Data is everything! We’ve all heard that bold statement which, as a matter of fact, happens to be true. But not only that, data is everywhere. It seems that today, each and every organization relies on huge amounts of data for every aspect of their existence. The corollary of this is that databases are present in almost every organization and the data they hold is often an organization’s most valuable asset. For that reason, they must be kept at all times in optimal working order. The best way to accomplish that is to use some form of database monitoring tool. To help you pick the best one for your specific situation, we’re about to review some of the best database monitoring tools we could find.
Before we explore the actual tools, we’ll step aside briefly and discuss the concept of database monitoring. It will help us be on the same page as we review the products. We’ll also discuss the different elements of databases that can be monitored. As you’ll see it goes down to the hardware and climbs all the way up to stored procedures. We’ll finally hit the core of the matter and review some of the very best tools on the market to monitor databases.
Database Monitoring – What Is It All About?
Just like data is everything to an organization, it sometimes feels like monitoring is everything to network administrators. The reason is simple, modern networks have become so complex and are comprised of so many components that it is impossible to keep an eye on everything. Even more so in larger organizations where administrators are often sitting in a different room—if not a different country—than the servers. This is one of the reasons why the concept of monitoring tools saw the light.
Monitoring database is not unlike monitoring just about any other IT component. There is one primary goal to database monitoring (or any monitoring, for that matter): ensuring that the data is available when needed. It may sound simple but it’s actually rather complex due in part to the sheer number and variety of components.
While a database is an abstract concept, it is made of very concrete things. From hardware to software, database monitoring tool must always ensure that all components are available and operating within normal range. When considering the importance of databases, the error margin is very slim.
What Is There To Monitor?
Let’s try to have somewhat of a deeper look at what there actually is to monitor on a database. The most basic element of a database is the hardware it runs on. Just like any computer, there are quite a few operational parameters of interest. We could think, for example, of CPU load, available memory or processor core temperature. In fact, monitoring the server running a database is not different than monitoring any other server.
The next component of a database server that needs to be monitored is the underlying operating systems. Some databases run on Windows, other run on Linux or some other flavour of Unix. No matter what operating system there is, there are several important parameters to be monitored. Right off the top of my head, disk space or disk usage comes to mind. Just like the hardware, the OS-level monitoring of databases is not different from any other type of monitoring.
Last but definitely not least is the monitoring of the actual database. At its core, the database is just another piece of software running on the server. The most basic monitoring, then, is to ensure that the software is running at all time. But most tools go way deeper than that. Some will check the structure of databases. Some will measure its response time. Others can even execute stored test procedures.
The Best Tools For Monitoring Databases
We’ve tried to find the very best database monitoring tools on the market and came up with several different products that we think deserve that we give them a deeper look. Most products are paid products however, most also have a free trial version.
SolarWinds is recognized by most as one of the best makers of network and system administration tools. It makes a broad array of tools covering almost every topic. The company’s flagship product, called the Network Performance Monitor, consistently scores among the best network bandwidth monitoring tool.
The SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer (DPA) monitors and analyzes your SQL database instances. The system uses a Response Time Analysis method which puts the primary focus on the time between a query requests and the corresponding response from the database and analyzes wait types and events to pinpoint the bottlenecks of databases.
- FREE Trial: SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer
- Download Link: https://www.solarwinds.com/database-performance-analyzer
The tool’s easy to use interface will assist you in finding issues quickly and easily. The main screen will let you view database instances, wait times, query advice, CPU (with warning and critical alerts), memory, disk and sessions.
When drilling down, the trend dashboard of a specific database instance shows you in a graphical format the total wait times (or your choice of average or typical day wait times) for users over the course of a month. On that graph, each colour represents an individual SQL statement, giving you a visually appealing representation of which statement takes the longest to run.
The are enough features in the SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer that a whole post would be required to cover them all. Let’s see what some of the most important are.
Single Point Of Monitoring For All Your Databases
The SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer works with Microsoft SQL server as well as most major products including Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, DB2, and ASE. It also supports both physical and on-premises servers, Virtual Machines (running under VMware or Hyper-V) and cloud-based databases.
The DPA allows you to monitor as many database instances as you want. It can easily scale from one to a thousand instances by simply upgrading its license.
Active Monitoring Of All Active Sessions
The tool’s highly detailed native polling engine records everything that’s happening within your database instances with no additional load to the database themselves and without requiring a local monitoring agent, thereby reducing—if not eliminating—the risk that the tool could impact the performance of the database.
Tracking, Monitoring, And Analysis Of Database Components
This tool automatically correlates queries, users, files, plans, objects, wait times, storage and date/time/hour/minute to accurately discovery and diagnose problems on the fly.
Database Tuning Advice
The tool can give you advice for tuning individual database instances and ensure they are always running at their peak performance. This is accomplished by analyzing all parameters of an instance and recommending a course of action to optimize certain queries or whole database instances.
Prices for the SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer start at $1 995 and vary according to the number and type of database instances to monitor. If you want to try the product before purchasing it, a fully functional 14-day trial version is available.
2. Paessler PRTG
The Paessler Router Traffic Grapher (PRTG) can monitor all systems, devices, traffic, and applications of your IT infrastructure. It is an all-inclusive package that, due to its integrated nature, is quicker and easier to install than many network monitoring tools. Paessler claims you could start monitoring within 2 minutes. The tool comes with several user interfaces. You can choose between a Windows enterprise console, an Ajax-based web interface, and mobile apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
One of PRTG’s best feature is its autodiscovery system. It will scan network segments and automatically recognize a wide range of devices and systems, creating sensors from predefined device templates. There’s a map feature that will let you create custom maps with your monitoring data, offering a unique way of displaying data. When it comes to alerting, they are highly flexible and customizable. The client apps allow you to get push notifications directly to your device. You can also set up notifications via email or SMS. There also a powerful API lets you write your own notification scripts.
