One of the things that so many people working with SQL Server struggle to do is identify what is happening on their servers. Despite all the DMVs, DMFs, and other tools available, I regularly see questions posted about the trouble people have with digging into SQL Server and finding out what is wrong. There is so much information available that often people are not sure where to start looking.
In the past few weeks I noticed two great posts that should help you to better understand what is happening on your SQL Server. One is about the release of "Who Is Active v 10" from Adam Machanic, which is a great tool. The other is a series of queries from Glenn Berry that give you a lot of diagnostic information about your instance. Both of these are tools that you should add to your toolbox and learn to use.
In addition to having tools to dig into what might be going on right now in your instance, monitoring your server instances is also critical for being able to determine what kinds of problems you have. After all, if you don't know what's normal, how can you tell what's not normal? Many of the consultants I know have to spend hours at new clients getting a feel for the environment because they're not familiar with it. You have no such excuse for your own servers.
The sign of a good DBA is having monitoring in addition to knowing how to troubleshoot performance issues. A great DBA will also use this information to look ahead and anticipate problems.
If you don't want to build your own system, be sure to take a look at SQL Monitor, a new tool from my employer, Red Gate Software. It can help you keep track of multiple servers and provide you the history and reporting to understand what is "normal" for your instances.
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