5 Reasons for Proactive Database Monitoring

Get jobs done with proactive database management

Just a proactive leadership helps a company, proactive database monitoring supports business. Looking head to fix problems ensures database operations enhance, rather than hinder, business performance. While database management can support organizational efficiency, poor management can cause business bottlenecks.

 

By adopting proactive management, you can:

Addressing these areas before they become painful transforms your database management from reactive, with no time for anything but ‘putting out fires,’ to proactive management. In other words, getting a database tool that predicts issues gives you more time to do what needs to be done.

Avoiding DBA Alarm Fatigue

Alarms help you swiftly identify any irregularities or potential issues before they impact the broader system. However, you’ll get alarm fatigue with never-ending notifications when the alarm threshold is low. A small problem could become a downtime issue if the alarm threshold is too high. You need to get the right warnings and alarms in time to respond.

A fire alarm box shows the problem of constant alarm notifications.

 

Some tools come without alarm thresholds, and everything is an alert. Constant alerts cause problems: nothing gets attention if everything is an alert. It doesn’t have to be this way. For example, our product, dbWatch, comes with preconfigured alarm thresholds. The thresholds are based on over 20 years of feedback from DBAs about what they need to know and when they need to know it.

 

dbWatch alarms and warnings identify issues before they become problems and advise on the urgency of each issue. dbWatch still collects the underlying data needed for background research. This way, the numbers are available for reports, capacity planning, and performance planning.

Be on Top of Database Issues

Modern database monitoring tools not only react to issues but anticipate them. A Database performance monitoring tool provides automated alerts and notifications to help organizations identify and resolve issues before they cause significant damage.

 

When you reach a certain threshold, DBA tools know it’s time to be aware of a potential issue. Then, you can investigate the issues as you have time rather than waiting until there’s an alarm.

 

In addition, a good tool tracks information, so you know what was done, and when it happened. Using a versatile tool like dbWatch, you can monitor information on one centralized platform for all your databases. In addition, you can customize warnings and alarms to address the specific issues in your databases to ping you early when a problem occurs.

 

Looking at this data helps you decide how to allocate future resources. For example, when you know how capacity will increase or decrease seasonally, you can make changes accordingly. However, filters are essential. You need enough information without being overwhelmed.

Minimize Database Downtime

All database systems have downtimes for patching and other activities. Turning off your monitoring tool during these downtimes is essential, so maintenance isn’t included in the uptime statistics.

 

If you have scheduled downtimes, remember to automate your tool to disconnect during those times so you don’t get any alarms when making changes and then automatically connect after the shutdown time.

 

Proactive monitoring allows IT teams to perform maintenance and optimizations during scheduled database downtimes. This planned approach minimizes disruptions like unexpected failures.

A Calendar shows selected dates, as you might plan database downtime.

Plan Routine Maintenance and Automate

It’s easy to start a maintenance routine and then leave it to work independently without checking its effectiveness. However, it’s important to ensure routines work after they go out into the ether. Some need almost no attention, while others require adjusting and tuning before they are optimal.  

Routine maintenance tasks like index reorganization, updates, and patches can be automated and optimized based on the insights gained from monitoring, ensuring the longevity and health of the database system.

Use Automated Tools Effectively

Let’s face it: routine jobs are repetitive and time-consuming, especially if you have many databases. Automation can save you endless work hours, so you can focus on tasks that need human input.  

With a database management tool, many jobs run automatically on the system to look for things that need to be slightly adjusted to improve performance or the system’s overall health. Within dbWatch, there are 15 to 30 automated jobs that focus on preventative maintenance of the databases. They’re things that a DBA should do, but they can be automated and deployed on your system so that they’re automatically fixed and the databases stay in optimal health.

If you’re using a tool like DbWatch, there are monitoring jobs that alert you to how long the last patch has been in the system. If you have many databases, you know exactly what systems can be patched and where the patches are available. This overview helps you better plan the maintenance period to get the patches.

Access to current and historical data is useful for many organizations, and making well-informed business decisions from reports or adjusting IT workflow depending on server load can be essential in fast-moving industries or large businesses.

What you Gain With Proactive Database Monitoring

Proactive database monitoring helps with more than operational upkeep. Organizations adopting a robust database monitoring tool benefit from avoiding any issues. Finding a tool that can provide all these services across many varied servers is critical for large and growing businesses in every industry.

As databases grow and become more complex, businesses must evolve their monitoring strategies to stay agile and prepared. Stay ahead of your problems: Find a DBA monitoring software that helps you achieve these five steps to proactive management:

1. Avoid DBA Alarm Fatigue Database health in IT infrastructure management underpins the entire digital framework. Achieving the perfect balance in database monitoring lets organizations quickly identify and address irregularities or potential issues, fostering a responsive strategy that supports proactive maintenance and long-term health of databases.

2. Anticipate Database Issues Modern database monitoring tools transform database management by anticipating issues rather than reacting. These tools use automated alerts and a centralized information platform to keep databases running optimally with minimal downtime and inform decisions regarding resource allocation.

3. Schedule Database Downtimes Proactive monitoring empowers IT teams to perform maintenance and optimizations during scheduled downtimes, minimizing disruptions and maintaining database efficiency. This approach allows automation and optimization of routine maintenance tasks like index reorganization and software updates, enhancing database system longevity and health.

4. Plan Routine Maintenance Often, after setting up maintenance routines, there’s a tendency to neglect them; however, checking their effectiveness regularly is vital. dbWatch can help ensure these routines function optimally, which is crucial for maintaining healthy database systems.

5. Use Automated Tools Effectively Access to both current and historical data aids organizations in making informed business decisions and adjusting IT workflows. The right tools provide comprehensive reporting and real-time monitoring across various servers, essential for managing performance and resources effectively in large and growing businesses.

Start managing your databases proactively today. Try a free dbWatch trial.

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From SQL Instance Management to Database Farm Management

silos represent database farm management

Managing instances – watching and tuning performance, handling incidents, and generally maintaining them has always been the DBA domain. DBAs are focused on the database server performance now. As the number of instances grows, you will need more DBAs to handle the job of keeping all instances ship-shape daily. This is when you need to consider farm management as well.

How is database farm management different from instance management?

Managing the database server farm is about managing and optimizing resources, cost, risk and inventory, planning, forecasting, reporting, and budgeting. Database Farm Management is focused on the medium- and long-term future, so it is usually done by senior DBAs and IT operations managers.

As an analogy, think of the difference between database farm management and instance management as the difference between managing public transport in a large city with managing a formula one race car team. The former is concerned with moving as many people as possible on buses, trams, and trains in a cost-efficient manner, while the latter is concerned with making one or two cars win the race at almost any cost.

What is Database Farm Management?

Database Farm Management is different from instance management. If you are to do this efficiently, you will need more comprehensive tools than those usually used by a DBA.

The first task in database farm management is to get the total overview of all the server instances under your responsibility. A complete overview is crucial since you cannot manage what you cannot see or do not know. This may seem trivial, but I have seen too many sites that do not have a complete overview of all their database servers. Sometimes, departments or outside 3rd party solution vendors will install new servers without informing IT, or someone will deploy a new temporary cloud server and forget to decommission it. In most cases, it will come back to haunt you – whether deserved or not. Ensure you have the complete overview. Install tools to auto-scan your networks for new instances and keep a close eye on your cloud services bill for new servers popping up. 

So, now you know what database servers you are responsible for, you have the overview. While you are at it, collect as much relevant data and properties as you can, such as platform, version, location, resources and licenses. You will need it for later.