This program can monitor many databases such as Microsoft SQL, MySQL, Oracle, and PostgreSQL. It does it through the use of database sensors that are pre-configured out of the box. You can use this tool to monitor the execution time of a SQL query. The tool measures the time taken from the moment the connection was established to the end of the connection. This allows you to clearly see the performance of your database under pressure.
PRTG has a relatively simple pricing structure. There’s a free version which is full-featured but will limit your monitoring ability to 100 sensors. Each parameter counts as one sensor. Monitoring bandwidth on each port of a 48-port switch will require 48 sensors. Likewise, a SQL sensor is required per database instance. For more than 100 sensors, you’ll need to purchase a license. Prices vary according to the number of sensors from $1 600 for 500 sensors to $14 500 for unlimited sensors. There’s also a 30-day trial version which allows for unlimited sensors but will revert back to the 100 sensors free version once the trial period is over.
3. Idera Diagnostic Manager For SQL Server
Idera Diagnostic Manager for SQL Server monitors the performance of SQL databases in both physical and virtual environments. This tool provides performance statistics, metrics and alerts from physical servers as well as from virtual machines and their underlying host hardware. It monitors multiple operational parameters such as CPU, memory, hard disk usage and space, and network usage. The product also offers proactive monitoring of SQL queries along with transnational SQL monitoring. It can also provide recommendations for the health of SQL databases.
Idera Diagnostic Manager for SQL Server comes with a web-based interface and mobile apps for Android and iOS phones and tablets as well as the Blackberry. It provides real-time and historical data about SQL server instances, allowing administrators to make changes on the fly within the mobile app. Although the mobile apps are not as feature-rich as the web console, one can execute several administrative tasks such as viewing and killing processes, starting and stopping jobs as needed and running queries to resolve issues right from within them.
Other features of Idera Diagnostic Manager for SQL Server include easy integration with SCOM using the Management Pack add-on, a predictive alerting system which is built to avoid any false alerts and an excellent query performance monitoring function that can pinpoint queries that are not efficient and performing poorly.
Prices for Idera Diagnostic Manager for SQL Server start at $1 996 per database instance and a fully functional 14-day trial is available.
4. SQL Power Tools
SQL Power Tools from SQL Power is an agentless database performance analysis solution. Its publisher claims it has the lowest impact on your servers. SQL Power states that their monitoring won’t load your databases by more than 1%. This means that you don’t need to install any monitoring component on your servers. Furthermore, the product inserts no table and no stored procedure on the database server. All the analysis is done completely remotely. It also won’t load your servers with millions of queries which could seriously affect their performance.
This tool is loaded with features such as dashboard and heat map views of your server farm performance which are viewable from a browser or a mobile device. It computes a daily baseline analysis of SQL wait times, performance counters and job run times. It can also perform ad hoc comparison of SQL and I/O wait times, performance counters and job run times between servers and time periods. You can you drill down into SQL wait times of poorly performing SQL queries, helping you pinpoint any resource contention which can be causing SQL queries not to complete on a timely basis.
Prices for SQL power Tool vary between $2 000 and $750 per database with the price per instance getting lower as you purchase more licenses. And if you prefer to try the product, a 3-week evaluation version can be obtained by contacting SQL Power.
5. SQL Sentry
SQL Sentry from SentryOne is a popular solution for database performance monitoring. It collects and presents actionable performance metrics and alerts and displays essential events on a calendar-style display allowing for easy cross-referencing In addition to monitoring, the tool can be used to quickly resolve issues by running detailed analysis right from the tool’s dashboard. The product’s performance dashboard—which features an exclusive, patented view of storage performance—displays the results of the detailed analysis of high-impact queries.
The SQL Sentry dashboard is sometimes criticized for its antiquated look but it will show all your the critical SQL components and services in a neatly presented way, helping you manage your SQL database instances and ensure their availability. The tool also has the option of viewing the historical data of their server, comparing it to current real-time data. These features help in generating a baseline and optimizing database instances and servers.
The price for SQL Sentry is $2 495 per instance plus an annual maintenance fee of $499. The product is also available as a subscription-based service if you prefer that pricing model as a cost of $125/month. For trial purposes, a free 15-day trial is also available.
6. SQL Monitor
SQL Monitor is part of a set of tools from Red Gate software that you can use to monitor, manage, change, manipulate and optimize SQL databases. It can help find issues before they become problems. The product packs a lot of features. Among them, it provides administrators with an overview of their SQL server farm. The tool also features powerful alerting capabilities, letting you know about issues before they have a noticeable impact. Reporting is another important feature of the product and it will create tailored reports about your servers’ health. The tool’s performance analysis functions will quickly let you see what has the biggest impact on your system. When diagnosing issues, it can help you uncover obstacles and find root causes.
SQL Monitor’s easy to use dashboard lets you view all your database instances in one convenient place. The client also lets you directly access them within seconds without having to remotely connect to them using a VPN or another method. The dashboard has drill-down functionality, allowing you to display more detailed statistics about your databases such as wait times, CPU usage and disk I/O in just a couple of clicks.
The base price of SQL Monitor is $1495 per database instance. You get a 15% discount when you purchase between five and nine licenses simultaneously and a 20% discount if you purchase ten or more. Prices include the first year of support from Red Gate. A 14-day trial is available if you want to give the tool a test run. An online demo is also available.