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Geek Speak

41 Posts authored by: karthik

What is Index Fragmentation?

 

SQL server has indexes for organizing data within the database. Having a clean index helps you perform SQL operations efficiently. When you modify or update the data in your SQL server, the index content scatter. This scatter is what’s referred to as index fragmentation.

  

Why does it occur?

     

Fragmentation occurs because of the following:

  • Adding new information to the database
  • Modifying or editing the existing database
  • Removing information from the database

Even a simple operation like inserting a new row or updating a row can create empty spaces in the database causing indexes to fragment.


How do fragmented indexes affect SQL server performance?

  

Highly fragmented indexes can significantly decrease database performance. When one of the following occurs, you’ll know it could be due to fragmented indexes:

  • Queries take longer to respond
  • More disk space is utilized
  • Applications take time to respond
  • Database server may be slow to respond to modifications and additions done to the database

Whatever the issue is, it’s worth looking into the database indexes to check for fragmentation.

        

Repair Index Fragmentation

Just because there’s going to be fragmentation when you modify the database doesn't mean that you should stop updating or modifying it. It is good to proactively monitor SQL servers to ensure index fragmentation does not affect the overall database performance. Having a clean index will ensure data searches are faster in SQL server. Whether you’re making adjustments to the database or trying to retrieve information, having a proper index will get your job done faster. You can do the following to improve performance in case of an issue:

  • Rebuild and reorganize indexes periodically.
  • Monitor query performance, this helps to avoid bottlenecks.
  • Monitor what your storage drives are doing to the database. This will help you determine if the issue has to do with your indexes or your storage system.
  • Ensure you have a regular maintenance cycle in place.

Here is something to keep in mind: Be sure your indexes are fragmented before you decide to defragment. By determining this, you’ll know what the next steps are that you can do to improve your SQL server performance. A server monitoring tool will tell you if your database indexes are fragmented along with other critical metrics to improve overall SQL server performance. With a server monitoring tool, you can also set baseline values to your database indexes. That way, you’re not only notified but you can also proactively identify and fix issues before it impacts more end users.

As an IT environment grows, you will continue to add more hardware, software, and applications for end-users. Your current IT assets are going to increase and you will have to make continuous adjustments to the existing setup to expand and scale your infrastructure. As IT pros, not only do you have to proactively monitor hardware and application health, but you also have to keep an up-to-date inventory of all your IT assets. Even though it’s a time consuming and tedious manual process, it has to be done due to most organizational policies.


Not maintaining an inventory of your IT assets can have these results:

  • Lack of visibility on your current hardware and software
  • Lose track of warranty information for critical hardware components
  • Lose out on important software, operating system, and firmware updates
  • Lack of visibility on the overall hardware lifecycle and maintenance timelines

 

Asset Inventory in SAM 6.0

SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitor (SAM) has always been a comprehensive server hardware and application monitoring software. With the new SAM 6.0, you can now proactively monitor and manage your IT assets. Adding IT Asset Inventory Management to SAM means you can now automagically maintain a detailed inventory of your hardware and software.


With the Asset Inventory dashboard, you can look at various information about your IT assets. Major assets include:

  • Server Warranty: Track server warranties that have expired and that are going to expire. SAM periodically checks the status of each server warranty against the vendors it supports (HP, IBM, and Dell) on their online warranty validation servers.

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  • Hardware Inventory: Get reports on your hardware such as hard drives, memory, volumes, removable media, graphics and audio, USB controllers, and other computer peripherals. SAM gives you hardware information such as manufacturer name, publisher, version, and serial numbers.

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  • Software Inventory: SAM will check all the software installed on your servers, identify the publisher, version, and install date. This lets you clearly see all the software products that are regularly used, as well as those that are rarely used.

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  • Operating System Updates: SAM monitors the operating system updates and populates the name of the operating system, the type of update applied (whether it is a system or a security update), date the update was installed, and the person who installed it.