How to Best Monitor Status and Health of Database Farms

It’s important to know if your database farm is fine, or if you need to take corrective or preventive action. There are lots of tools to help you with monitoring. Make sure they monitor all your instances on your list, so you are not caught out when somebody complains about some server you somehow forgot to include in your monitoring scheme. So, monitor them all – all the time. It is also a sign of professionalism to show and document to any manager who wants to know what you are doing and control.

The goal of database operations is to have everything available with acceptable performance whenever needed. If you fail to monitor, you can only react to service complaints since you have no forewarning to let you take preventive action.

When you can monitor the whole farm as a whole and see the bigger picture, it should also be easier to know where you should direct your DBA expertise to work with the most impact on overall system performance and health.

Inventory Management on Database Farms

If you have set up this appropriately so far, you should be in a position to quickly produce any report on all your servers, required for internal reporting, budgeting, or audit.

Another use for this is to see what versions you are running and use it for planning upgrade and patch cycles.

Resource Management for Database farms

One of the critical areas and benefits of database farm management is in optimizing resource utilization.

Your database farm consists of large amounts of expensive and limited resources: memory, disk, CPU cores, and software licenses. These resources represent a large financial investment and cost, and your job is to ensure the farm is utilized optimally. Here are some typical questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do I have servers that are not being used, and can be decommissioned and the resources returned to the free pool?
  • Do I have underutilized servers that we possibly could consolidate to free resources?
  • Do all the instances require and use all the memory that has been allocated?
  • Do they need and use all the cores they have been allocated?
  • Do I have servers that are starved of CPU or memory, that can better use these resources?
  • Do all servers with enterprise licenses need enterprise licenses, or is there scope for reducing licenses and cost?

Some sites auto scale/auto configure the memory allocated vs used on 1000+ servers every night. They then automatically reduce or increase memory on each instance to maximize performance by shifting memory to where it is most needed. It sounds like a big job – but it can be done completely automatically. The result was better overall performance and delayed the need for a new VM cluster. Maximizing resource usage in an elegant manner.

When you have convinced yourself that you have taken out all the slack resources in your farm, you can start planning for expansion. If you have trend charts for how the whole database farm is growing in resource usage, you have a good starting point for planning and budgeting for growth. When you also can document that there are no more slack or extra resources than necessary, it should be easier to argue for more resources

Other Blogs:

Managing SQL Server Farms

3 Challenges in Data Security Management

Two people work to improve their sql compatibility level

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, data security management is paramount. As businesses increasingly rely on cloud services, managing data across multiple providers has become a pressing concern. With the transition from traditional vendor dependency to a diversified approach comes challenges, including increased costs and the need for additional tools.

 

 

This blog post explores three challenges that have made data security management more complex and critical than ever before. In addition, there are strategies for overcoming the challenges so that DBAs can ensure data security and integrity in today’s digital landscape.

 

1 Increasing Costs Due to Multi-Cloud Data Management

The cloud has transitioned from a novel concept to a mainstream solution. Now, many companies have servers with multiple providers, and each cloud location brings with it unique tools and protocols. While having several providers reduces a company’s dependency on one vendor, it increases costs due to needing additional tools and time spent in managing numerous systems.

 

2 Security Risks With Network Segmentation

Alongside the cloud’s rise, security has taken center stage. Network segmentation  (dividing networks into smaller, controlled segments) has become a critical strategy for enhancing security and reducing the risk of widespread breaches. 

 

However, network segmentation leaves organizations needing help to safeguard data across diverse and dispersed environments. Now, traditional approaches to cloud security can’t keep pace with the evolving nature of data and its associated risks.

3 Complexity From Outsourcing and Centralizing Operations

Outsourcing or centralizing operational functions significantly impacts data management. It adds complexity to the day-to-day tasks of operational staff, who navigate multiple customer networks. 

 

In addition, outsourcing operations also increases the demand for remote work, requiring secure network access for team members and consultants across multiple locations. Consultants specifically need timely and secure access to specific network segments, further complicating network management. Organizations must carefully balance accessibility and control to mitigate potential risks and vulnerabilities in this evolving landscape.

Cloud Router for Secure Database Management

At dbWatch, we provide managed services for a small group of customers. Essentially, we supply B2B services for ourselves, allowing us to fully understand the user experience. Responding to customer feedback and our DBAs, we developed Cloud Router. 

 

Cloud Router enables users to work securely from any location, accessing the resources they need to perform their jobs securely. The Cloud Router answers the modern demand for flexible, secure, and efficient operations management. 

 

The Cloud Router, developed by dbWatch, is an intermediary service for secure communication between different dbWatch networks operating via the Internet. 

Key Functionality

  • Layered Encryption: Ensure secure data transmission between networks. 
  • Independent Operation: Functions without requiring special privileges in the connected domains, reducing security risks. 
  • Easy Secure Access: Optimized for user convenience, the Cloud Router provides easy access from any location, maintaining high-security standards without compromising on ease of use. 

The Cloud Router is tailored for efficient and secure inter-network communication within the dbWatch ecosystem. 

Using Cloud Router in Data Security Management

In our DBA work, using the Cloud Router has changed how we manage our customers. Prior to May 2023, we maintained individual VPN connections for each customer – a necessary yet cumbersome and time-consuming task in multi-cloud data management.

 

The arrival of Cloud Router marked a pivotal moment in our operational approach. We began transitioning our directly managed customers to the Cloud Router system. The transition felt like entering a new era, with an immediate impact, particularly evident in these three areas: 

Secure VPN Alternative

  • Before our DBAs dealt with time-consuming VPN setup and maintenance. VPN work involved multiple people and had two weak points in danger of hacker attack. The first point was directly through the VPM, and the second was through the network of the VPN counterpart. As a Managed Service Provider (MSP) with several clients, this significantly cut down on our security risk caused by our vendor’s multiple VPNs. 
  • Now Cloud Router has streamlined how we connect to and manage our customer databases.

Logins 

  • Before our DBAs had multiple logins from a central location. As a result, we had to watch the exposed internal systems for attacks and track numerous end users’ logins and IDs.
  • Now we have direct and efficient interaction with customer databases, further enhancing our operational efficiency. 

Improved work satisfaction and efficiency 

After integrating the Cloud Router into our workflow, our technicians could complete more work with greater efficiency. They also noted increased job satisfaction. The Cloud Router didn’t just make their work easier; it made it more enjoyable. 

Conclusion 

Recently, we’ve experienced three challenges impacting our data security management

  1. Increasing Costs Due to Multi-Cloud Data Management
  2. Security Risks with Network Segmentation
  3. Complexity From Outsourcing and Centralizing Operations

The introduction of the Cloud Router has been a critical milestone in meeting these challenges. Its ability to simplify secure network communications and reduce reliance on complex VPN setups has been invaluable. 

 

We’re excited about the practical benefits it offers and are eager to share this tool with our customers. It’s a straightforward solution that responds effectively to modern networking challenges, and it can significantly improve operational efficiency for our users as well. 

 

When we fix one challenge, another will present itself. But, for now, we’re a few steps ahead of the current challenges.

 

Interested in discovering how Cloud Router can change your approach to secure database management?    Book a demo today.

Can a database management solution help future-proof your business?

Future proofing is part and parcel of any business strategy. You need to plan for your business to succeed. A noteworthy solution is investing in a flexible and reliable database monitoring tool. By investing into it, your staff is equipped with the means to increase the productivity and your business adapts to the changing landscape of your IT infrastructure. However, the process of future proofing does not end with just getting the right tool. The application of the tool and how it can add value to your business will merit your business longevity and success.

