As you may know, Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database management system (RDBMS) developed by Microsoft. Several industries rely on SQL database servers for data storage and access because it supports a wide range of transaction processing, business intelligence, and analytics applications in corporate IT environments. To have a fine-tuned SQL Server system, a database administrator must proactively implement Microsoft SQL Server monitoring to ensure that the performance of their organization’s SQL Server is always running optimally.

With all that Microsoft SQL has to offer, you’ll want to make sure that the configurations you choose fit the needs of your system. You’ll also want to be notified about metrics that are out of the ordinary value range so you can take adequate troubleshooting actions. Want to be sure your SQL Server is performing as well as it should be? The following is a list of key metrics you need to monitor in your SQL Server:

1. SQL Server performance counters

Your SQL Server is comprised of many database files where thousands of records are stored and retrieved daily. Every database file needs a lot of memory allocated for it. Since these SQL data files process millions of transactions each day, server overload and crashes are constant threats to the integrity of this data.

With that in mind, you should know which SQL Server performance counters to monitor. Below are some important parameters to consider for effective Microsoft SQL Server monitoring: 

  • Page reads/min: This metric offers you an understanding about the load on system memory at a given time. This metric measures the amount of pages read from memory per minute, so comparing this metric over time gives you a clear idea about whether there is a problem with system memory.

  • Cache hit ratio: This metric shows how frequently your SQL Server accesses pages from cache. If this metric displays a higher value (such as 100), this indicates that the pages were accessed from memory and not from the disk. A lower value could indicate a bottleneck in system memory. Additionally, you want to keep an eye out for page life expectancy to better understand the cache hit ratio. The longer the page life expectancy, the longer it stays in memory (as opposed to the disk) and the better the cache hit ratio.

  • User connections: This metric represents the number of users connected to your SQL Server. Analyzing this data over time can offer insights into the load patterns on system memory and identify related issues quicker.

  • Average lock wait time: To manage several users on a system, SQL Server will lock resources from time to time, meaning processes could be kept waiting until the resources are unlocked. Requests should normally not have to wait on locks. Since this is primarily an indication of load time, ensure that this metric’s value stays as close to zero as possible.

  • Top queries by CPU and I/O, and top components by memory: Analyzing and correlating each of these base metrics over time can reveal a lot about performance patterns and often help in understanding the root cause of issues. Also, understanding your growing disk space needs from these performance trends can help in proper capacity planning and resource usage.

  • CPU and database disk utilization: Every database in an SQL Server contains two operating system files—data files and log files. Data files consist of data and objects, whereas log files are comprised of transactions performed in the database. That being said, measuring SQL Server memory stats from the database disk and CPU utilization details is among the primary components involved in Microsoft SQL Server monitoring. This information is used for configuring alarms so you’ll be able to easily detect server overload or improper resource allocation.

  • Number of virtual log files:‌ Each SQL Server database has a Transaction Log that’s composed of one or more physical files, inside which are structures known as Virtual Log Files (VLFs). VLFs are where the actual log records for the database are stored. Whenever a server crashes due to overload, the SQL Server uses VLFs for recovery. However, the SQL Server shouldn’t have too many VLFs inside the Transaction Log. Having too many small VLFs can slow down the recovery process that a database goes through restoring a backup or starting up.

2. SQL Server jobs

Jobs are a fixed series of actions that are performed by an SQL Server Agent. There are typically thousands of database files running, with numerous jobs scheduled to run simultaneously. Monitor stats like the number of jobs that are scheduled to run, the last status of jobs that have run during the current session, and the number of jobs which are currently running or idle. Keeping an eye on these job metrics will help you identify server overload and other performance anomalies.

3. SQL database replication

Replication is the process of copying and distributing database files from one database to another and synchronizing between databases in order to maintain consistency. Monitoring database replication parameters is important. You should constantly check the replication process so you can quickly detect any possible irregularities in database behavior.

4. SQL user activity

Since multiple users might concurrently access the database, it’s essential to keep an eye on the user statistics of your SQL Server. Track user accesses to the database to make sure there aren’t any anomalies. Pay close attention to other activities like changes in user privileges; you don’t want a user incorrectly provided elevated privileges.

5. SQL configurations over time

Keeping an eye on the various configurations within SQL Server is another important aspect of SQL Server management. While database performance metrics offer insights into the health and availability of the server, configuration details allow admins to correlate these configurations with the performance attributes, and reconfigure various procedures and queries based on requirements.‌ However, most server configuration options are dynamically configured by Microsoft SQL Server, therefore it’s necessary to assign access permissions cautiously. Check up on your configurations from time to time to ensure optimal performance.

Simplifying SQL Server monitoring

While there are numerous Microsoft SQL Server monitoring tools you can choose from to gain insight into the performance of your server, it’s important to evaluate these solutions based on your business requirements. Each solution has a set of monitoring capabilities suited to different environments.

Applications Manager offers out-of-the-box Microsoft SQL Server monitoring with in-depth insights that allow you to easily identify problematic nodes using root cause analysis. Thousands of admins rely on Applications Manager for their MS SQL Server monitoring requirements and to power their business operations.

Want to join their ranks? Get started with a free, 30-day trial.