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To simplify the process, SAM will only collect inventory data once a day. You also have the option to configure the data collection interval weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly depending on your preference. This way, inventory data does not have to be collected with the same level of frequency as availability and performance information. This is beneficial because it minimizes the impact on your polling engine.

     

Takeaway for IT Pros

  • Visualize IT asset inventory for both physical and virtual assets
  • Automatically track your assets and view software update cycles
  • Facilitate improved inventory lifecycle management
  • Respond to key IT questions that help drive your business decisions
  • Monitor and manage your IT assets in one place


Explore Asset Inventory Management and other features in SAM 6.0.

Because Microsoft® SQL Server® is such a widely used database, slowdowns within its environment can lead to issues for multiple applications. More often than not, the root cause of such slowdowns is usually memory bottlenecks. There are many issues that affect SQL Server performance and scalability. Let’s look at a few of them.

 

  • Paging: Memory bottlenecks can lead to excessive paging which can impact SQL Server performance.
  • Virtual memory: When your SQL Server consumes a lot of virtual memory, information will constantly move back and forth from RAM to disk. This puts the physical disks under tremendous pressure.
  • Memory usage: No matter how much memory is added to the system, it appears as though SQL Server is using all of it. This can happen when SQL Server caches the entire database into the memory.
  • Buffer statistics: When other applications consume lots of memory and your SQL Servers don’t have any then there can be issues related to page reads, buffer cache, etc.
  • Other: Memory bottlenecks can occur if databases don’t have good indexes, and applications or programs constantly processing user requests.

 

Monitor SQL Server Memory

You must continuously monitor your SQL Server in order to improve its overall performance. During this process, it’s vital to check the statistics (optimally, through alerts) of various performance counters related to SQL Server memory. This is especially true when you’re constantly adding more databases to your SQL Server. Along with memory resources you’ll also have to monitor CPU load, storage performance, physical and virtual memory usage, query responsiveness, etc., which also cause performance issues in the database.

 

Improve Your SQL Server Performance

If you’re really looking to improve your SQL Server performance, it’s imperative to understand your existing environment, and which performance counters you really need.

 

A server monitoring tool should provide out-of-the-box user experience for your SQL Server database. It will allow you to simulate end-user transactions and proactively measure the performance and availability of your SQL Server. The tool will also:

  • Ensure the availability and performance of your SQL Server.
  • Give you visibility into statistics, the health of your SQL Server, and then set performance thresholds.
  • Build custom reports to show SQL Server availability and performance history.
  • Get real-time remote monitoring of any WMI performance counters to troubleshoot application issues.

 

SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM) comprehensively monitors SQL Servers, and other Microsoft applications running in them. Try the fully functional free 30 day trial.

Typically IT admins spend a significant amount of time managing SQL servers because of the volume of data usage and the number of applications accessing SQL databases. This also makes it difficult to optimize SQL server performance. Let’s get into the details of what you need to optimize and how to improve the performance and availability of your SQL servers.

 

  • Index Fragmentation: SQL uses indexing to make data searches faster. When data is modified, the index contents scatter which causes fragmentation. Poor index fragmentation not only slows down database searches, it also requires more disk space usage which causes performance degradation.
  • Storage Capacity of Temporary Database: Every SQL server has a shared database called tempdb which is used for storing temporary user and internal objects. There can be bottlenecks in tempdb because there is only a single tempdb available for every instance. To avoid bottlenecks here and improve performance, you will have to optimize the size of the tempdb file and monitor it from time to time.
  • Top Expensive Queries: One bad query from an application using the SQL database will affect the performance of the whole database server itself—not just the individual database belonging to an application. Monitoring expensive queries alerts you to troubleshoot possible issues before the SQL server itself is brought down by a single query from one of the hosted applications.


Monitor SQL Servers and its Key Components


If you want to improve your database performance, you should monitor certain performance counters. These counters monitor the performance of your database server and the server hardware. They will come back and tell you the value of each counter and whether you need to take necessary steps to improve the performance.


