October 2009. You may reach him through his website.