SQL database maintenance can be both time-consuming and prone to manual error. But to run properly, SQL Server databases do require regular maintenance—you shouldn’t underestimate just how important it can be for your systems. Without it, you can end up with significant performance issues for your applications and negative impacts for end users.
If you optimize performance through proactive SQL database maintenance, you can better ensure smooth operations, functional queries, and accurate data, all of which contribute to a reliable SQL Server. There are many ways to perform effective SQL Server database maintenance, but the most surefire way is to invest in SQL database repair software.
In this article, prepared for both experienced and beginner database administrators looking for good tools supporting database maintenance and management, you’ll learn the following:
- What database maintenance is and why it’s so important
- The parts making up the process of database maintenance
- Tools I recommend for monitoring the performance of the database and assessing what actions should be taken to optimize it
In this article, we’ll discuss what I consider to be two of the best SQL database maintenance tools: SolarWinds® Database Performance Analyzer (DPA) and SolarWinds SQL Sentry® (software as a service solution). Personally, I’m convinced both tools can help you improve performance and optimize your SQL Server database maintenance plan, with SQL Sentry built for the Microsoft environment and DPA offering broader cross-platform compatibility. To make things easier, the tools have free trials—there are versions for installation on the server and for working as a software as a service (SaaS) solution. Here’s a DPA free trial and a SQL Sentry free trial available for a 14-day download.
SQL Server database maintenance helps you optimize how your database functions and how queries run to ensure bottlenecks, resource contention, and other issues aren’t slowing down performance.
Performing maintenance can be a manual or automated process designed to help you optimize the size of your database. The plan or program runs at the same specified time, usually every day, to generate consistent and up-to-date information. Depending on your needs, you can configure run times and frequency.
SQL database maintenance is usually achieved by performing a series of data summarizations.
A data summarization involves gathering and aggregating all the SQL data in the specified time period and calculating new statistical values based on the aggregated data. The data itself is then discarded, leaving behind only the aggregated statistics.
In addition to data summarization, you’ll need to run cleanup tasks related to various SQL Server elements, including deleted items. This enables you to save additional space on top of the space saved from data summarization. Keep in mind the more granular your data summarizations and the longer your retention period, the larger your database will become.
How Does SQL Database Maintenance Work?
SQL Server database maintenance works by enabling you to schedule automated jobs. Some of the various operations include the following:
It’s important to keep your indexes defragmented. You can run an index reorganize operation, which enables you to defragment your indexes with minimal system resources. Index reorganization is best for indexes with fragmentation below 20 to 30% or if you plan on doing an index statistics update in the future—because index reorganization only reorganizes the leaf-level index pages, it’s not efficient when you have a large fragmentation. Index statistics are also not updated during index reorganization.
When fragmentation is high, you should use the index rebuild approach. Index rebuilding can happen online or offline. The online index rebuild process consists of a preparation phase, build phase, and final declaration phase. When rebuilding an index offline, clustered and nonclustered indexes alike can’t be accessed.
Gathering statistics is important and can help you develop strong query execution plans. There are two key kinds of statistics: index statistics, which are always generated with the creation of a new index, and column statistics. Column statistics are built by SQL Server and can give you insight into data distribution so you can determine the best way to execute a specific query. It’s critical to include a task in your database maintenance plan making sure the most up-to-date SQL database statistics are in use.
It’s important to ensure the integrity and consistency of your SQL Server. Usually, checks are scheduled by default without any additional tweaks. To make the most of consistency and database integrity checks, however, you should customize them to fit your organization’s individual needs and characteristics.
The maintenance process also includes other repair and cleanup tasks, like backing up database and transaction logs. You could even shrink log files and other data by removing empty pages, which can help you save space. It’s important to set up a plan to ensure all these tasks are performed completely and accurately.
SQL Server has a built-in tool known as the Maintenance Plan Wizard, which enables you to create and execute scheduled maintenance tasks. However, the Maintenance Plan Wizard is limited—it merely lets you schedule jobs, not enforce their success or optimize them. To continuously improve SQL Server database maintenance and ensure operations are run in the most efficient way, turn to an automated tool.
Recommended SQL Database Repair Software
SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer and SQL Sentry are two excellent SQL database maintenance tools, and both are designed to help you discover and troubleshoot complications. The primary difference between the two is SQL Sentry is a SaaS solution and focuses on the Microsoft Data Platform for visibility across SQL Server and Azure SQL. DPA offers broad database support, including not just Microsoft databases but databases on the Orion® Platform, Oracle, IBM, MySQL, and many others.
With SQL Sentry, you get the features you need for database performance monitoring. Get visibility into your databases with at-a-glance dashboard views and an alerting and response system designed to help you stay apprised of issues. SQL Sentry is built for problem-solving, enabling fast analysis for the root causes of slowdowns. It’s built to help you find and fix high-impact queries first. For instance, you can resolve SQL Server deadlocks (involving resource contention), analyze TempDB health and utilization, track Always On Availability Groups, and optimize your queries. In addition, SQL Sentry offers contextual information so you can see issues in the operating system or virtual environment potentially having an impact on your database. The tool’s predictive analysis also helps you forecast storage capacity in your Microsoft environment to proactively prevent issues. One interesting feature of this tool is its Outlook-style calendar for managing scheduled events and tracking down resource contention.
SolarWinds DPA offers similarly powerful features for database maintenance. This software allows for cross-platform insights for cloud and on-premises databases across various vendors. The dashboards offer real-time data, historical data, and in-depth details, and you can also use the dashboards to set up alerts and ensure you never miss an issue. This database software is built to make maintenance seamless by offering the insights you need for database optimization, including identifying bottlenecks and locating root causes. In fact, DPA includes machine learning features designed to enable smart anomaly detection in database performance. DPA also includes advisors built to help with checking index fragmentation and SQL query optimization, enabling faster and more successful mitigation efforts. One big advantage of DPA is you can integrate it with tools like PerfStack™ and AppStack™ through the Orion Platform.
Overall, by leveraging easy-to-maneuver interfaces, both SQL Sentry and DPA enable you to easily find and use vital SQL Server maintenance information. These SQL database repair tools are built to let you view critical SQL Server performance data via visualizations like charts, graphs, and diagrams. This enables you to pinpoint problematic SQL statements and address them quickly without interrupting functionality. In both SQL Sentry and DPA, these visualizations and other critical metrics can be found on intuitive and centralized platforms.
By leveraging these capabilities, both DPA and SQL Sentry enable you to proactively monitor database performance and prepare for whatever SQL Server maintenance issues lie ahead. This helps free up staff members so they can focus on optimizing overall SQL Server operations, and proactive monitoring gives you a leg up when it comes to solving repetitive and similar problems in SQL Server.
Database maintenance is a critical aspect of ensuring a fully functional, well-organized, and properly sized SQL Server. A SQL Server database maintenance plan consists of running maintenance tasks consistently and correctly through automation so you can easily collect and understand all resulting SQL Server data. The most effective tools will help you optimize your existing maintenance jobs to improve SQL database maintenance for a more productive future.
When it comes to SQL database repair software, SolarWinds SQL Sentry (a SaaS solution) and Database Performance Analyzer are two of the best SQL Server maintenance tools available. DPA and SQL Sentry can help with database maintenance by allowing you to view and analyze critical information via visualizations and proactively monitor your SQL Server performance for indications of poor maintenance. Both platforms leverage easy-to-use and accessible dashboards and interfaces, making it easy for team members across your enterprise to view critical information. Download a 14-day free trial of DPA and SQL Sentry today!