  • Processor Time: Monitors the CPU load on the server.
  • Memory Utilization: You’ll know if there are memory bottlenecks which can ultimately lead to paging.

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  • Storage Utilization: You can find out how much storage space is used and how much is free. This way you can allocate space accordingly.

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  • Average Response Time: This counter will tell you the response time of the SQL server–what is the average response time for specific queries?
  • Page Life Expectancy: Monitoring this counter will tell you the time it takes before the average page is removed from the cache buffer. If this fails below the threshold then it is an indication that your SQL server may require more RAM to improve performance.
  • Blocked Queries: You can check of the number of queries the database server blocked. You’ll know they are blocked for a reason such as poorly written queries, queries that take too long to respond, queries affected by CPU time, efficient queries that are slowed down by slower queries, etc.
  • Transactions per Second: You will get to know the number of database transactions that have started every second.


Advantages of Monitoring SQL Server Performance Counters


  • Keeps you aware of the performance and the availability of the database server at any given time.
  • Increases the effectiveness of the database server.
  • Avoid any kind of performance bottlenecks.
  • Scalability to monitor more databases and instances.
  • Helps you maintain your server hardware and keep it healthy.


Watch this video to find out how to optimize and improve your SQL server performance.

 

According to this article, SMB hiring of IT staff is at a stand-still with only 26% planning to add head count. This can only mean that SMBs expect more out of their current IT staff. On the other hand, SMB IT budget has increased by 7% to 162K. As a result, you won’t get to pawn off your unwanted projects on the newbie. But, you may have some extra cash in the budget to buy software to take some of the work off your hands.

 

5 Easy Tips to Do More with Less

 

  1. Spend Less Time on the Phone: Get the most out of a server monitoring tool that will make you look like a rockstar so you’re not stuck on the phone troubleshooting all day.
  2. Don’t Buy Hardware Until It’s Time: Manage your virtual environment in an organized manner. That way you can ensure there is less or no clutter.
  3. Consolidate Your Inventory: Streamline your inventory so your workload of consolidating hardware, OS, and apps become easier.
  4. Automate Patching of 3rd Party Apps: Think about ways of automating patch management. That way your productivity goes through the roof and you end up saving hours of manual work.
  5. Automate Mundane Active Directory® Tasks: You can leverage free tools that will automate Active Directory tasks which are otherwise boring, tedious, and time consuming.

 

Checkout this short presentation that teaches you five simple ways for adding extra hands without hiring an extra body.

 

 

What makes Server & Application Monitor (SAM) awesome is its ability to monitor out-of-the-box applications using templates. A template is a set of different component monitors that monitor the performance and current status of your applications. There are over 150 templates and SAM provides clearly defined settings on what is monitored by these templates with best-practice thresholds to monitor applications. You have the flexibility to choose a template with pre-set component monitors, as opposed to creating individual component monitors one-by-one. And you can customize existing templates that will suit your current infrastructure.

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With SAM, you can set thresholds to component monitors. These thresholds are extremely helpful in indicating when the component or parameter is reaching a critical state. For example, if you’re monitoring the percentage of free space remaining on a volume, you can set a warning threshold at 15%, and a critical condition at 5%. If disk space reaches the threshold limit, you will receive an instant alert on the condition. You can also track what is a normal baseline for this metric and set a statistical threshold from the baseline–two standard deviations for warning and three standard deviations for critical alerts.

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Compare this to other application monitoring software. The first thing you may notice is that most monitoring software uses “monitoring agents.” The problem with these agents is you can’t pull all the data you want to monitor in an application. For example, if you want to monitor a specific component in your SQL server, the agent will not allow this because of its limitations with customization.

This is where you may find SAM to be far superior to the rest of pack. The template approach really gives you the freedom to monitor any application in your environment. Here are a few reasons why templates are the real deal:

  • Flexibility: Monitor out-of-the-box applications.
  • Customization: Customize, edit, and modify existing templates.
  • Scalability: There is no limit to the number of components you can add to a template for monitoring applications.
  • Simpler licensing model: Pay for only the number of component monitors you need and not for each component monitor.
  • Templates on thwack: Get access to hundreds of out-of-the-box thwack templates that are created and shared by SolarWinds® customers and partners.

