Best Database Monitoring Tools in 2020 List + Monitoring Tips, Metrics, and Implementation Guide

Databases are extremely critical components of the operations of most online businesses. Database performance issues contribute to almost 50% of the issues in applications. Yet, most businesses give little to no attention into the performance of their database. To help fix this problem, database administrators should use database monitoring tools.

An efficient database monitoring system can help eliminate downtime. It also helps optimize performance and usage. Businesses can avoid losses in revenue and ensure a better user experience.

A database monitoring tool continuously monitors resource usage like CPU, disk space, memory, and I/O capacity. It also continuously tracks database connectivity, performance, and security. The system constantly compares these metrics to historic performance benchmarks. You or your database administrators get an immediate alert if there’s a spike in these metrics. Thus, you can detect and solve issues before they cause any significant damage.

In this guide, you’ll gain a solid understanding of what database monitoring is. We’ll also cover the benefits and some best practices for database monitoring. Finally, we’ll talk about the top five database monitoring tools right now. There’s a special focus on our recommended tool: SolarWinds® Database Performance Monitor.

What Is Database Monitoring?

Database monitoring, as the name suggests, tracks the performance and usage of all the databases in an application. Databases form a vital cog of any information system. They store, query, and update valuable and sensitive business data. Even a tiny vulnerability can cause crippling damage to the entire application.

Thus, the aim of database monitoring is to ensure high performance and highly available application infrastructure. For this reason, there’s constant tracking of production database instances, which you can find in a repository.

It’s also important to monitor key metrics to keep an eye on the availability, performance, and functionality of the database. Some of these metrics include workload, configuration, memory consumption, transaction rate, and user call rate. Moreover, data points such as memory buffers, input/output operations, connections information, threads information, read/write requests, and table locks are also tracked. All these metrics can give you insights into how well the database infrastructure is performing.

What Does a Database Monitoring Tool Do?

A database monitoring tool continuously monitors all these parameters in live production databases. Using past trends, the tools automatically set the benchmarks for these metrics. The database administrating or DevOps team can also set these benchmarks manually.

The monitoring system will constantly compare the live database performance metrics with these benchmarks. Therefore, the database administrator will get an alert if there’s a spike in resource utilization. This will allow administrators to take timely action before vital business processes break down.

The tool also stores these data points. Then it aggregates, sorts, and analyzes the historical data. What’s more, the tool predicts if the current spike is an anomaly, a recent or regular trend, or normal behavior for the current scenario.

The historical data also provides detailed and extensive insights into performance. The reports can help you identify and solve the root causes of these issues, and the comprehensive analysis can help you prevent and combat issues in the future. As a result, the infrastructure will become more robust, and your teams will be able to resolve issues faster.

The Changing Landscape of Database Infrastructure

Modern product development has become more agile. DevOps practices have also evolved, bringing new challenges and needed skillsets for database administrators. As noted in the 2019 IT Trends report from SolarWinds, over half of IT professionals surveyed say the most important technologies for their career development are cloud and/or hybrid IT (67%), big data analytics (48%), and artificial intelligence or AI (48%).

Another new trend is the adoption of cloud infrastructure. The meteoric rise of cloud is no secret. As a result, mixed server estates are becoming mainstream. IT businesses may have a few legacy databases on-premises while other databases are in the cloud. This hybrid server infrastructure may lead to complex database issues. It makes sense for organizations to constantly monitor all databases across the system.

Importance of Database Monitoring Tools

An efficient database monitoring system has multiple benefits. It helps you save on breakdown costs and avoid loss in revenue due to outages. Database administrators should invest in a top database monitoring tool.

Minimize Outages and Slowdowns

Constant monitoring and processing of application performance can help reduce outages and slowdowns. Any threshold violation can trigger alerts and notifications by email or SMS. These alerts can be about high CPU usage, low memory, low disk space, or abnormal network traffic, to help IT teams resolve issues before they cause an outage.

