A well-maintained and optimized database can be the bedrock of your business. If you are rigorous with monitoring performance and troubleshooting problems, it will serve you well for years.
The only way to do this effectively is to know what steps to take from day one, rather than using trial and error to bumble your way through your admin duties.
To give you a leg up, here is an introduction to and an overview of the basic elements of database management.
Indexing is important to get right
Within a typical SQL server, indexes are used to reduce the amount of time it takes to find data. Just as you would turn to the index in a book to narrow down your search for a specific piece of information, in a server an index lets you home in on data without having to check an entire table in the process.
Index optimization involves a few things, the first of which is regular defragmentation. You need to defrag a SQL database by rebuilding indexes, or else performance will suffer.
You also need to make sure that indexing is handled efficiently in its own right. Larger tables need indexes to speed up queries, but when you are only handling smaller volumes of data, they might be a superfluous extra layer.
Well written queries are your friend
When a SQL query is composed according to best practices, it should perform its intended function swiftly and seamlessly. When it is suboptimally written, it could be sluggish at best and a resource hog at worst.
It is a given that you need to get to grips with SQL syntax when running a database, and it is one of the simpler programming languages to learn. Of course even experienced database administrators can make mistakes, so looking out for problematic queries is part and parcel of standard maintenance duties.
Hardware monitoring can help with troubleshooting
Keeping an eye on how hardware resources are being used by your database will give you all sorts of actionable insights that can in turn streamline maintenance and problem-solving.
For example, by checking up on how processes are using your CPU and memory resources, you will be able to spot when issues, conflicts and inconsistencies are on the horizon. Even if performance seems fine from moment to moment, being aware of what your main hardware resources are coping with can keep you one step ahead of problems which might otherwise snowball.
Staying abreast of storage usage is also necessary. Part of the reason for this is that TempDB, the temporary scratch database that is created to keep concurrent solutions like SQL Server up and running, can encounter complications over time.
In short, being attuned to what is going on with all of your server’s hardware resources will not only signal that optimization is needed, but also indicate where to start your search.
Planning ahead is a priority
Optimizing and maintaining a database is about more than just ensuring it runs adequately right now. You need to be aware of how the workloads handled by your server will change over time, and plan to manage its resources accordingly.
For example, at a certain point the hardware used will no longer be fit for purpose, especially if your data volumes and usage levels grow quickly.
It is only by monitoring regularly and being aware of peaks and troughs of usage that you can make projections into the future and put together a plan of action that will not leave you with performance bottlenecks to contend with.
Thankfully there are entire database monitoring solutions that can automate much of this, sending alerts to you if issues emerge and letting you make informed decisions about the future of your infrastructure as a result.
Security cannot be overlooked
Another mission-critical aspect of running a database is taking security seriously. As the threats to data get bigger by the day, businesses and individuals must do what they can to defend their assets from the advances of malicious third parties.
As a database administrator, installing the latest software updates is one of the main ways to protect against outside interference. It may be potentially tedious and time-consuming to do this, but the benefits make it easy to justify in the long run, while the costs of sticking with an older, compromised version of a platform are significant.
Other security-related duties, such as monitoring network traffic to look for suspicious activity, and keeping tabs on back-end access to ensure that only legitimate users are allowed to tinker with your database, should also be on your to-do list.
The last word on database optimization and maintenance
What can seem like a daunting process at first will become easier with time and experience. When your database is operating like clockwork, all of your hard work will feel worthwhile.