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Before scaling up Microsoft SQL Server, a few questions

Scaling up SQL Server could give your database performance a boost. First, check that your hardware is doing all it can. Learn what questions to ask before you begin an upgrade.

So, you’re looking at scaling up Microsoft SQL Server. OK, before you set out on an upgrade, make sure you’re getting maximum value and performance from the hardware you already have and the IT infrastructure that supports it. Here’s a checklist of often overlooked considerations:

Is the computer doing anything else? SQL Server will share memory and other resources with other applications and services, but like most small children, it doesn’t like to share. Removing unnecessary workloads will give SQL Server a boost.

Is your database optimized? Optimizing indexes, and sometimes even tweaking your database schema, can have a marked impact on performance. Sometimes these software fixes can deliver a bigger benefit than a hardware upgrade.

How’s Windows itself? If you haven’t defragmented disks and performed other basic maintenance of your operating system (OS) in a while, try doing so. A well-maintained OS leads to a better-performing database.

Have you checked your network? Make sure any perceived performance problems aren’t due to bottlenecks in getting data to and from the server. Analyze network performance all the way down to some representative client computers to make sure data is flowing smoothly. And to help cut down on potential network bottlenecks, discontinue the use of software that could cause them, such as local firewalls. If you need a firewall for your SQL Server machines, use a high-speed, external hardware firewall whenever possible.

Is your SAN holding you back? The storage area networks (SANs) that SQL Server is often paired with can include their own bottlenecks. Make sure that you’re squeezing the maximum possible performance from your SAN.

Once you’ve exhausted these possibilities, scaling up Microsoft SQL Server hardware is the next step in boosting your performance and workload capacity.


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

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