When was the last time you looked under the bonnet of your SQL Server? We often have this image in our mind of software as a set-and-forget service, we build the system we need at the time and then sit back and let it do its thing. However, unlike a lot of software services, SQL servers DO require maintenance. Just like your car engine, there are many moving parts which can suffer from wear and tear. And like the engine, keeping your servers in optimum condition with regular maintenance can avoid major issues down the road.

Why maintenance is important

Speed up your system

Have you started to notice applications slowing down? Do tasks that use to be instantaneous now feel like they take forever? The reason for this can be the SQL databases themselves. Even if databases start their life performing nice and quickly, over time as more data is added and the database grows in size, SQL Server may find that alternate execution paths become more optimal. Where once a scan was the most efficient way to parse a small dataset, indexes are now required. Or as the nature of queries evolve, new indexes must be implemented. Even where indexes already exist, these must be regularly maintained to avoid being fragmented and can also impacting on query performance.

But performance issues can also manifest outside of individual databases, within the server or hardware environment. It’s only through regular reviews of slow running queries, missing index recommendations, costly queries and SQL Server wait states that your SQL server will continue to operate at peak performance and avoid costly delays.

See the warning signs

Errors happen, and when they do the downtime can be devastating to a business. Having dealt with the fall out for major corporations, I can tell you it’s not pretty. Even worse, it’s often avoidable. As things start to go awry, before the actual failure, signs begin appearing in areas such as the error logs, toxic wait states start to emerge in the DMVs – all there in plain sight, for those who know what they’re looking for. If identified early, it might just be a simple fix that can avoid a bigger disaster down the track.

Regular check-ups aim to identify all these things and more. They provide valuable insights into prospective problem conditions before they have a chance to fully manifest into costly problems.

Check your backups

Let’s say the worst actual happens and your database is corrupted. The first thing you do is check your backups, only to find they can’t be restored; maybe they’re incomplete and missing a log backup somewhere, corrupted or worse again, non-existent. Something’s gone wrong with the SQL backups and now it’s too late to fix. You’ve lost days/weeks/months of data.

Regular SQL Server reviews minimise the risk of you ever finding yourself in this position. From checking the backup scheduling to the integrity of the backups themselves, a regular review will ensure that your backup solution is operating correctly and your data is protected.

How often should you maintain your servers?

This is a tough question, and really depends on the database and applications that you are using. For business critical, high transaction servers you’d expect to have constant monitoring and support maintaining them on a near permanent arrangement. However, less critical systems can still benefit from a 3, 6 or even 12 monthly review and service to keep things running quickly and smoothly. If you’re not sure what suits your situation, then have a talk with your database administrator

When it comes to car engines, you see a trained mechanic that has experience with your type of car. And when it comes to SQL servers, there are specialist accredited SQL Server DBAs with the experience and know-how to look after your SQL infrastructure properly. It’s not always enough to have you local IT support putting on their DBA cap. Sometimes it pays to get a specialist in to get the most out of your database infrastructure. If this sounds like a good idea, then get in contact with us here at DBA Services. We can get your servers running efficiently and set up a suitable maintenance program to keep them that way.