Tools You Need

  • I was browsing the web recently and caught this note on coders and their tools and a related article on must have tools. It seems the focus was more for programmers and network administrators, but there are definitely some good tools in the list for DBAs to understand.

    However, since it's Friday, it got me thinking...

    What are your essential DBA tools?

    By these I mean those pieces of software not included with SQL Server, that you find very handy. It can be a utility that serves some purpose or a programming aid, I'm wondering what tools outside of those that come with SQL Server do you consider essential.

    For me I have to say that the one tool I find most handy right now is Litespeed. I've used this utility for backups to save space for years. We made a deal a long time ago with DBAssociates, who developed the tool, and we've stuck with it. As of now we're quite a few versions back since Imceda and then Quest took over the tool, but we're happy with the way it's worked.

    That's not to say other products aren't just as good or even a better value, but that's the one tool I've found most handy for me with SQL Server.

    So are you using compare tools? Programming IDEs? Something else I'm not thinking of that has proven to be an essential SQL Server DBA or developer tool?

    Let us know. You might just make someone's day.

    Steve Jones

  • OK Not a commercial tool (as yet) however we've developed a tool for 2000/2005 that using t-sql, dts and a couple of other tricks keeps client databases in sync. We have about 50 clients who are on various different versions of products that we write - not everyone gets upgraded at the same time and there are various point and site releases so the database can be fairly out of date or down to just a stored procedure or field change. Our tool takes the master meta data, pops it into an Access MDB for transporting around then at the clients site it can update their database regardless of their version. No data is ever lost - its simple and easy to use and the clients themselves can do the upgrade - heck we even wrote a help file! As an added bonus it can take a live client database and copy all files, databases and settings to a test area with one button.

    This all used to be done with scripting that could take hours for major changes. Now a complete update takes 5 minutes max. including updating the software. There is the ability to update multiple databases as well as running third party tools (another in house program) that fixes data that cannot be adjusted manually - e.g. when the table structure changes and you need to split out data into several tables and you can use it like query analyser if you need to change/look at something (OK theres a visual compare function as well thats rather neat)

    It saves up to an hour a day per developer (we all work from home) and goodness knows how long over a year. Priceless really. I could even name a competitor who's updates take up to a day. Bliss!

  • I'm pretty fortunate to work somewhere that has a large enough budget that we get quite a few tools. However, the ones that large numbers of us go to on a regular basis are very few. Redgate's SQL Compare and SQL Data compare would have to top my list. We use them all the time for doing dev & QA builds, sometimes for Staging builds and occasionally for troubleshooting Production. I'd hate to have to live without them (the equivalents in the new Team Edition for DB Professionals, while not quite as complete, may work equally well).

    The other must have tool, in our shop, is one that we built locally that uses a manifest to pull scripts from source control. We use it manage & build various rollouts, builds, resets, rebuilds, etc.

    There are others that we use, but those are the one's that it'd be really hard to live without.

    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood... Theodore Roosevelt
    The Scary DBA
    Author of: SQL Server 2022 Query Performance Tuning, 6th Edition and SQL Server Execution Plans, 3rd Edition
    Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software

  • The only commercial tools that I continue to use as the years go by are from RedGate.  They did not pay me to say this and I pay for my licenses the same as anyone else

    Specifically, SQL Compare, SQL Data Compare, and SQL Packager (occasionally).  I try the trail versions of other products but haven't found anyone else that gives me that much bang for the buck.

    Currently, I'd love to have a really great SQL IDE.  All I've tried just weren't quite there yet so I continue to use Query Analyzer...

  • The tool that immediately comes to mind for me is Beyond Compare.  It's one of the best comparison softwares I've seen as it lets you realign code if the compare "misses" and compares a line that obviously was meant to be compared with a line further down in code.  Simply a must have for me on those DEV/QA migrations.

  • I use ApexSQL Edit as my IDE but I agree with William. I'd like to see a single great IDE. I toggle between Apex and SSMS.

  • Embarcadero ER/Studio for data modeling. Great tool, easier to use than ERWin.

  • Hi,

    I use Visio quite a bit for designing databases using ORM (Object Role Modeling). I find it really helpful. Obviously, there is scope for improvement. Hopefully, MS will come out with a better release soon!


  • PromptSQL, intellisense for Query Analyzer is the best tool I've found. It was previewed right here at SQLServerCentral awhile back. I knew how many times I had typed 'select * from ...' and just wanted a shortcut. PromptSQL lets me type ssf and press the Tab key to see 'select * from' appear. Then as I space over a list of tables in the current database appears for me to select from.

  • As a basic text editor, I use a tool called TextPad. It can be setup to have color coded keywords and do regular expression search and replace across a section of a file, a whole file or multiple files. It differentiates between different file types, displaying and printing a .SQL file differently than a .CS file. As we get more and more into SQL CLR, it helps to have a quick, speedy text editor that is not bloated like SSMS or Visual Studio. They didn't pay me to say this and I do have a licensed copy - this and WINZIP (latest version), which is another indispensible program. You can freely download TextPad ( and kick the tire. You'll probably find the program well worth the $30 or so. If you frequently open Notepad for essential work, you'll never want to do so again. There is one bug - Textpad will keep stuff in the background so don't use it to edit .REG files.

  • Here are the tools that I use. I am the only DBA for over 300 instances of SQL 7.0.2000 and 2005.

    -SpotLight for SQL/Server - great monitoring/diagnostic tool.

    -DTSBackup 2000 - Backup and restore DTS packages

    -SQL LightSpeed - Backup/Restore quickly with file compression (I get 95% on average

    compression on our backup files)

    -Custom T-SQL stored procedures and batch isql/osql files that I have made/collected

    throught the years. To me these are the most valuable as they do exactly what I need, if not I modify them. I believe most DBAs will agree. Sometime you can't find vendor software that does what you need, so you have to build it yourself.



  • The tools I find I use everyday are the Red Gate Suite of tools as well a few Idera tools.  The combonation of these two suites really help to keep our servers in check and running smoothly.



    I compare being a DBA to that of Smokey The Bear. Helping to prevent wildfires in your forest of servers and applications.

  • I just started a new job that's a combination of SQL Server administration and development. After evaluating the various backup options we're looking to purchase SQLBackup and SQL Log Rescue from Red Gate and will probably look into using some of their development tools as well. On the development side, I am evaluating some code generation options and will probably go with something along the lines of CodeSmith. As our SQL environment grows we might build or buy some additional tools. I would love to have something that gathers server data over time (configuration info, database size, etc.) to help with consolidation and new hardware planning.

    Something that I haven't seen out there yet is a tool that will let me manage multiple servers as one. By this, I mean that I would like to be able to define maintenance plans or configuration options and have those setting automatically cascade down to multiple servers. Enterprise Manager has never been an "Enterprise" tool and SSMS is much better in this regard.

    [font="Tahoma"]Bryant E. Byrd, BSSE MCDBA MCAD[/font]
    Business Intelligence Administrator
    MSBI Administration Blog

  • I use UltraEdit a lot. It's a very good Windows text editor. TextPad is also very good.

    A SQL query walks into a bar and sees two tables. He walks up to them and asks, "Can I join you?"

  • Yeah, I forgot about ER/Studio. We live in that tool quite a lot too.

    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood... Theodore Roosevelt
    The Scary DBA
    Author of: SQL Server 2022 Query Performance Tuning, 6th Edition and SQL Server Execution Plans, 3rd Edition
    Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software

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