Third Party Monitoring or Alerting Tools for SQL Server

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In most of the organizations use certain monitoring tools to monitor all or subset of the servers in their environment and the monitoring tool will raise alerts to the DBAs and other groups when a certain alert condition is met. It is very important to have some alert mechanism because it is not possible to manually monitor all the servers 24×7 and the problems can arise at any time. No matter how proactive a DBA team is, still there are unexpected problems with SQL Server either directly caused by SQL Server or due to issues related to Hardware, Network, Operating System or other applications or tools.

One of the important role of SQL Server DBA is to respond to alerts received and fix them in timely fashion based on the severity. Some very senior DBAs may be involved in making decisions on which monitoring product to be used or if a custom monitoring solution is to be developed. Most often or not most organizations prefer using third party monitoring tools to avoid unnecessary costs of developing and maintaining the in house tools.

There are various third party monitoring tools available in the market so we need to choose the correct article which suits our requirement. This article has information regarding the processes or Criteria that can be followed to determine which Third party monitoring tool best suits your environment.

Below are some of the popular 3rd party Monitoring tools available in the market.

SQL Spotlight by Quest – SQL Spotlight from Quest monitoring tool is a very mature tool and provides many features or consists of many functionalities. This tool allows us to customize the alerts, not just the selection of the alerts but also we can customize the thresholds and severity. It can be customized to ignore alerts which are not required and allows to disable the alerts temporarily while the DBA team is working on the issue. This has central server where one can view various reports. There are limited options for level of details for SQL Server Monitoring and there is web based console for monitoring alerts.

SQL Diagnostic Manager by Idera – SQL Diagnostic Manager is one of the most popular and widely used monitoring tool. It provides basic alerting features and performance and server-monitoring options. It Provides a comprehensive view of current performance. Alerts and Thresholds can be configured and alerts can be snoozed during maintenance. This tool provides a central console from where we can manage all the servers and instances and also generate various reports. It is simple to install, configure and use, also the product support is good too. The price of the product is on higher side as the licensing mode in per SQL Server instance.

Microsoft Systems Center 2012 (SCOM) – Systems Center is a very powerful tool that can be used to monitor SQL Servers, Windows Servers and Windows Workstations. This comes with easy to use central management interface and Integrates well with all Microsoft products and can be used on Windows and SQL Servers. We can manage and generate reports from centralized server. However this tool is not easy to configure and lacks monitoring SQL Server compared to other third party monitoring tools. This has a complex licensing model involving per processor licenses.

SQL Monitor by RedGate – SQL Monitor from Red Gate is a lightweight tool which is easy to install and configure and simple to use. This tool is an effective monitoring solution for simple to moderately complex environments. The licensing model of this tool is per instance which makes it costlier compared to other tools with similar features. This can be bundled with other tools like Backup tools and works well.

ApexSQL Monitor – ApexSQL Monitor tool provides alerting and performance monitoring options. All monitored performance parameters can be viewed from the dashboard on central server. We can see real time activity as well as we can configure it to send alerts to the DBA groups for various alerts. ApexSQL Monitor doesn’t install any agents to collect performance metric values. The data is collected using the tools already available in the operating system and SQL Server. This approach eliminates the need for installation of any additional agents, thus avoiding the situation when agent installation is not possible due to insufficient permissions and company policies.

This is applicable on below versions of SQL Server

SQL Server 2005
SQL Server 2008 R2
SQL Server 2012
SQL Server 2014

Hope this was helpful.

Thanks,
SQLServerF1 Team
In-Depth Blogs on SQL Server, Information about SQL Server Conferences and Events, SQL Server Frequently asked questions, SQL Server Trainings.

 

Tips and Process to Choose Best SQL Server Monitoring Products

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In most of the organizations there are some monitoring tools which will monitor all the servers and sends alerts to the DBAs and other groups when a certain alert condition is met. It is very important to have some alert mechanism because it is not possible to manually monitor all the servers 24×7 and the problems can arise at any time. No matter how proactive a DBA team is, still there are unexpected problems with SQL Server either directly caused by SQL Server or due to issues related to Hardware, Network, Operating System or other applications or tools.