In this article, we will discuss what a database monitoring tool is, why future proofing matters and the applications of a data monitoring tool to your business are.

Tools For Growing Businesses

Future proofing plans are indispensable when a business is continually growing. As management plots the course for their company’s direction, the alignment of everyone and everything being on the same page becomes more important than ever.

 

A pragmatic approach for future proofing is equipping your IT staff with the right tools. In terms of database management, this enables them to handle the growing number of databases dispersed into numerous clustered instances.

 

As your business grows, your databases and servers will need to handle the additional strain.You can opt to upgrade your hardware resources or optimize your databases by horizontally or vertically scaling them. Either method will cope with the increase in demand but implementing them would be costly.

 

Under a data management tool,you get a more cost-effective solution when applying either or both methods. Financially, you will not needlessly implement hardware upgrades since it monitors the memory of your database and provides real-time health checks. Time-wise, it saves you the additional steps in cascading database optimizations and monitor all your database because you can do it in a single window.Won’t it be great if you can reap the rewards of your business venture without worrying about possible future headaches?

Flexible Database Management Software

Business growth is unpredictable. You are not 100% certain what your exact needs for your IT systems will be five years down the line. In that regard, flexibility of another key attribute when searching for the right database monitoring tool.


Future proofing reassures you that your business is prepared to what adversities may come. With a flexible database monitoring tool, you can grow your business the way you want.

 

Some database monitoring solutions are designed to work across multiple platforms and versions. This is great for businesses who are currently using multiple technologies or adopting a new database management systems or license.


Flexible tools that can work capable of working across multiple platforms and varying sizes of servers can be beneficial for your long-term business goals. Not only is your Return of Investment larger when you invest in a flexible database monitoring tool, you get the advantage of:

  1. Not needing to purchase different database tools.
  2. Preventing additional cost to train your staff in handling the tool.
  3. Decreasing the period of learning as your staff familiarizes themselves with the tool.

Evidently, there are numerous advantages and it can be package neatly into one database monitoring tool.

Application of Future-proofing

Growing, scaling and monitoring

There are two ways to of scaling. One of them is horizontal scaling while the other is vertical scaling. Traditionally, vertical scaling is a preferred method since it involves focusing on a single component and improving upon it. But times change and business are more attune to horizontal scaling because it’s more cost effective and flexible than its counterpart.

Scaling (1)

Whether you choose to implement vertical scaling or horizontal scaling, one thing is for certain – your databases will continue to expand. This is where a database monitoring tool comes in handy. For your monitoring solutions, the tool hides the complexity of deep diving into health checks and status displays. You don’t need to be a veteran DBA to understand this tool; the tool does the work for you. Even an amateur DBA can perform database monitoring without the need to repeatedly rely on SQL scripting.

 

When a downtime scenario happens, a database monitoring tool will be your reliable partner. It gives pinpoint accuracy on what and where the problem occurred. Even if your databases are not the cause of the issue, you can eliminate your databases as the possible suspect and move on in analyzing your servers. It saves steps in analyzing the root cause and saves your staff time. Potentially, you can recuperate losses faster brought about by a downtime and reassure your customers that they mean more as they go about the business.

 

But what if your database is the issue? Automation is our key word. Automating backups and real time analysis becomes your go-to options. As mentioned earlier, you get a real-time analysis of problems encountered. If your database is no longer viable, you have backups to be restored in multiple instances with only a press of a button. 

Cost-benefit with hybrid environments

Moving into cloud-based environment is a good alternative for future proofing. Scaling becomes more convenient and quickly adapt to business demands. But, there’s a catch for adapting a cloud-based environment; it’s a pay-per-usage model. Unchecked resource utilization and vendor’s discretion on provisioning cloud databases will eventually be the bane of your business.

 

But this should not discourage you from integrating cloud to your business. Cloud services has their own unique advantages and by correctly utilizing them, you gain more value in the long run.

Hybrid Monitoring

Database monitoring is one key ingredient in tracking your cost. By knowing your actual utilization of resources, cost can be efficiently reduced. Insights into acquiring additional resources or trimming down resources through cost-benefit analysis are unlock in a strategic level. While, database performance monitoring, even if it’s inside a cloud platform, benefits DBAs on the technical level.

You can proportionally balance the utilization of both cloud and on-premise. It is mostly up to the business on how they will hybridize their IT structure but with a database monitoring tool, these challenges are dealt with. 

Aside from savings in your IT infrastructure, you also save on auxiliary costs for hybrid environments. You won’t need to shoulder the incremental costs of procuring additional licenses nor do you need to retrain your DBAs to familiarize with cloud platform databases. You save them hours of exerting extra effort so they can proceed with more relevant tasks. It’s a win for you and for them.

Multiple platforms in a single view

Database platforms offer differing advantages and disadvantages in their structure and performance. One platform could partition its layers into multiple instances while the others follow one instance and subdivided into schemas. There are also platforms that prevents cross database scripting while other openly embrace this feature. Whatever the case maybe, when a business decides to adopt one of the platforms and maintain an old one, this burdens the DBA even more.

 

Imagine a business deciding to transition to Postgres while retaining their MSSQL legacy database. The DBA will be forced to learn both database structure, limitation of their SQL languages and maintain both databases into two separate windows. But what if the business wants to try out Oracle then MySQL? This becomes problematic as you add more database platforms to your business.

Database Management Tool showing multiple databases

Luckily, a database monitoring tool handles this job problem efficiently. The tool helps the DBA in monitoring all database across all platforms. Even with someone whose database knowledge is not proficient with SQL scripting or with the database management software, he or she can utilize the tool’s features to a great degree.

 

Without the need of accessing multiple database management software, a database monitoring tool can access several heterogeneous databases and consolidates their statuses into one window. This makes it easier to do health checks to your databases, optimize functions and stored procedures, and monitor the uptime of your databases.

Monitoring an Oracle, for instance, will be a lot easier since the tool hides the complexity of the standard DBA procedure of doing health checks and optimizations. Not only that, you can save up more in terms of licenses.

 

Usually, business tend to conclude that additional licenses are their only option to answer their growing demand in storing data. The alternative of hiring or directing their staff to gather utilization information on their databases is no different. It costs time and money. But, with a database monitoring tool, you won’t needlessly purchase additional licenses nor allocate significant manpower to the task. The tool does it for you.

 

Ultimately, your DBAs needs are met so as your business needs.

Customization creates clear communication

A report can only convey much information as needed. Having a very lengthy and thorough report can bombard your readers with unwanted information and even discourage them from continuing.

 

Customization is another aspect that is essential for a database monitoring tool. By customizing your dashboard, you can get the overview of database’s performance. When generating reports, you only provide the most important information management seeks. No need to have lengthy emails explaining the issue at hand. A visual graph will summarize it for you. This line of communication delivers transparency between your managers and DBAs.

Cpature 3

Customizing your dashboard and reports brings salient and accurate information for management to decide on their future strategy. In addition, with visual facts at their disposal, DBAs can confidently and easily execute solutions.

Recommendations

To sum it all up, it’s very reassuring with a database monitoring tool at your disposal when you are future proofing your business. It creates that freedom of choice, convenience and cost savings. However, do not just settle for any database management tool. You need to also assess your company’s needs and what value the tool offers. To help you with your decision process, below are questions that you might want to consider:

  1. – Is this tool compatible with the database management system I am currently using?
  2. – Will this tool still be compatible even if I change my database management system?
  3. – Does this tool support major database management systems such as Oracle and Microsoft?
  4. – With this tool, can my staff perform in that same level of efficiency even if my business rapidly grows?