Check out this short video and learn how to easily add a node and assign custom application templates using SAM.

When you decide to take time off of work to go on vacation or even plan to be out of office for a day, you must be thinking of a way to not get those dreaded phone calls and messages about server downtime and application issues.


False Alerts: Reasons Why You Get Them and How to Avoid Them

There are many reasons why you your system may trigger alerts more frequently than normal. According to this recent post, many admins get “spam” alerts for a number of reasons. Here are a few examples:

  • Events that frequently occur such as CPU or memory utilization can trigger alerts more often than most other system components.
  • You can get “spam” alerts from servers that are not in production or switches that have been discharged.
  • If your polling cycles aren’t tuned to the right level of granularity, you might get a flood of alerts that will fill you in-box.
  • Not properly tuning threshold levels can lead to a sudden spike in alerts.

  

These are valid reasons for why you receive a false or a "spam" alert. What if a false alert is triggered and you're out of office? You get the alert, you start making calls, and you get status updates from colleagues every few minutes to be sure the issue is resolved. When you come across such alerts you tend to ask yourself a few questions - why do I get hundreds of alerts on a daily basis when things are running smoothly? Why am I getting an alert in the middle of the night? How do I optimize server functionality so I'm not bothered constantly?

   

Here are some ways to avoid these issues:

  • Set up alerts for components that you think are really going to impact your users or your business.
  • Establish well-defined threshold settings—this way you can optimize the kind of alerts you receive during the day and ensure that you’re not bothered after work hours.
  • Set the right dependencies to significantly lower the amount of alerts you receive.
  • Define teams to look at specific alerts. This way you can forward issues to the right teams based on the severity of the alert.
  • Understand baseline trends to set more realistic thresholds.

 

Determine What to Monitor and Why

Most admins have to monitor hundreds of servers and applications. This means you’re probably dealing with plenty of alerts. Under these circumstances you’ll have to determine a few things.

  • Go over each metric and see if you really need to monitor that metric (if you have no defined response in how to react to the alert).
  • Talk to your business groups and understand what the impact will be. This will give you a sense of how monitoring metrics might affect the overall business.
    • You’ll know what they really care about and what they think are critical applications that need to be monitored.

 

Statistical Thresholds: A Better Way to Set Baseline Values

SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM) takes threshold-based alerting to a new level. One of the new features in version 6.0 is alerting based on statistical thresholds. Normally, you would have to monitor applications for several weeks in order to know what the ideal or optimum baseline is to set warning and critical thresholds. With the new Server & Application Monitor, threshold values can now be calculated and assigned automatically. Now, when I say automatically, SAM collects the data from the last 7 days (you have the option to change this setting) and determines the baseline values. You can then select your work hours, nights, and weekends. Based on the time of the day, SAM calculates the baseline data for both day and night system performance (the option to set threshold values manually is still available).


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In short, statistical thresholds allows you to look at these processes:

  • Applying thresholds to templates, individual component monitors, and applications.
  • Understanding baseline statistics using standard deviation calculation for day and night system performance.
  • Gaining statistical insights into the performance metrics and how they vary over time. Look at how stats are collected for higher and lower threshold values of each metric.
  • Looking at baseline details before setting the right threshold values.
  • Setting the right threshold values using the built-in baseline calculator that calculates and applies the recommended threshold values for warning and critical stages for a specific metric.

    

At some point, you will have to deal with “spam” alerts. And the best way to go about is to strike that balance between monitoring your application usage and setting the right threshold values. We believe with the new Server & Application Monitor, you can adjust thresholds more dynamically and keep those alerts to a minimum.

  

Feel free to sign-up and download SAM 6.0 release candidate now to experience all the new exciting features.