One of the important role of SQL Server DBA is to respond to alerts received and fix them in timely fashion based on the severity. Some very senior DBAs may be involved in making decisions on which monitoring product to be used or if a custom monitoring solution is to be developed. Most often or not most organizations prefer using third party monitoring tools to avoid unnecessary costs of developing and maintaining the in house tools.

There are various products or tools available in the market for monitoring SQL Server for various issues and raise alerts by sending E-Mails which later are converted into tickets for DBAs and other teams to handle and resolve the issues.

Below are some of the Tips or Best processes or Criteria that can be followed to determine which Third party monitoring tool best suits your environment.

precision of alerts – It is important to test and make sure that the monitoring tools detects the problems correctly and categorizes it into correct severity and sends the alerts without any fail. There should be mechanism which keep check for the issue periodically and raise the alerts again if it has not been resolved. Monitoring tool should not send false alerts or it should not keep sending alerts even after the issue is resolved.

Defining Alerts – There may be many predefined alerts provided by most of the monitoring tools, but it may not be useful for all organizations, so there should be options to choose which alerts to be activated and which can be left disabled. Also, there may be special requirement in some organizations to check and raise alerts for issues not defined in the monitoring tools, so the tools should have provision to define our own alerts too.

Types of Alerts – The alerts raised or checks performed should not be just limited to SQL Server, but it should also contains related alerts like Operating System, Network, Disk Space, Server Performance, Memory etc. SQL Server is dependent on the underlying server and OS, so the monitoring tool should also check and raise alerts for these issues too. The alerts should be categorized into different types like critical or warning and the alerts are to be raised accordingly and should be resent on a particular frequency based on the alert type.

Usability – Installing the tool, Configuring and managing it should be easy and clear instruction and documentation should be available. Also, it is important that the tool should allow different alerts to be sent to different groups. For example, OS, Network issues need to be routed to those groups along with SQL team and SQL Server issues to be routed only to the SQL teams.

Scalability – As organizations grow, there may be more number of servers implemented, thus can lead to the requirement of the monitoring tool to support large number of servers and should work seamlessly.

Reporting – There should be provision to have good reporting options where in the DBA and other teams can see the reports including current activity, and historical data. There should be provisions to create custom reports too.

Support – It is important to have a strong support for the product as if there is some issues with the product, then monitoring may be down for a particular server or for many servers leaving the environment exposed and can cause large outages.

This is applicable on below versions of SQL Server

SQL Server 2005
SQL Server 2008 R2
SQL Server 2012
SQL Server 2014

Hope this was helpful.

Thanks,
SQLServerF1 Team
In-Depth Blogs on SQL Server, Information about SQL Server Conferences and Events, SQL Server Frequently asked questions, SQL Server Trainings.

 

3rd Party Backup and Restore/Recovery Tools for SQL Server

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One of the most important responsibility of SQL Server Database Administrators (DBAs) is planning, implementing and testing Backups and Restore/Recovery in SQL Server. There could be sudden disaster or corruption in which case the database needs to be restored and recovered with minimal data loss, thus it make the planning and testing of Backup and Restore process very important.

SQL Server ships with database backup capabilities, but it is on server to server basis and there is no central solution where backups and restores can be managed from a central server. Thus there are various Backup, Restore and Recovery tools for SQL Server are available in the market with various features. More information regarding choosing best backup/restore tool can be found in this article

Below are some of the popular Backup and Restore/Recovery 3rd party tools for SQL Server.

NetVault LiteSpeed from Quest – LiteSpeed tool is one of the most mature, feature-rich SQL Server backup products available. It is very widely used around the world by many organizations in almost all the industries. They also provide an excellent support and regular updates to their product. It provides integration with TSM, Adjustable Backup compression ratios, backup Encryption, • Central backup repository, supports Object level restores, etc. There are some discounts of about 20-20% offered for bulk licenses. Price is on higher side, but has many good features and is a reliable product.

SQL Safe from Idera – SQL Safe is cost effective with the features provided. This tool supports TSM integration, and is capable of object-level restores, central management for backups, etc. Object level recovery is not supported with this tool.

SQL Backup and HyperBac from RedGate – RedGate has two backup/restore products which are SQL Backup and HyperBac. same licensing applies for both the products. These are highly cost effective backup products available in the market and can be bundled with other tools in your environment. There are some limitations to the tools as it does not provide TSM integration.