You may not have the answers now, but there will be a point in time you will need to answer them. It’s very hard to decide on what database monitoring tool to use. There are several products out there in the market. But starting now with a brand like dbWatch can help you go a long way.

What Does Your Database Inventory Look Like?

two people do database inventory

As a database administrator dealing with SQL Server, MariaDB, or other database instances, you probably know a thing or two about database systems. If you’ve worked with certain database platforms in the past then you have probably taken a look at various database “inventories.” You’ve likely delved into what database instances consist of, what platforms or systems they support and their size.

In this blog, you’ll learn a little more about such database inventories. 

3-Oct-26-2021-05-13-22-96-AM

What is a Database Inventory? 

Database inventory, in its simplest form, refers to everything a given database instance consists of – its platform, its edition, version, resources (memory and disk, etc.), given backups related to it, and so on, and so forth.

The monitoring of database platforms and database inventories is a near-daily task of every database administrator – if you find yourself wondering why, think about it. What kind of a database administrator wouldn’t want to know how his or her database instances are doing? Enough of tedious monitoring – just glance at your database inventory, and you will know everything. As easy as it gets! 

Database Inventory in dbWatch 

As far as dbWatch is concerned, it can provide you with a very good overview of your database inventory too.

How? Well, everything’s simple. Launch dbWatch, import your database instances into the platform, and you will be able to navigate towards a bunch of different options:

  • Monitoring capability, in the menu at the top as ‘the heart’
  • Management, the second one from the top (see the gear icon next to a database icon?)
  • Database farms, the third one from the top (That’s the silos) 

Essentially, by monitoring your “database farms” (multiple database instances) you will be able to see an inventory overview provided by dbWatch. Remember how we said that a database inventory refers to everything you have inside of your databases? Yeah, you will be able to see everything here too!

The things that will be monitored in you “database inventory” include your

  • Database platforms
  • Additions
  • Versions
  • Points relating to your database memory and storage
  • Information about backup and maintenance

The database inventory functionality can be really useful if you find yourself with multiple database instances of the same type (say, if you find yourself working with MySQL, SQL Server, MariaDB, or other database instances as well): 

In addition, you will be able to see the status of a given database instance, its name, version, port, how many databases you have, etc. – if you have a lot of database instances, can you imagine remembering these kinds of things manually?

It’s convenient. dbWatch also provides you with the status of your disks and memory (we don’t have many MySQL instances imported for this example, so our example “inventory” is small, but you get the point.) However, if you find yourself even with one or two database instances, you will still be able to keep an eye out on your database jobs and their status as seen below. 

Should you find yourself running many database jobs on a lot of database instances, you can observe them all here. dbWatch also provides you with the status of your jobs, including the number of the database jobs you have scheduled. 

However, the monitoring of your database jobs might not be enough, so you will be able to observe the activity of your database instances, too. dbWatch can also split the monitoring into platforms as well. In this case, dbWatch will provide you with the amount of total and active sessions, the amount of total sessions per platform, per version, and per instance, etc.: 

 

See that the amount of your active sessions is abnormal? Time to kill some of them! You should get the point by now. 

 Summary 

Your database inventory consists of multiple important things.  dbWatch can help you monitor all of them.

Need to check how your database jobs are doing? No problem, head over to the Farm jobs section.

 

Curious how many database instances are currently being monitored by dbWatch? No issues here as well, dbWatch can help you monitor them per platform, per edition, or also per version. If you are backing up your data, the dbWatch inventory overview page will also provide you with some valuable information regarding backups such as the total backup size per platform, how much your backups weigh in megabytes, how much do they weigh when compressed, etc. 

 

Finally, you can also get a very good overview of the activity that is going on inside your database instances too – dbWatch will provide you with the number of total sessions and active sessions, total sessions per platform, the number of total sessions per top 20 instances, etc.: monitoring of your database inventory can be a very easy and fast way to put your database instances towards the fastlane of performance, availability, and capacity at the same time.

 

Discover dbWatch today and see how it performs! 

Maintaining Database Uptime 101

database uptime
 Uptime is critical in database management. It ensures continuous availability of data and services, supporting business operations, maintaining user satisfaction, and preventing revenue loss due to downtime.
 

If you have ever developed something, whether an application or a website, you probably know how critical uptime is. If services are down, you do everything you can to make them available again because the longer they are down, the more issues will be caused. Downtime can severely hurt a company by causing data access interruptions, leading to operational disruptions, loss of revenue, damaged reputation, decreased customer satisfaction, and potential data loss or security breaches. They can have long-term negative impacts on business continuity and trust.

  1. Services go down.
  2. People cannot access certain services that are usually required for certain purposes (e.g logging into an application, completing a purchase, transferring money, etc.)
  3. People get annoyed or mad at the business – the more impactful the downtime is to the client, the more problems it will cause (for example, a bank service going down is going to cause much more problems than, say, an unavailable gaming forum)
  4. Businesses usually apologize, say that such incidents are being looked after very strenuously. They say that if downtime occurs, it’s very minimal, and the business does everything it can do to minimize the impact of it.

However, minimal downtime is not always achieved  – we have written why in some of our previous blog posts: a part of the reason why could be because we neglect to monitor database disk and memory usageif we find ourselves using MySQL, we must avoid certain anti-patterns to avoid this from occurring, etc.: if you are interested, check it out.

 
As you can probably tell, downtime of a service is never good news for anyone involved. However, you can do a couple of things to minimize its impact. 
 
database uptime
 

How to Minimize Database Downtime

Minimizing downtime is not a new concept. There already are numerous services available helping to reduce the downtime of our services and databases, for example:

  • CDNs like CloudFlare, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure CDN, and StackPath help us fend off different issues that might contribute to downtime, including DoS, DDoS attacks, attacks specifically directed at our applications and SQL databases, and other issues.
  • There are numerous businesses telling us how we should optimize our codebase to avoid downtime from occurring.
  • Hosting providers (InMotionHosting, etc.) frequently use marketing tactics that say something along the lines of “if you have more than X minutes downtime per year, we will refund everything that you bought from us; , your services are in good hands!”
  • Services like CloudFlare that pride themselves on eliminating the factors of system failure and thus downtime together, etc.

Key Points for Minimizing Database Downtime

  1. Using a proper code base that is audited on and off.
  2. If possible, use a CDN to minimize downtime and prevent certain attacks from causing downtime to your business.
  3. Educate the staff inside of your company to follow best practices and reduce the risk of human error taking down your services.
  4. Avoid overloading your services (this one can be accomplished by using a CDN like CloudFlare too)
  5. Choose the providers of your hosting carefully – make sure that the uptime they offer is consistent with what you would need.

Using Database Software to Minimizing

Once you make use of the steps outlined above, your business should be well equipped to handle downtime, but what if you want to avoid downtime for your database too? That’s where dbWatch can step in. Launch dbWatch, import your database instance (we will use MySQL in this case, dbWatch also supports other database instances like Oracle, SQL Server, Sybase, etc.), and on the left side of dbWatch you will be able to see available jobs. We will expand the Availability section:

 
To make use of the database management system uptime job, simply right- click it, and, as it has no configurable parameters, run it, then observe the Details section: 

The availability statistics will tell you what the uptime of your database instance is, how long it’s been monitored, what its uptime is in percentage, and for how long it was down.

