There are a lot of options when it comes to selecting a database performance monitoring tool. To ensure you are using the best tool for your organization, you first need to make sure you are using the right type of performance monitoring solution, and then you need to assess your performance needs and goals.
Types of Database Monitoring Tools
Database performance monitoring tools come in several varieties. Which type you choose can be a matter of preference or necessity. Some examples include:
Vendor-provided software: Commercial SQL server performance monitoring tools offer a wide range of features and customization options, and they are priced to fit most budgets.
On-premises: Some highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, financial services, and government, still insist on keeping servers and database monitoring on-premises.
Cloud-hosted: Cloud-based performance monitoring tools are flexible, scalable, secure, and easy to use. They also can monitor both cloud and on-premises server and database performance.
Free vs. subscription: Several performance monitoring tool providers offer both free and subscription-based versions. Though many of the features are the same for both versions, often the free version limits the number of servers you can monitor and is ad-supported.
Assess Your Performance Monitoring Goals and Needs
Now that you know what type of performance monitoring tool works best with your environment and budget, it’s time to take a close look at your performance goals and desired database monitoring features.
High availability: If your users can’t access your databases, they won’t use your product for long. Select a monitoring system that weathers failures without missing a beat and lets you know immediately what instance failed and where.
Response and resolution times: Monitoring response and resolution times is a critical function of a performance monitoring tool. Pick one that does more than spit out metrics. Find a solution that looks deep inside the instance to isolate performance issues quickly.
Ease of set-up and configuration: Today’s cloud-based database performance monitoring tools allow you to set up and configure your system in minutes, not hours, days, or weeks. You also have access to the latest version every time you log in, which cuts down on maintenance time.
Mobile monitoring: Gone are the days of driving to the office at 3 a.m. Look for a tool that includes a mobile app so you receive alarms and can get started troubleshooting from anywhere, any time.
Query tuning: Query tuning will save you hours of frustration and mitigate issues before and as they occur. Pick a solution that includes these features:
- Query plan analysis to detect issues and offer potential solutions to fix them
- Query history panel for tracking changes to your SQL server
- Query plan visualization to isolate operations that are causing inefficiencies
Health checks: A performance monitoring tool that runs regular system health checks will identify performance problems on the server and pinpoint and correct issues affecting security, configuration, memory, disaster recovery, and I/O.
Smart alarms: Smart alarms go beyond the function of standard alarms by providing details about what was happening immediately before and after the alarm and offering possible causes for the issue.
Customizable alerts and thresholds: Selecting a tool that lets you customize alerts will cut down on alert fatigue. Minimize the number of alerts by adjusting thresholds, ignoring issues that tend to trigger false alarms, and setting severity limits for triggers.
Other Considerations When Deciding on a Database Performance Monitoring Tool
Defining your goals and feature needs is a large part of selecting a performance monitoring tool, but there are a few other things to consider.
DBAs are increasingly becoming more involved in the business side of their organizations. This makes understanding your company’s business needs a critical factor in selecting a performance monitoring tool. Ask yourself these questions to help narrow your options and make an appropriate choice:
- How many servers do we need to monitor?
- Who are our users?
- What do our servers do? What apps depend on them?
- What are the implications of poor performance (i.e., do the databases support mission-critical processes)?
As discussed earlier, your performance monitoring environment requirements will play a part in the type of tool you select. The location of your servers—whether on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment—may influence your needs.
You will also need to take into account your organization’s reporting and analytics requirements and preferences. Are you bound by heavy regulations such as HIPAA? Are you metrics-driven? Do you prefer an at-a-glance view of performance diagnostics and analytics? Reporting and analysis features can vary widely among products, so be sure to look under the hood before you make your final decision.
Whether you are questioning the fit of your current performance monitoring solution or you are a first-time buyer, these tips can help you pinpoint which tool will best help you maintain a high-performing database system.