Proactive monitoring is always better than a reactive approach. Without these warning signs, database outages and issues can go unnoticed for a long time. This can lead to a loss in business revenue during this downtime. Constant monitoring can minimize these breakdowns.

Maintain Critical Components

Modern online businesses process vast amounts of critical data, making databases a vital cog in the system. They’re a direct or indirect part of the fundamental processes of a business. Even a minor database performance issue can critically wound the entire operation. Small mistakes can lead to losing valuable data.

Most IT teams don’t focus on these issues—databases are an Achilles’ heel for applications. Monitoring the databases will help protect this critical component.

Identify Problems Faster and More Easily

As mentioned before, modern infrastructure is wide-ranging. Databases may be in the cloud or on-premise. They may also have different tools supporting them. This makes the whole system intricate and complex. Quickly finding and isolating the underlying issue is difficult. In some cases, a minute query error can break the entire system.

Database monitoring helps you measure each of these smaller factors. It also provides continuous visualization of key metrics, so identifying the root cause of issues becomes simpler and much faster.

Resolve Issues Faster

Once you’ve identified an issue, database administrators and managers need to resolve it as fast as possible. Tracking key metrics of database performance will help you resolve issues faster. Database administrators can gain key insights from sophisticated reports based on past behavior data, allowing them to troubleshoot problems much more quickly. This can help reduce downtime due to database errors.

Reduce IT Infrastructure Costs

With faster problem identification and resolution, database administrating teams spend less time and use fewer resources. They have the power to find faster solutions. Moreover, they know about most issues before those issues become major errors. Major errors are costly. Preventing them before they have an adverse effect is cost effective.

Improve User Experience

Slow applications frustrate users. They ruin the online experience. Moreover, database issues and outages can lead to bad user experience. This can even lead to lost customers.

Database monitoring services can minimize these instances. They proactively search and troubleshoot these performance issues. The aim is to detect and resolve any snag. The best systems do this before problems affect the end user. This helps ensure great user experience.

Optimize Performance

Database monitoring can resolve problems such as slow database response time, load issues, and slow requests. These can drastically hinder optimal application performance. Furthermore, in-depth analysis provides key insights to help you optimize servers for better results.

A better database performance leads to increased business and technology infrastructure efficiency. This also helps your organization improve its return on investment because you can get more output from the same resources.

How to Implement Database Monitoring

An efficient database monitoring system must follow some key actions. However, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” model for this. The needs and characteristics can be very different for different types of applications. However, here are a few general steps required to implement database monitoring.

  • Continuous monitoring of defined metrics
  • Automatically collect and store resource consumption, availability, and performance metrics
  • Analyze and visualize key database and server parameters
  • In-depth report generation using historic data to show utilization and capacity trends
  • Send alerts in case of unusual behavior of KPIs
  • Recommend precise actions to resolve performance issues
  • Assess end-user metrics to identify and isolate database issues
  • Maintain detailed notes for recurring problems for faster resolution
  • Accurately diagnose root causes of issues

Most database monitoring tools today provide these features.

Performance Metrics and KPIs

Database monitoring tools track and analyze performance metrics, but it’s important to define those metrics. DevOps teams and administrators need to know what they’re measuring and why. The tool can present the data but making sense of this data is up to the team.

In this regard, there are a few parameters you’ll need to monitor.

First, you’ll need to track resource consumption. These are mainly infrastructure related, like CPU usage, memory use, storage, and I/O capacity. Some of these KPIs include percentage of CPU time used by the process, I/O wait times, percentage of virtual memory use, memory buffer utilization, connection statistics, active transactions, and deadlock details.

Another set of metrics to track has the aim of optimizing queries. It’s important to monitor the top active slow queries running slower than a certain threshold. The KPIs help identify poor database design, inefficient query plans, unnecessary requests, bloated indexes, or database schema changes. These issues can weigh down the database.