It will also show you the periods of time when the database was up and running like a bee , and when the SQL database got shut down. That might help you to observe some patterns in downtime. For example, did your database go down straight after a certain feature was introduced into your web application? Did your database go down after a certain query was running? etc.

 

dbWatch will also tell you how long your database was monitored for, how long was it down too.

 

While this database monitoring job is certainly not everything that dbWatch can offer (dbWatch can also monitor SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase, PostgreSQL, and MariaDB), it is particularly useful if you want to monitor the uptime of your MySQL instances.

Summary of Preventing Downtime

While the monitoring of uptime is certainly not a new concept, performing tasks that help you monitor your database instances can be particularly challenging and time-consuming. There are tools that help us monitor the uptime of our web applications and whatnot, but what is also important to keep in mind is the uptime of databases: the uptime of databases (MySQL in this case), can be taken care of when tools are developed by dbWatch are in use. If you have any questions, you can also find a lot of useful information in the dbWatch wiki.

Maintain your database’s uptime, try dbWatch Control Center today

Managing Database Farms vs. Managing Single Database Instances

If you are a frequent reader of the dbWatch blog, you might have noticed that this blog has discussed SQL instance management and database farm management in the past. The previous blog on SQL instance management versus database farm management discussed the core differences between managing SQL instances and database farms – look at this blog post as an extension of it. 

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How do You Manage a Database Farm? 

As already noted in a previous blog post about database farms, the main tasks concerning database farm management include getting a comprehensive overview of the database farm, always monitoring its status and health and managing all the resources relevant to those database farms.

 

In the real world though, challenges related to database farms are a little more complex. When you have many database instances – in other words, when you are dealing with a “database farm” – you no longer have a keen sense of what each and every database instance consists of and sometimes you might even find that the number of database instances you need to manage is incomprehensible – if someone asked you how many database instances your company has, you might answer “well, many” because you do not even know the exact number!

 

Once even the number becomes lost, there are a few things you should keep in mind to keep your database farm running smoothly:

 

  • Monitor your database farm for consistency – consistency might prove to be one of the key things related to your database farm. To achieve consistency, you might find that some of your farm settings would need to be adjusted, you would need to know when something goes awry or uncoordinated, you should also consider using software to detect and adjust instances that are not consistently performing at the best of their abilities. 
  • Make sure the processes in your database farms are automated as far as possible – managing tens, hundreds or even thousands of database instances is never easy. To ease the pain of managing your databases, make sure that all maintenance routines are deployed and working automatically on all the database instances and make sure that you can predict potential problems as soon as possible. Ideally, identified problems should be automatically resolved by software in use. 
  • If possible, make sure the workflows your company uses are automated too – improved workflows can help your DBAs prioritize tasks, alert the right part of your organization about a certain problem, and improve the time used to correct issues. 

Keep these things in mind and your database farms should run very smoothly.

Managing Single Database Instances 

Now that you know how you should manage database farms, it is time to investigate how you should go about managing single database instances too. In general, to run your database instances running smoothly, you should keep an eye on:

  • Availability – the availability of your database instances, especially a single database instance, is crucial. The downtime of your database could cause problems to both you and your business.
  • Capacity – the capacity of your database instances is, of course, also crucial – even more so if you are dealing with a single database instance! If you run out of disk space, you might find yourself (and your business) in big trouble. Running out of capacity might mean that you need to replace your drives and replacing the disk drives could cause downtime and potential customer loss for your business, so it is important always keep an eye out on the capacity of your disks too.
  • Performance – performance is obviously one of the core metrics as far as any kind of database instance is concerned. Ensure that your database instance is always performing well and you should be on the path to a better future for your data (and your business)

Managing Single Database Instances and Database Farms with dbWatch 

If you find yourself using dbWatch, you might find that that managing both single database instances and database farms gets easier and easier. Part of that is because dbWatch can provide all the information you would need to manage database instances or database farms – dbWatch will provide you with a comprehensive overview of all the database instances your business is dealing with, it will allow you to monitor the status and health of your database instances, you will also be able to see what is happening inside of them too:

Graphical user interface, application Description automatically generated

 

For example, click on the database farms icon at the left hand side, expand the Inventory overview section and the Per platform section and you will see something like this:

Colorful, isn’t it? In this scenario, colors are important. Here you see that half of the circle is pink while the other half is blue meaning that some of your database instances run one database management system while others run a different one. In this case, we are dealing with MySQL and MS SQL Server.

 

If you are dealing with a database farm, you already probably see the value in this – if you have tens (or even hundreds) of database instances, you will certainly not be counting how many of them run what database management systems. Don’t even remember how many database instances your database farm runs? Just glance at the database instance count at the left side. It is that easy!

 

Do not want to observe the status of your database farms like that? Need to check the Availability, Capacity or Performance of any one of them at any given time? No issues, just go back to the index page for a second.

At the image above you can see that we have loads of database instances. Some of them have problems, some of them run like bees. Expand one of the database instances and you will be able to monitor the Availability, Capacity and Performance of the instance, you will also be able to run database jobs on that instance (jobs allow you to monitor the things quickly and easily – you will quickly be alerted once something goes wrong). Oh, and did we mention that jobs can (and probably will) vary according to the database instance you are using? 

 

This trick can be useful no matter if you choose to monitor single database instances or database farms – just choose to monitor MySQL, for example, and you will see a bunch of database jobs that are suited for MySQL’s storage engines (InnoDB, MyISAM and the like), other database management systems will have different jobs available depending on what you use – different database management systems have different things that need to be monitored:

It is hard to even begin to imagine the monitoring of so many things manually without using any assistance provided by tools like dbWatch. Be sure to try dbWatch out today or contact support if you need any assistance – they will be glad to help.

Use these image:

Graphical user interface, application Description automatically generated

Graphical user interface, application Description automatically generated

Learn how to manage your database farms download a trial version of dbWatch.

 

Monitoring the Performance of Database Indexes with dbWatch

monitor database performance

In general, most database administrators sometimes face a few common problems. One of those issues is optimizing the performance of queries – whenever query optimization is mentioned, the chances are that you will often see some advice regarding indexes. Today we will try to see why indexes are so essential and dive into how to monitor your database indexes’ performance with dbWatch.  

monitor database performance

What are Database Indexes?

In the database world, indexes are data structures that are frequently used to improve the speed of data retrieval operations. Indexes make data retrieval operations faster because when indexes are in use, databases can quickly locate data without having to scan through every row in a database table every time it‘s accessed. The usage of indexes, of course, has both its upsides and downsides – we will start from the good things, then go into the minuses, and finally, we will tell you how to monitor the performance of your database indexes using dbWatch. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Database Indexes

There are a few main benefits of using database indexes as long as databases are concerned. We will use MySQL as an example. In this relational database management system, among other things, indexes can be used to: 

  • Quickly and efficiently find rows matching a WHERE clause.
  • Retrieve rows from other tables in JOIN operations. 
  • Save disk I/O when values are retrieved straight from the index structure. 