Even though it’s simple to reset a user account password, for an IT administrator like you, who has a ton of other critical stuff to do, it takes time. And, it’s definitely no fun at all considering the number of help desk tickets that you resolve for this task each day.

Why Do These Annoying Passwords Get Locked?

More often than not, you’ll have issues with passwords because one of the following might have happened.

  • Your end-users have simply forgotten their password, and entered it incorrectly enough times to get the account locked.
  • End-users may have forgotten to change their system password, which has now expired. Now, it has to be reset.


Watch this video, and you may be able to relate to Pete’s frustrations on what he has to deal with every day.


Do you think it has resemblance to what happens in your life?

Tips to Avoid Password Reset Scenarios

  • Set up automatic password change reminders that prompt the end-users in advance of password expiry.
  • Provide self-service options to end-users to reset password using a Web interface.
  • Have KB articles built into your help desk software so that the user gets tips to reset the password on their own.
  • Institute an automated system in place that can help reset AD password automatically when a user is locked out of their account.

The operational hurdle is one. Then, there’s the security threat. Do you know if unauthorized users are trying to break into network workstations? How will you detect that and keep your servers and workstations secure?

 

Security Tips to Monitor User Logon Actions

  • Lookout for multiple incorrect password attempts. It can be a security breach or an unauthorized user trying to access the system.
  • Get visibility into logs from your domain controller and user workstations. This will give you visibility into the number of password attempts made, the time when they happened, which system is having suspiciously repeated incorrect password entries, etc.

The Solution: SolarWinds Log & Event Manager

These tips will be of use especially for someone like Pete (and you of course!). SolarWinds Log & Event Manager (LEM) addresses both the operational and security perspectives of password lockout issues.

  • LEM has built-in Active Responses to reset passwords automatically.
  • LEM collects and correlates logs from various entities such as AD domain controller and user workstations to alert you when suspicious password user logon/log actions are recorded on systems.

 

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As much as Active Directory (AD) is one of the very highly used applications by IT for customer profile and login access management, it is also a challenging one to manage. Take the example of user account lockouts: if an employee gets locked out from their account – no questions asked – no matter whatever time of the day it is – you’ll have to reset the password and unlock the user account straightaway. And what if this is a frequent problem? Not just this, there can be several other issues involving the performance of AD server. This calls for proactive Active Directory monitoring to help you detect problems before they are reported by your users, and before they impact productivity.


Monitor Active Directory: Avoid Performance Issues

Monitoring AD comprises of many key aspects such as keeping a close watch on the application and service availability, and ensuring various AD performance metrics are kept checked and in line with the accepted thresholds. SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM) provides intuitive dashboards to monitor the status and performance of AD servers. You can leverage the out-of-the-box AD monitoring templates and component monitors to monitor several aspects of your AD environment including (and not limited to):

  • File Replication Service: Identify failure on a replication link or if there is an issue with the network leading to slow replication rates between websites.
  • LDAP Client Sessions: Monitors the NTDS object counters and the number of clients connected to an LDAP session. It provides statistics and performance metrics for speed and response times of specific sessions.
  • Directory Services: Monitoring critical directory services will makes sure your email and phone contacts are always in-sync.
  • Service Outages: Monitor the domain controllers continuously and prevent service outages. SolarWinds SAM will monitor this within DNS servers and clients, servers and workstations, distributed file systems, inter-site messaging, etc.
  • DNS Server Service: Look for issues in the DNS server related to downtime or performance problems and immediately get notified for taking corrective action.

 

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Manage Active Directory Logs: Automate Issue Remediation

Monitoring Active Directory logs is another crucial part of AD management as this gives a wealth of knowledge about the specific events that caused the AD application or server to fail, and have latency or other issues. Monitoring logs from the domain controller and AD clients on user workstations allow you to get real-time visibility into events such as:

  • Users being added or removed to domain groups
  • User groups being created or removed from the domain controller
  • User account privileges or Group Policy Objects modified or changed
  • Account password being changed or reset

Resetting user account passwords is a hard and cumbersome thing to do every time there is a password issue or account lockout. And it’s best to have an automated process in place to automatically reset passwords when there is an account lockout or unauthorized password change detected from the AD domain controller’s event logs.

