Top 5 SQL Server Monitoring Tools for High Performance and Strong Security

Your organization’s SQL Server is a critical asset, providing storage for your valuable data and serving as the back-end database for many enterprise applications and websites. This article explains what’s involved in ensuring high performance and explores four of the top SQL Server performance monitoring tools on the market. Then it details why it’s critical to complement your performance monitoring solution with powerful security auditing and offers a tool to help.

SQL Server Monitoring for Strong Performance

When SQL Server performance problems go unchecked, the organization can pay significant costs in lost time and revenue. Persistent and vigilant visibility into database operations is critical to ensuring you can swiftly spot and diagnose problems before they cause frustration for users or even lead to system failure.

To get a full picture of SQL database performance, you’ll want to monitor SQL performance on three different levels: hardware (or virtualized host resources), operating system software and database server software. In particular, it is important to keep track of the following components on underlying server host:

  • CPU usage: The processor workload should be within acceptable limits, given the quantity of data currently being passed back and forth in the form of database queries.
  • Memory usage: A server’s available RAM serves as a key indicator of the load that it is sustaining. If RAM usage is high, you might want to make changes to your database structure or upgrade the server’s memory.

Most SQL monitoring tools will also give you visibility into:

  • Disk usage: The free disk space offers an indication of how well the server’s underlying operating system is performing.
  • Network usage: This metric signifies the health and responsiveness of the SQL Server software itself. Are there any bottlenecks in your server database structure that might be slowing down software performance?

Best SQL Server Performance Monitoring Tools

Here are four of the top SQL Server monitoring software solutions SQL Server monitoring to help you ensure high server performance.

1. SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer

SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer (DPA) is a comprehensive, cross-platform tool that can monitor not just Microsoft SQL Server but also Oracle, MySQL, MariaDB, Aurora, DB2 and SAP ASE. It doesn’t matter whether the databases reside on physical or virtual hosts, or are on premises or in the cloud — SolarWinds DPA provides a single pane of glass for monitoring all your databases from one control center.

SolarWinds DPA uses machine learning to go beyond detecting obvious performance spikes and identify more subtle anomalies in server activity. It will send you an alert whenever a significant shift in workload is detected, so you can investigate right away and take action as needed.

SolarWinds DPA also monitors resource usage (CPU, memory, disk, network) and highlights performance issues. Its multi-dimensional database performance analysis enables you to drill down into the root cause of a bottleneck or resource overload. Its Table Tuning™ Advisor offers recommendation for fine-tuning server performance, such as by making changes to SQL query and indexing configurations.

2. SQL Power Tools

This award-winning monitoring solution provides low-impact monitoring of Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Informix, MariaDB, Oracle and Sybase database servers, without using any intrusive profilers or traces. It tracks the performance of every single SQL statement and provides dashboard and heatmap views of end-user service levels.

SQL Power Tools also offers agentless monitoring of wait stats, such as SQL wait conditions, SQL wait times, I/O stall times and deadlocks. You can monitor over 120 areas in all, including disk usage, disk mirroring, resource contention, performance counters, buffer cache, index fragmentation and SQL agent performance. SQL Power Tools performs a daily baseline analysis of key performance metrics with only a 1 percent overhead on the monitored server.

3. SQL Sentry

SQL Sentry from SentryOne provides an intuitive, graphical view of key metrics for SQL Server activity. From the main performance analysis dashboard, you can drill down into the finer details of both Windows (or the virtual host) and SQL Server metrics. You can switch between Sample mode, which displays activity at a specific moment in time, and History mode, which shows performance statistics over a span of time.

SQL Sentry surpasses the capabilities of Microsoft’s out-of-the-box SQL Server Management Studio with its Top SQL feature, which analyzes query performance to identify problematic queries that are slowing down the database and causing bottlenecks. And its Deadlock Analysis feature pinpoints tasks that are competing for the same limited resources and helps you discover the root cause so that you can resolve the deadlock and get SQL Server running efficiently again.

4. Redgate SQL Monitor

Redgate SQL Monitor is a diagnostic manager is a diagnostic manager that provides an estate-wide view for monitoring all your SQL Server instances, whether they are hosted on premises, on virtual machines, or in the Azure or Amazon EC2 cloud. As your database estate grows, you can add new SQL Server instances in bulk to the monitoring dashboard or have the SQL Monitor API discover them automatically.

You can view the current status and performance metrics for all your servers in a single place, drill down into granular details and set up alerts for significant events. Redgate offers a wide range of support resources to customers through its dedicated email and phone lines, user forums, learning program, and community sites.

Complement Performance Monitoring with Strong Security

To safeguard the contents and operations of your SQL databases, it’s not enough to monitor performance alone. You need to augment your performance monitoring tool with a security solution that offers detailed visibility into:

  • Changes to SQL Server objects and permissions: A single inappropriate change to a SQL Server object or account permission could lead to the exposure of sensitive data or disruption of system operations. You need to be able to spot anomalous activities on your servers early on so you can investigate and respond promptly.
  • Logons to every SQL Server instance: Tracking who has authenticated to each of your SQL Server instances, when they logged on and which resources they accessed is essential to holding DBAs accountable for their actions and to identifying users who are accessing your databases inappropriately.

Netwrix Auditor for SQL Server

Netwrix Auditor for SQL Server complements any of the performance monitoring tools described above by providing comprehensive security monitoring of your SQL Server instances.

Netwrix Auditor tracks all critical changes to server configuration, such as modification of an instance or an update to permissions, as well as changes to database content and objects. It also audits every logon attempt, whether successful or failed, including both Windows and SQL authentication attempts, to give you proactive visibility into attacks. You can set up alerts to be notified about activity you consider critical, such as changes or failed logon attempts on your most important servers, so you can respond immediately to block threats.

Predefined reports and dashboards save you hours of manual compilation work. Filtering, sorting and exporting capabilities make it fast and easy to find the information you need for management, auditors and other stakeholders. You can also use the handy subscription feature to have reports delivered automatically to anyone, on the schedule you specify.

Netwrix Auditor also enables you to investigate incidents faster and more efficiently. Simply drill down into a sequence of audit events and refine your search criteria until you find out exactly how the incident unfolded. You can even save your searches as custom reports to speed future investigations.


By pairing the SQL Server performance monitoring tool of your choice with the comprehensive auditing of Netwrix Auditor, you can minimize the risk of database downtime, secure your critical resources against threats and prove IT compliance with less effort.

To see Netwrix Auditor in action for yourself, download your free trial or simply step through a demo  in your browser. If you’d prefer a personal, one-on-one demo with a Netwrix expert, just contact us.

Jeff is a Director of Global Solutions Engineering at Netwrix. He is a long-time Netwrix blogger, speaker, and presenter. In the Netwrix blog, Jeff shares lifehacks, tips and tricks that can dramatically improve your system administration experience.