However, we mustn’t forget that what has advantages probably has disadvantages too. Here are the disadvantages of using indexes in MySQL: 

  • One of the main drawbacks of using indexes in MySQL is that your data will consume more space than usual. 
  • Indexes degrade the performance of certain types of queries in MySQL – INSERTUPDATE and DELETE queries can be significantly slower on indexed columns. When data is updated, the index needs to be updated together with it. 
  • You may use redundant indexes in MySQL (e.g., you might index the same column two or three times by adding an ordinary INDEX, a FULLTEXT index, and a PRIMARY KEY or a UNIQUE INDEX, etc.) In this case, it’s helpful to remember that MySQL does not error out when you use multiple types of indexes on the same column, so it never hurts to be careful. 
  • We also must not forget that there also are multiple indexes in MySQLYou can use a PRIMARY KEY (this type of index allows you to use automatically incrementing values), An ordinary INDEX accepts NULL values and is frequently used to speed up SELECT operations (while slowing down INSERTUPDATE and DELETE queries), a UNIQUE INDEX can be used to remove duplicate rows, you can also use full-text search capabilities while using a FULLTEXT index, or if you want to store rows in a descending format, you can also use a DESCENDING INDEX. 

Monitoring the Performance of Indexes Using dbWatch

To monitor the performance of your database indexes using dbWatch, you can utilize a couple of methods outlined below: 

  • dbWatch allows you to see your database growth rates. For that, dbWatch has two specific jobs letting you see the aggregated and detailed growth rates of your databases regardless of the platform you use. Here’s how the aggregated growth rates look like: 

Database growth rates as seen in dbWatch.

The red line depicts the data size, the orange is for index size and the green one is reserved for the total size. 

 

By observing aggregated growth rates of your database you can easily see the data and index size derived from your database server, letting you decide whether your indexes are starting to be redundant or not. 

 

Here’s how the detailed growth rates look like: 

detailed growth rate as seen in dbWatch

Detailed growth rates show a chart detailing the growth rate for the most extensive databases on the server. Both of the jobs also display dates letting you observe how your database grew over time. 

 

If your indexes’ size is very small, it might be time to look into a different optimization method. On the other hand, if the size of your indexes is a bit bigger, indexes can become the primary reason your queries run efficiently. It all depends on the index – indexes are critical for good performance, but people often misunderstand them, so indexing can cause more hassle than it’s worth too. To get the best out of the indexes that are in use in your database management system, you can also utilize the InnoDB buffer pool checking job or the MyISAM key buffer checking job – these jobs can give you an excellent indication of the buffer pool utilization in InnoDB or the key buffer utilization in MyISAM. 

 

The InnoDB buffer pool check job can be configured to give an alarm or a warning if the buffer utilization exceeds a certain value in percent, allowing you to keep an eye on the buffer pool at all times – since the buffer pool is maintained primarily for caching data and indexes in memory, monitoring its performance can be a crucial aspect of monitoring the performance of your database indexes with dbWatch: 

monitoring performance menu in dbWatch

Configure menu in dbWatch

The same can be said about the MyISAM key buffer check job. Once again, this job can be found by simply looking to the dbWatch Control Center’s left side. All that’s left to do is to configure and enable it for it to work: 

The dbWatch configure menu.

When configuring the job, keep in mind that there are a couple more parameters that you can use: 

  • You can choose the number of days you want to keep the data for – after a specified amount of days has passed, data will be discarded. 
  • The job can give you an alarm or a warning if the buffer utilization exceeds certain specified values in percent. 
  • The job can give you an alarm or a warning if the read ratio exceeds certain specified values in percent. 

The configure key buffer

 

The key buffer utilization alarms can be beneficial not only if you want to know whether the indexes you use in MyISAM are effective or not but also if you want to know when to upgrade your database instances or servers that you usually use to run the database instances on (e.g if a buffer utilization threshold constantly exceeds, say, 90% it might be time to look for how you can push your resources further to accommodate the data and indexes that you use). 

 Summary of Database Performance Monitoring with dbWatch

Monitoring the indexes’ performance in your database with dbWatch can be a substantial step if you want to ensure that some of your database queries (e.g., search queries) stay fast and efficient. Do keep in mind that indexes usually slow down the performance of certain types of queries too (e.g INSERT and UPDATE queries), but if you have a lot of data, indexes can be handy. When using indexes, keep in mind that there are separate types of them (for example, B-Tree indexes and FULLTEXT indexes, PRIMARY KEYs are also indexes) and that you have multiple types of indexes on the same column at once. 

 

Software developed by dbWatch  can help you monitor the performance of the database indexes that you use – the database growth rate job can help you check the size of your indexes helping you decide whether they’re efficient or not, the InnoDB buffer pool checking job can help you monitor the data and indexes of your InnoDB tables, and the key buffer checking job can help you monitor your MyISAM table performance.

Understand more about database performance monitoring, book a demo today.

 

 

Checking the Status of Your Database Servers

Checking the status of database servers is a daily task of nearly every database administrator – checking the status of your database servers is like monitoring the health of your database servers: by utilizing proper monitoring techniques, you can make sure that your databases always perform at the very best of their ability no matter what happens. In this blog, we are going to explain how to do that with dbWatch. 

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Why Should You Check the Status of Your Database Servers? 

As far as the database world is concerned, checking your database servers’ status can prove to be an essential tool in the shed to improve your database performance or ensure that your database performance stays in shape no matter what happens. Checking the status of your database servers allows you to identify the key areas where potential issues with the configuration of your database instances can interfere with their performance, identify slow running queries, misplaced or missing indexes, monitor the growth and capacity of your database servers or decide when it’s time to switch hosting providers and move to a new server. There are quite a few tools that help you check your database servers’ status – we are going to be focusing on one of them. That’s dbWatch. 

Why Should You Use dbWatch? 

Before we tell you how you should check your database servers’ status with dbWatch, we should probably tell you what dbWatch is. In general, dbWatch is a highly scalable software solution that helps enterprise customers monitor and manage both small and large numbers of database servers efficiently by providing total control over all aspects of their operation, performance, and resource usage. dbWatch is highly effective across many platforms; it doesn’t matter what your databases are based on – it supports almost every platform you can think of, including MSSQLOraclePostgreSQL, Sybase, or MySQL. Since the dbWatch team comprises leading database experts in Norway, the software can help you solve your database management and monitoring issues in no time. Here’s how you should check your database servers’ status using the software. 

Checking the Status of Your Database Servers with dbWatch 

dbWatch can also help you check the status of your database servers. There are multiple ways to do that 

– for example, the simplest one is to open up dbWatch and take a glance at the database status at the monitoring module: 

The index page lists the database instances which have lost connection are not monitored, or have other status types. The page lists the number of database instances, their names, their groups, and the status time, which depicts when the databases were last checked for errors. For example, those database instances that did not have any issues at the time they have been checked will be listed under “Ok”: 

Database instances that do have issues, on the other hand, will be listed under the “Warning” category:

Similarly, database instances that have significant issues and need immediate looking into will be listed on the alarm category, etc. Issues can be observed at the database instances tab (the orange status gear means that there was a warning, as you can see from the example above): 

There is also another way – simply head over to the “Server” tab and click on “Server States”: 

In the window that opens up, you will be able to see your server name; you will be able to perform a trace route and access a menu that looks a little something like this: 

This menu can be your savior when checking the status of your database servers with dbWatch. You can connect to or disconnect from your database instance in question or do other things. For example, you can configure the connection to the instance (in this case, the server name is blurred out): 

It also gives you the ability to configure your connection parameters: 

Need to optimize query speed further to try out different things? Did not yet have the time to add or remove an index on a particular table, so you need to do it tomorrow or next week? Take notes! 

