Performance management involves dozens of diverse tasks, but a handful are probably at the top of any DBA’s list of favorites. That’s because database administrators are inherently short of time and typically turn to the tools that give them the most efficient solutions. One of the top ways to optimize any computer system is SQL server performance monitoring. If the term is new to you, don’t worry. You’ve probably heard of it under other names or even done parts of the task but not realized it at the time. For starters, it helps to know, formally, what SQL performance monitoring is and which of the many tools are best.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet for those who need to brush up on their SQL knowledge.

What is SQL Server Performance Monitoring?

The overall goal of this kind of audit is to make sure the server is performing consistently. It’s actually a process that consists of several distinct tasks, each of which is indispensable to ultimate success. There are dozens of pieces to the SQL server optimization chore, the four key parts being monitoring, diagnostics, root cause analysis and trend analysis. Taken together, these four steps are usually thought of as a single job of optimizing the server.

What Role Does Each Part Play in the Process?

Monitoring is a rather self-explanatory activity because it involves the DBA using specific thresholds, applied to perhaps hundreds of performance metrics in order to sniff out strange or extreme behaviors. The pre-set points set off alarms when they are crossed and tell the DBA that there is a problem within the system. Usually, the alarms offer short, contextual descriptions of what went wrong.

Diagnostics are the actual tools that a system administrator uses to find out where the problem is located. They also tell the technician what data will be needed to resolve the issue. When it’s time to look past the immediate symptoms of the disorder and see what the base cause of the malfunction is, the tech uses root cause analysis. This tool helps prevent future occurrences by identifying the basic origin of the trouble. To keep the system up and running for the long haul, trend analysis is the preferred tool. It helps find trouble before it happens and is able to see whether a particular issue is a one-time problem or something that is likely to happen again.

What Are the Best Tools for the Job?

Admins are always on the hunt for weapons that offer plenty of bang for the buck. When you are able to identify a solution with a reasonable price tag, is scalable and fully flexible for your servers’ needs, then you are ready to begin. The retail market for cloud-driven solutions is currently expanding at a lightning pace. One thing many technicians are doing is setting as many routine tasks, like error log inspection, database verification and disk space control to automatic. Effective tools can be built in-house if your company has the capability. Otherwise, you’ll need to choose between free online versions to download or buy a commercial product.