There are other backup/restore tools available from CommVault which is Simpana, “SQL Server Backup” from DataBK.

What does SQL Server Backups Consists of? – SQL Server Backups copies the data or log records from a SQL Server database or its transaction log to a backup device, such as a disk, to create a data backup or log backup. This copy of SQL Server data can be used to restore and recover the data after a failure. A backup of SQL Server data is created at the level of a database or one or more of its files or filegroups. Table-level backups cannot be created. Recovery model of the database determines what kind of Log backups can be performed on a database, thus affects the restore process and amount of data that can be recovered after a failure.

This is applicable on below versions of SQL Server

SQL Server 2005
SQL Server 2008 R2
SQL Server 2012
SQL Server 2014

Hope this was helpful.

Thanks,
SQLServerF1 Team
In-Depth Blogs on SQL Server, Information about SQL Server Conferences and Events, SQL Server Frequently asked questions, SQL Server Trainings.

 

Tips to Choose Best SQL Server Third-Party Backup and Restore Products or Tools

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Backups in SQL Server are one of the most important responsibility of SQL Server Database Administrators (DBAs). There could be sudden disaster or corruption in which case the database needs to be restored and recovered with minimal data loss, thus it make the planning and testing of Backup and Restore process very important.

What are SQL Server Backups: – SQL Server Backups copies the data or log records from a SQL Server database or its transaction log to a backup device, such as a disk, to create a data backup or log backup. This copy of SQL Server data can be used to restore and recover the data after a failure. A backup of SQL Server data is created at the level of a database or one or more of its files or filegroups. Table-level backups cannot be created. Recovery model of the database determines what kind of Log backups can be performed on a database, thus affects the restore process and amount of data that can be recovered after a failure.

Although Backups and restores can be performed using SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) and using T-SQL queries, but in many environments, to make the Backup and Restore process more manageable they use Third-Party Backup tools to perform backups and restores on SQL Server databases. Although there are many third-tools it is important to choose the tools which suits best for our environment.

Below are some of the parameters which can be used to determine the best Backup and Restore/Revoery tools for your environment.

Integration with TSM – One of the important part of a Backup/Testore product is its integration with the TSM which allows you to backup and restore directly to the TSM Server. Backing up directly to TSM allows saving disk space and IO bandwidth savings. Another benefit is that the direct restores can be performed on to other servers which saves time and space.

Backup Compression – Starting with SQL Server 2008, backup compression feature was introduced. However backup tools provide their own compression methods where in the backups can be further compressed and also backups are compressed on SQL Server versions which does not have this feature available.

Backup Encryption – Encryption of SQL Server Backups was introduced with SQL Server 2014, but there are many backup tools which provide custom encryption features which encrypts and stores the SQL Server backups.

Usability – Although various backup and restore tools provide variety of features, but it makes lot of difference when it comes to the ease at which DBAs can install, configure, manage and use these tools. If Backup tool installation or configuration is complicated then it will not be adopted by DBAs as they will not be comfortable using it or will have to spend lot of time on managing it.

Product Support – One of the key factor evaluated before making a decision to but the Backup or Restore tools is the level and kind of support option available for the product. Some of the tools which provide very good support often are mostly used in the organizations.

Price/Cost of the Product – Depending on the features provided the price or cost of the tools vary. This is a very important factor to decided weather to go ahead in buying the product. Over a period of time many new backup and restore tools were developed by various organizations which brought more competition this reduced the cost or price of these tools. Also various discounts are provided based on number of licenses brought and kind of servers the tools are being used in.

Degree of Restores – SQL Server provided Backups or restores to be performed at database, files or filegroup level, but the 3rd party backup and restore tools along with standard will also support object level restores, where in one can restore a particular table or stored procedure, which is more useful and helpful in Development or Test environments.

This is applicable on below versions of SQL Server

SQL Server 2005
SQL Server 2008 R2
SQL Server 2012
SQL Server 2014

Hope this was helpful.

Thanks,
SQLServerF1 Team
In-Depth Blogs on SQL Server, Information about SQL Server Conferences and Events, SQL Server Frequently asked questions, SQL Server Trainings.

 
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