Need to take a backup of the dbWatch logs to glance at them now or any time in the future? dbWatch has you covered in this area too, select “Get logs” and download the zip file: 

Finally, extract the zip file to gain access to the log files and see them: 

 

Then you can observe what went wrong with the server, the output, and the server logs. The error log file logs all of the errors, the server.log file logs everything related to the dbWatch server, you also have an output.log file that might contain some juicy information too. For example, here’s how the server.log file looks like from the inside:  

You can easily see the memory information, the virtual machine properties, where the ControlCenter is installed, your user directory, your java runtime version, etc. Not all of this can be helpful – that’s why you also have the error and output logs which can help you observe what possibly went wrong with dbWatch at what stage so you can try and correct the errors,

Summary

Checking the status of database servers is a near-daily task of nearly every database administrator. Checking the health of your database server instances is critical if you want to push them to their limit – dbWatch can be of great assistance when doing that. Keep in mind that dbWatch can not only be used to check your database servers’ status: as already previously mentioned, the tool can be used to solve issues regarding MSSQLOraclePostgreSQLSybaseMySQL or Azure SQL database instances. For example, dbWatch can be used to solve problems pertaining to MySQL engines, including InnoDB and MyISAM, you can use dbWatch to monitor the performance of database indexes and other things. dbWatch can also provide you with a set of logs – the logs, depending on what they are (there are three categories: error logs, server logs or output logs) can help you find out what went wrong with dbWatch when executing certain things. Error logs log all errors, server logs log when dbWatch was started, the memory information about the server dbWatch was running on and similar information and the output logs log warnings and similar things related to dbWatchTo read more about dbWatch, consider reading other articles on the dbWatch blog.

InnoDB: High Performance vs. Reliability with dbWatch

If you are a developer that deals with MySQL or a MySQL database administrator, you probably know what MySQL database engines are. One of the most popular database engines as far as MySQL or MariaDB is concerned is InnoDB. This storage engine is very widely regarded as a high-performance storage engine that also balances high performance with high reliability.

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This storage engine replaced MyISAM since generally used in  MySQL 5.5 which was  – MyISAM was released in 2010. This blog post will go through what MySQL can offer in this space and how dbWatch can help monitor performance and reliability issues.

How does InnoDB Ensure High Performance and Reliability? 

If you ask a MySQL database administrator or a developer who deals with databases, how does InnoDB ensure high performance and reliability? You will probably hear the term “ACID” being mentioned. As it deals with databases, the term ACID is an acronym for four words:

  • Atomicity
  • Consistency
  • Isolation
  • Durability

 

Here’s how InnoDB ensures that the ACID parameters are being followed:

  • Can ensure that statements in a transaction operate as an indivisible unit, and their effects are either seen collectively or not seen at all.
  • Has logging mechanisms that record all of the changes to the database.
  • Provides row-level locking.
  • Tracks all of the changes to the system by maintaining a log file.

It is worth noting that not all InnoDB engines are ACID-compliant “out of the box”.– ACID-compliance for InnoDB is controlled by the innodb_flush_log_at_trx_commit variable in my.cnf.

 

This variable has three possible options: zero (0), one (1), and two (2). The default value is 1 – this value makes InnoDB ACID compliant. The other two values, 0 and 2, can be used to achieve faster write speeds, but then InnoDB will no longer be ACID-compliant, and so the engine can lose up to one second’s worth of transactions.

 

In general, the innodb_flush_log_at_trx_commit parameter controls how to perform fsync operations. – fsync() is a Linux function that transfers (“flushes”) all modified data in such a way that forces a physical write of data from the buffer cache. –iIt also ensures that all of the data up to the time that thewhen fsync() call was invoked is will be recorded on the disk after a system crash, power outage or any other hiccup.

How can dbWatch Help Ensure InnoDB High Performance and Reliability? 

If you want to ensure that your MySQL InnoDB instances follow high performance and reliability principles, keep an eye on dbWatch. dbWatch has quite a few jobs that are aimed to ensure that the performance of your InnoDB instances will follows the high performance and high-reliability principles. Here’s how that looks like at the time this blog post is written:

Image 1 – dbWatch Performance jobs

Simply expand the Performance job section and you will see a couple of database-based jobs that can help you monitor the binlog cache, monitor your database load, and your lock statistics. It can show you your memory setup, your query cache hit rate, session load, temporary table status, etc.But we are interested in one job – that’s the InnoDB buffer pool checking job.

 

Right-click the job, click Details, and you should see this screen which explains what the job does in detail:

Image 2 – InnoDB buffer pool hit ratio details

This graph depicts the hit ratio for the InnoDB buffer pool. In order to ensure that your InnoDB instances follow high-performance principles, aim for:

  • The hit ratio to be as high as possible – when InnoDB cannot read from the buffer pool, the disk is accessed. Queries hitting the disk are usually slower.
  • A large InnoDB buffer pool value – the larger it is, the less disk I/O is needed to access data in tables.

 

To set these parameters up, you might want to make use of the free –h command (this command displays how much RAM is free in your system in a human-readable format) – to make a good decision, evaluate your project needs upfront and account the RAM usage for the applications that will run on your server.

 

To account for the InnoDB buffer pool value properly, keep in mind that this value can be set to up to 80% of free memory on Linux (on Windows machines, it’s a little bit less). The more memory you allow for InnoDB to use in this scenario, the more performant it will be.

 

dbWatch also shows you a graph that depicts the actual usage of the InnoDB buffer pool by your database instances. –it shows the total number of the buffer pool read requests and how many of them accessed the disk:

Image 3 – the usage of the InnoDB buffer pool

dbWatch also allows you to configure this job easily –right-click and click Configure, and you should see this screen:

As you can see, dbWatch also lets you configure the hit ratio alarm and warning thresholds.,mMeaning that you will be presented with a warning or a notice if the InnoDB buffer pool hit ratio falls below specific values in percent (%). 

 

Summary

InnoDB is widely known as a high-performance and high-reliability storage engine for most developers that deal with MySQL and MySQL DBAs. It’s important to push your InnoDB instances to the next level and help ensure they stay highly performant and reliable.

 

Keep your database instances run smoothly, try dbWatch Control Center today

Security Considerations in Database Operations

database security concerns

As most DBAs know, security of data is one of the most difficult yet important tasks of maintaining a large estate of databases. It has kept more than one administrator up at night worrying about potential threats and pitfalls. With the growth of the information economy, not only is most information stored in databases, the value of that information has grown. As with anything with value, the threats to security increases at a direct correlation to its worth.

 

If you are handling a great deal of sensitive data, you already know and must deal with this on a daily basis, not only due to the necessity of maintaining business integrity, but also due to potential legal pitfalls if sensitive information were to leak. It doesn’t take much browsing of technology or business news to hear or read about some large company that leaked tremendous amounts of user data, and have been subjected to millions, if not billions of dollars of losses.

 

Even if the data you store is not particularly sensitive in nature, this does not leave you invulnerable. Perhaps this data is integral to running your business? What if you lost access to this data? Even if you have backups of everything, the sheer amount of time that gets lost repairing data, can become astronomical in a short amount of time. And on top of this, nefarious users may not even care; they may break in just for the “fun” of it. No matter what type of system you run, security is a serious concern.

database security concerns

Confidence in the security of your database operations is fundamental to your business.

Some of the major vulnerabilities to databases include (but are certainly not limited to) default/weak passwords, SQL injection, improper user security, DBMS packages with too many features enabled, and more.

 

Before you start to panic, while there is no failsafe solution to protecting the integrity of your databases, there are quite a few steps that you can take to reduce the likelihood this sort of disaster.

Keep Sensitive Databases Separate

As any black-hat hacker knows, all it takes is one weak spot in a system to get in. Due to this, never assume that all of your security should exist externally. If someone malicious (or even accidentally gets in, they should run into more walls.