SolarWinds Log & Event Manager (LEM) collects log data from your AD servers and user workstations and correlates AD and user activity events in real time to provide insight into AD issues. Additionally LEM provides built-in Active Reponses that can be automated to reset AD passwords and unlock user accounts.

Think of how much time you will save by not having to reset user passwords. Try the combination of SolarWinds SAM and LEM, two powerful solutions to monitor the health of your AD and entire Microsoft® environment and stay ahead of performance and security issues!

Case Study

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What Are the Key Front-End Components of a Webpage?

(Click any table heading to learn more)

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Proactively monitor website end-user experience, find causes of Web page latency, monitor database, Web server, and hardware health.


Keep your websites and Web applications running at warp speed using SolarWinds Web Application Monitoring Pack.

Try it free for 30 days.

Simply put, Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) cache stores information about a website address. This information includes a set of characters used to identify the website/URL. When it comes to monitoring the Internet Information Server (IIS) performance, the URI cache is a critical component to be monitored along with the hardware, website availability, Web transaction responsiveness, and others.

 

 

Relationship between Caching and IIS

Caching improves process requests and increases response times for frequently requested data from the IIS Web server. By not caching, IIS has to read the information from websites every time the same request is made. This also leads to a delayed authentication process.

 

 

Importance of Monitoring IIS Counters

There are different counters in the IIS server and you can monitor them to improve the server’s performance. If you don’t monitor these counters, then you won’t know which problem occurs. For example, you may not know if your users are having problems connecting to the server, you may not know if there are hardware problems, or any problem with the Web application that is causing the issue, and so on. These metrics provide critical information about user-requested data. More specifically, you can measure the performance of the counters and really look at the quantity of the data and its attributes such as size, duration, and the rate at which data is being requested and received.

IIS has the following performance counters:

  • Web Service Counters
  • Web Service Cache Counters
  • Port Monitoring Counters
  • System Monitoring Counters

 

URI Performance Counters

It is important to monitor URI cache counters because they provide performance metrics in order to optimize Web servers, Web applications, and websites. URI cache counters are part of the Web service cache counters. The URI cache counters consists of cache performance counters that process information about the data being requested from the Web server. Web services’ URI cache counters are designed to monitor server performances only, and you cannot configure them to monitor individual websites. A server management tool usually monitors the server performances and the following URI cache components within the IIS environment:

  • URI Cache Flushes Counter: Counts the number of URI cache flushes that have occurred since the server started. If a response is taking more time than what is specified in the threshold, or if the file was edited or modified then this counter will flush those files.
  • URI Cache Hits Counter: Counts the number of successful lookups in the URI cache since the server started. The value of this counter should increase constantly. If the value that is shown is very low, then you could inspect why requests are not finding cached response.
  • URI Cache Hits Percent Counter: Calculates the ratio between URI cache hits to the total number of cache requests. For example, if approximately one-fifth of requests to your sites are for cacheable content, then the value of this counter should be close to 20%.
  • URI Cache Misses Counter: Counts the number of unsuccessful lookups in the URI cache. If the value of the count is high, and the value of the cache hits is low, you could inspect why the responses are not cached.

   

In general, IIS performance monitoring  ensures:

  • Performances of your Web servers, websites, and Web applications are optimized
  • Monitor your server hardware in case of any failure
  • Alert arrive when problems are detected
  • You remain vigilant about the overall IIS server performance
  • That you understand how your Web servers are performing

 

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SolarWinds server monitoring software comprehensively monitors your IIS web servers and its components. It provides insights on what to monitor in your servers and leverages Microsoft® recommendations for threshold values of components.

 

If you haven’t experienced Server & Application Monitor, you can always try the fully functional free 30 day trial kit.

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