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Three third-party tools for SQL Server you need to have

SQL Server is packaged with an array of management tools, but it’s not complete. Several third-party tools for SQL Server can help with monitoring, backup and capacity management.

SQL Server comes with a decently robust set of management tools, including ones for performance and tracing, that can be invaluable. Don’t believe for a moment, however, that SQL Server is fully equipped out of the box. Even if you’re just supporting the SQL Server database that comes with a packaged software system, there are a few specific third-party tools you should have on hand to make SQL Server more reliable, more secure and easier to manage.

First up is the SQL Admin Toolset from Idera. This is a package of two dozen tools designed for monitoring, troubleshooting and managing one or more SQL Server computers. You get a unified console that makes accessing each tool easy, including tools for checking SQL Server’s patch status, analyzing index performance, moving databases, quickly reindexing tables and more. And priced at under $300, it’s affordable, too.

Next in third-party tools is AppAssure’s Replay product. This is a generic backup and recovery tool, but it doesn’t have SQL Server-specific functionality. Replay is different than the time-based snapshot backups you’re probably used to. Rather than grabbing a full or differential backup every night, Replay uses an agent that’s installed on SQL Server itself to grab every disk block that changes as SQL Server writes data to disk. That includes database and transaction log files. Changed blocks are replicated immediately to a separate backup server, which stores the blocks.

In the event of a total failure, you can get a database back up and running in a few minutes, as Replay can also restore blocks as needed by SQL Server. But beyond dealing with total failures (which, admit it, don’t happen every day), Replay can also mount its backup data as a live Microsoft SQL Server database that can be queried, enabling you to restore anything down to a single row of data.

What’s more, Replay can mount any given point in time as a live SQL Server database, meaning you could retrieve a row that was deleted at 3:34 p.m. yesterday afternoon if you needed to. There are tools from other vendors that have this same basic approach, and they tend to cost hundreds of dollars, not thousands, so they offer an affordable alternative to tape-based backup. The backup server itself can be dumped to tape periodically, allowing you to maintain your off-site backup rotation schedule.

Last up is Capacity Manager for SQL Server from Quest Software. If you have more than a few SQL Server machines to worry about, this is a great way to get a handle on database growth, disk space utilization, index maintenance and other capacity-related issues. More and more companies are trying to consolidate Microsoft SQL Server databases into fewer machines and often rely on virtualization to do so. Quest’s tool helps by giving you a centralized view of your SQL Server databases, letting you see your total storage needs, project growth and make smart decisions when it comes to consolidation.

All database administrators -- no matter how “reluctant” -- have their favorite tools, and these are some of mine. Anything that helps me get a better handle on SQL Server utilization and performance and that helps keep SQL Server safe and reliable, is a big help to me every day.

For more on Microsoft SQL Server database and third-party tools


Don Jones is a senior partner and principal technologist at strategic consulting firm Concentrated Technology. Contact him via www.ConcentratedTech.com.

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