To set performance benchmarks, collect throughput metrics. This signifies the amount of work the database does under normal working conditions. However, the benchmarks should dynamically adjust depending on the situation. Different occasions may represent different workload periods. For example, these benchmark metrics may differ during normal hours, low-traffic time slots, weekend sales events, Black Friday sale events, and other such instances.

Top 5 Database Monitoring Tools

A wide variety of tools are available for database monitoring, since each business and product require different needs. So, these products vary in their features as well as price.

As with any other product, each solution has pros and cons. For this reason, it makes sense for you to look at lists featuring the best tools with your needs in mind. However, the best tools are adaptable to just about all requirements.

  1. SolarWinds Database Performance Monitor
  2. SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer
  3. dbWatch Database Control
  4. Paessler PRTG Network Monitor
  5. SQL Sentry

1. SolarWinds Database Performance Monitor

screenshot of solarwinds database performance monitor's inventory report

SolarWinds is one of the leading IT service management companies, offering high-quality software to manage networks, systems, and information technology infrastructure.

SolarWinds Database Performance Monitor (DPM) tool is popular among administrators. It’s an industry favorite for good reasons. Let’s consider why we rank it as the best database monitoring tool network administrators can currently use.

Powerful Features With User-Friendly Interface

The SolarWinds tool provides an array of powerful features. It offers 24/7 performance insights with real-time tracking. It tracks KPIs such as availability, deployment frequency, reduced failed deploys, and lead time for changes. You can set up this monitoring seamlessly on databases in the cloud, locally, or in a hybrid system.

The tool’s extensive data collection can provide clues to finding the root causes of problems. It correlates query responses to system metrics to isolate the contributing factors within the database. Thus, you can identify and resolve issues faster.

SolarWinds empowers the tech and DevOps teams to be highly efficient. They can also look into all performance data in the past for capacity planning, scalability, and analysis. They can gain insights from this historical data to pinpoint and diagnose performance issues. Thus, IT teams can mitigate future risks, avoid outages, and keep databases healthy.

The tool also helps the implementation of scalable and optimized architecture. It analyzes trends to offer recommendations to improve performance. It also helps you understand the impact on workload and query response of new code releases. Production teams can visualize the impact before and after these deployments. Moreover, you can quickly share insights on key metrics across the team. You can ship code faster. This drives down the infrastructure costs for many businesses. An optimized performance also leads to faster service to customers.

The tool is user friendly as well. The web-based interface is easy to use and intuitive to understand. So, an IT team can quickly migrate to this system. There isn’t much user education required. Teams can start using the wide variety of features from day one.

The tool has two pricing structures: Standard and Premium. It also offers a fully-functional free trial for 14 days.

2. SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer

screenshot of solarwinds database performance analyzer showing mssql server status summary

SolarWinds has another top tool for monitoring database management software: Database Performance Analyzer (DPA). This tool focuses on performance tuning and optimization for cross-platform databases. It can monitor a variety of databases, such as SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, MariaDB, Aurora, DB2 databases, and SAP ASE. And it can do this across on-premises, virtual, or cloud systems (IaaS, PaaS, or DBaaS).

DPA also provides access to production databases through agentless architecture. This ensures engineering and DevOps teams can use it during development, testing, and production. Its versatility makes Database Performance Analyzer an invaluable supplement to the Database Performance Monitor.

A key competitive feature for this tool is anomaly detection using machine learning (ML). Most tools just detect abnormal behavior. However, the ML algorithms predict wait behavior patterns and resource usage. As DPA collects more data, these algorithms can provide more accurate insights into these patterns. The algorithm also provides recommendations on what components to fix and how. This continuous machine learning process makes the tool better at highlighting hard-to-find issues and predicting outages.

Another key feature of this SolarWinds analyzer tool is response time analysis. This enables tuning and optimizing database performance more precisely. It can analyze at a single SQL query level to identify poor-performing SQL statements. This approach helps drill down on specific issues to identify bottlenecks, pinpoint root causes, and prioritize actions. More important, the response time analysis correlates the end-user impact with corresponding query wait times. This means it looks at database performance from the lens of end-user experience. You can also try SolarWinds DPA free for 14 days.