If a particular database contains very sensitive information, it should be quarantined from all other systems. If it’s not possible to keep this data completely offline, make sure nothing else can reach it with any ease.

Regularly Monitor

Keep a record of your database inventories, and regularly monitor behaviour on each of them to determine if there are any anomalies in their behaviour. Having a good system for keeping track of statistics and to be able to flag unusual activity will go a long way to spotting any potential breaches.

Role-Based Access Control

There’s a fundamental truism associated, not just with databases, but all systems: the most vulnerable part of any system is the human component. For a multitude of reasons, including inattention, forgetfulness, laziness, or even outright malicious intent, people are just not as reliable as we’d like them to be.

 

For this reason, do not give admin rights to all DBAs as default, but create roles and assign roles to DBAs. It is easier to revoke role access than changing admin passwords all around. Also, start off with the assumption that your DBAs only need minimal access. It’s a lot easier to deal with frustrated users than it is to deal with putting out a fire after the barn has been burnt down.

 

Don’t let your developers have administrative power over users. The temptation to simply “test” a piece of code has a way of accidentally opening security holes, and the creation of “temporary solutions” that never get patched. 

You should also consider giving your developers access only to views instead of tables. If for some reason a hole gets left open, this will reduce the likelihood of actual data destruction.

Centralise Access Control

If you are running on a Windows network, you have the ability to use Active Directory to handle access rights and roles. Use a central login point. Let command console connect through the firewall to the management server, and then connect from there to the instances.

 

Try to place management servers in subnets behind the firewalls, so you do not have to open all firewalls to allow connections directly to all instances.

Encryption

Don’t forget that even secure connections like SSH have vulnerabilities at their endpoints. Encrypt all connections where possible. If for someone is sniffing at your database connections (the larger you are, the more likely this is occurring, and for extremely sensitive data, this should be a given), make sure that any packets that are intercepted are encrypted, preferably using 256-bit which should be enough to prevent most brute-force attacks.

Software Security

While, as mentioned before, you shouldn’t depend on software to handle the security aspects of your databases, it’s generally a good idea to enforce software security. It never hurts to have extra layers, so if you have developers accessing, or you are developing for your databases, consider using stored procedures and transactions with fallbacks wherever possible, and if software must access the database from a public interface, make sure your data packets are being stores as objects. In other words never allow inputs to directly access your database itself. Again, as mentioned before, use views and not direct access to tables.

Stay Up To Date

Keep abreast of all security news, particularly as it relates to your databases. It’s a good idea to regularly check to see if there are any updates of any sort, not only as it applies to your database platforms themselves, but also with any software or connections you use for managing your systems. When an update does come through, do it immediately lest you be vulnerable to zero-day exploits.

Conclusion

This is really only a cursory overview of approaches to take when maintaining the security of your databases. As any security professional will tell you, there is no such thing as a completely secure system. However if you can take a few steps to make the effort getting in much more difficult than the payoff, you will have thwarted most types of vulnerability.

 

Understand more about making your database operations secure, book a dbWatch demo today.

The database feedback loop: How visibility drives better design

You have a solid database architecture. You spent all the requisite time needed making sure your models are normalised in a way to provide the cleanest structures. However, reality being what it is, there are occasional problems.
Rarely is any database complete and perfect the first time it is deployed.

Sure, you can handle any problems that arise at first; every now and then something doesn’t run the way it is supposed to. You can see most of what you need through a quick examination of the logs; there are few slow-downs, but for the most part, due to your diligence, you can fix it with a few tweaks. But now the business needs have grown and you’re needing to create more and more instances.

This is where the trouble begins
You’ve reached a point where you now have hundreds of instances, on as many virtual servers. Maybe everything is functioning whenever you look at one instance at one point in time, but you’re seeing signs of slowdowns in individual locations and you are unsure of what is causing it.

You have this sneaky suspicion that this is happening in more places than you can manage. Something may have crashed but you have no idea that it even occurred. Indexes may have been dropped, but you get no indication. You might find it in the logs, but it is extremely time-consuming if you don’t know
where to look. Not only that, pouring through them becomes arduous, and by the time you’ve found a problem in one place, new ones have cropped up somewhere else.

You feel like you are running blind. What you need is a top-level view. You want a way of looking at all of your instances as if they were one large database.

Proactive vs. Reactive Database Management

The immediate advantages of a proactive approach are fairly self-evident. Too often, database administration is centred around critical event response. You respond to a problem when it occurs; if nothing bad is happening, the assumption is that nothing should be changed (i.e. “If it isn’t broken, why fix it?”) However, when something does go wrong, this can be mission-critical.

If you are only working when something has gone wrong, you are likely missing a lot of invisible problems. It’s extremely difficult to handle these issues if you don’t even know when they are occurring. A view of a single instance at one time may not show any problems, however, you could be suffering slow-downs (or worse; dropped transactions) due to minor crashes, and dropped indexes at times when you are not looking at the specific location where the problem occurred.

If you are running at a high volume, a few seconds per transaction may not seem a lot. However, small occurrences can build up quickly. A few milliseconds per transaction can have ripple effects across an entire organisation.


Imagine sales volume; If you are running an online system, where your users are customers, human behaviour being what it is, your business could be losing potential customers. For instance, in the US, on recent tax deadline, many users were unable to file their returns due to high volume. The IRS’s databases could not handle the volume of transactions. While the federal government will always get its “business,” this is clearly not the case for many private enterprises. For each second lost, you can lose users and business. Evidence shows that user patience has decreased at an inverse relationship to the speed of transactions. At this point, most people will give up on an action if it takes 10 seconds or less.
This is worse if the transaction never goes through.

If you can have a higher-level view of how your system is running, you can be much more proactive in your maintenance and stop problems before they occur.

Database Design Decisions

All of those great ERDs you built may not have accounted for usage. Some portions of your system may be getting considerably more traffic than others. Your designs may not be accounting for the true business needs. Worse still, you have certain areas of the business that are suddenly making decisions and creating their own uses without notifying you.

With a good top level view you can get an idea where certain areas may need some re-indexing, and maybe some different workflows in your scripts. You may realise a possible need to re-design at least some segments of your structures or applications.

Resource Deployment

It could be that some instances are getting hit more frequently, depending on the time of day, physical location of servers and traffic. If you can see a higher level view, you may realise that certain parts of your database may need more attention during specific times. You can run some scripts to handle some of these load problems, but it would be a lot easier to know where and when to deploy these.

Platform Selection

As is sometimes the case, you may be (for whatever reason) running some instances or different platforms, or at the very least you may wish to test the function on different platforms, be it Oracle, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, or even MySQL/Maria. A more visible reporting system can help you identify and test which platforms work best; it could be that some parts of your DB might need to be segregated into a separate system.

Human Resource Needs

Of course, you can’t automate everything. No matter how well you designed your system, you are likely going to need DBAs to manage it. A good high level view of your DB will give you a better idea about which pieces need attention. You may have too many cooks, and it may mean that some are duplicating their tasks. If you can see existing patterns, it may be easier to create scripts to handle some
of those functions, and redirect your personnel to areas where they can provide the greatest benefit.

If you consider all of these factors, it’s not a stretch to recognise that the larger it grows, the more you need a method for gaining a greater level of visibility to manage your databases. To ignore this can result in seriously negative repercussions for your organisation. However, if you plan based on actual real-time data, you can head off many of these problems before they occur.

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To discover how dbWatch can give you the freedom to monitor all of your database instances, in real-time, across multiple platforms in an all-in-one solution, contact the team today.