Managing a database can be a grueling task. If performance dips, your site and web apps will falter along with it, and user dissatisfaction is sure to follow.
Thankfully there are plenty of tools out there that can make the life of a database administrator a whole lot easier, and benefit the reputation of the entire organization as a result.
With that in mind, here’s a guide explaining how to pick the best database performance monitoring tool which ticks all the right boxes for your business.
Consider your budget
Unless a monitoring tool matches your available budget, it won’t be suitable, so work out how much you can justify spending on overseeing database performance before you do anything else.
Of course, you might decide that there is a bit more leeway when it comes to budget if you find a monitoring platform that is worth that extra stretch. And calculating your budget is partly about accommodating the likely costs of unplanned downtime which might occur if you didn’t monitor your database resources.
Analyze other costs
Aside from the cost of procuring the performance monitoring tool itself, there are additional expenses to keep in mind, which may or may not apply to your organization.
For example, if employees need to be trained in the use of the new solution, or if workflows will be disrupted by its adoption, even if only temporarily, you should bear this in mind.
Ensure compatibility & scalability
The performance monitoring tool market is broad, and yet a lot of this breadth comes down to the fact that there are many different database setups to encompass. As such, you need to limit your search to include only the tools that are compatible with the configuration you are using right now.
At this point, you should also look to the future, and see whether the tool will be able to accommodate any potential changes you make to your database infrastructure further down the line.
This applies to both its software compatibility, as well as its scalability in the face of handling higher volumes of transactions, or even a switch from an on-site hardware setup to a cloud-powered alternative.
All good tools will provide prospective customers with an overview of their compatibility and scalability features, although if you need more information to make a decision, don’t be afraid to contact the vendor directly.
Asking important questions before you pull the trigger on adoption is better than assuming everything is aligned with your needs, only to find out that this isn’t the case further down the line.
Regardless of how fully featured a database performance monitoring tool might claim to be if it is a pain to use then it won’t represent good value.
This ties back into the idea of adoption costs mentioned earlier, as a steep learning curve that needs extensive training of admin staff is clearly a bit of an obstacle that indicates usability issues are present.
At the other end of the spectrum, you don’t want to decide on a tool that is eminently user-friendly but sacrifices customization and flexibility to achieve this.
Not every business will be that worried about whether dashboards can be altered and adjusted, for example. But for those that do, the question of usability has to be scrutinized even more thoroughly.
So how can you tell the extent of a tool’s user-friendliness and accessibility upfront? In some cases, it may be worth using any free trial offers that vendors provide so that you can see whether any claims of intuitiveness ring true.
Make certain of the metrics monitored
A modern database monitoring tool must be capable of providing real-time insights on the various impactful metrics which define current performance levels.
From hardware usage, including I/O, CPU, and memory, to query analysis and response times, there are many elements that are worth tracking in this context.
And of course, it’s not just a case of looking for issues on the fly, but also having baseline measurements against which current performance can be compared. Thus the tool needs to be equipped to store and analyze historic database performance info in its own right.
These are the kind of features that really should be a base-level requirement for any business that’s in the market for this type of tool. Whether you have a simple database setup, or one consisting of lots of servers and instances, tracking the myriad metrics which matter most must not be overlooked.
All of the capabilities of a performance monitoring tool are those that a DBA would otherwise have to carry out manually. So in a sense, automation is at the core of what makes these services attractive to businesses.
However, there are different levels of automation available across the competing tools in this segment, so once again you have to pair your own needs with the specific abilities of the software in question.
At the very least, look out for automated alerts that act as an early warning system when performance problems are beginning to materialize within your server setup. The sooner your DBAs are made aware of issues, the faster they can be found and remedied.
Also examine the extent to which this automation actually accelerates troubleshooting, because if the alerts lack detail, they might cause a lot of fuss without actually assisting in getting to the bottom of the problem.
Check with employees
If you are not going to be the person responsible for actually using the performance monitoring tool, then it is wise to ask administrators who will be putting it to work from day to day for their input.
You could find that a member of the team already has a specific preference for a tool, as well as experience in its use. This could give it the edge over its rivals since it will mean that you don’t need to worry about paying for training or altering your workflows significantly if you decide to adopt.
Likewise, if a DBA on your staff has had bad experiences with a tool in the past, then it can be blacklisted without the need to rely solely on the marketing materials each vendor presents.
Seek out support options
The true test of the quality of a performance monitoring tool is the way that the vendor handles support for customers.
You have to recognize that this is a service that will oversee the mission-critical assets of your business, and so if conundrums occur, you need to be able to get the assistance you need in a way that suits your organization.
The top providers will be able to deliver round-the-clock support, with this usually being supplied via web chat or email. Some will also have phone support lines available, although these may be limited to business hours, so check this carefully if it is a deal-breaker.
Also, you should not just accept the claims made by the vendor about the speed and responsiveness of their support. Instead, check if they live up to them by getting in touch and seeing how swiftly a response arrives.
In a context where even a few minutes’ delays can make a big difference to recovery costs, you need to be confident in the support options available to you.
Ask for recommendations
This advice applies to all sorts of software solutions, not just to tools for tracking database performance. Asking contacts, whether that might be businesses you have partnered with or clients you trust, to give you recommendations for any monitoring services that they use, is always helpful.
The testimonial of an individual who has first-hand experience of a platform will provide an honest appraisal of ups and downs of using it.
Make a shortlist and whittle it down
By this point, you should be in a position to put together a shortlist of vendors that have products that align with the needs of your business from a database monitoring standpoint.
With this list assembled, you can dig deeper in your analysis and carry out a more thorough comparison of how each solution stacks up in terms of cost, features, ease of use, compatibility, and so forth.
Testing out the top two or three options using trial versions, as mentioned earlier, is a worthwhile step. Only when you are confident that you have a prime candidate for adoption should you go through with it.
All of this may make the process of choosing a database performance monitoring tool that suits your business needs seem intimidating and time-consuming.
It is true that you should not rush into this decision, but conduct your search in a thoughtful and rigorous way. Thankfully, the long-term benefits of selecting the best platform on your first attempt will be significant, and more than outweigh any struggles you face early on.
Lastly, remember that you don’t have to stick with a monitoring tool indefinitely if it isn’t working out. Knowing when to cut your losses is another useful skill when procuring any software or hardware.
About the Author
Cristina Par is a content specialist with a passion for writing articles that bridge the gap between brands and their audiences. She believes that high-quality content plus the right link-building strategies can turn the tables for businesses small and large.