3. dbWatch Database Control

screenshot of dbwatch showing sql server performance statistics

dbWatch is a complete SQL monitoring and management solution. It’s a fantastic solution for integrated database management in one product. It monitors database performance and manages resources, availability, reporting, planning, security, status, and uptime. It offers support to SQL Server, Azure, Oracle, PostgreSQL, Sybase, MariaDB, and MySQL database instances.

The tool is also extremely scalable. It can cater to a handful of instances or large enterprise demands.

dbWatch has more than 10 years of experience of providing massive database monitoring solutions. Its clients include hospital groups, military, retail, and other large and demanding enterprises. This is possible due to a distributed dbWatch server architecture. It helps reduce load over multiple servers to manage the large number of instances. However, the entire solution has low resource requirements and can be deployed quickly.

The tool has three packages: dbWatch Enterprise for large firms, and dbWatch Essentials, and dbWatch Professional for smaller businesses. It offers a free 30-day trial—read more at https://www.dbwatch.com/.

4. Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

screenshot of prtg network monitor showing pie chart view of server performance

PRTG Network Monitor is a market leader, trusted by more than 200,000 users. Its competitive advantage is monitoring the entire IT infrastructure. This includes databases, applications, bandwidth, packets, traffic, cloud services, uptime, ports, virtual environments, hardware, web services, security, physical environments, disk usage, and IoT devices. It’s a “one-size-fits-all” network analyzer tool.

Apart from prompt notification to errors, the tool also provides concise overviews and detailed statistics. And you can export these in-depth reports on demand into PDF, HTML, XML, or CSV.

The monitor also supports most technologies, such as SNMP, SQL, Flow technologies (such as NetFlow, jFlow, and sFlow), Windows Performance Counters SSH, and powerful APIs (including Python, EXE, DLL, PowerShell, VB, Batch Scripting, and REST). Moreover, the tool has different interfaces on desktop and mobile.

The tool has multiple pricing options and license sizes depending on the number of sensors. It also offers a free 30-day trial.

5. SQL Sentry

screenshot of sql sentry showing the performance of sql server

Many experts and professionals rate SQL Sentry highly. The focus is entirely on SQL Server. It supports SQL Server on Azure, VMware, Hyper-V, Linux, and Amazon RDS and EC2. This exclusive focus gives SQL Sentry domain expertise in monitoring health across the Microsoft data platform. It offers powerful features to effectively monitor, diagnose, and optimize the entire database environment.

Similar to the other database monitoring tools in this list, this tool also has an analysis dashboard. The UI and design may look a bit old school. However, the dashboard offers unrivaled depth and breadth of information. There are two dashboard modes: sample and history. The sample mode shows the performance for a specific time. The history mode displays the performance over a selected time period.

The dashboard has multiple sections. The Network section displays the network traffic and use of information. The CPU section shows the total CPU usage of the server. The System Memory section displays the memory usage details of different processes. The Disk I/O section displays the read and write latencies for the disks on the server. The SQL Server Activity section displays information about server activity—such as blocked processes and average transactions per second. The Wait section presents information about the waits as well as the duration of these waits. The Database Memory section provides information about the memory use by the server instance—such as buffer cache size and plan cache size. The Database I/O section provides information about the read and write latency of the databases.

Which Database Monitoring Tool Is Right for You?

Many database monitoring tools are available to monitor key database performance metrics, helping you troubleshoot issues before they cause end-user disruptions. Check out SolarWinds Database Performance Monitor for a SaaS-based solution, or Database Performance Analyzer for cross-platform support, our top picks for the best database monitoring tools right now.

This post was written by Aditya Khanduri. Aditya currently handles product and growth at Cryptio.co, and he’s also built a couple of B2B products. He’s proficient in data analysis with Python and has worked with multiple startups in the blockchain and artificial intelligence sector.