Administrative Tools Keep SQL Server Running Smoothly

IT departments can use administrative tools to take care of the day-to-day management of SQL Servers, leaving personnel free to do more. Many technologies provide automation of the more mundane tasks and alert DBAs when things go wrong with the server, even from halfway around the world. Other administration solutions let DBAs analyze and tune performance or smooth the data-migration process. In the administration tool categories, we saw some clear overall winners. Embarcadero, sqlSentry, and Quest Software won repeatedly in their categories. Let's take a look at who won and what they do best.

Best Alerting/Notification Software and Best Job Automation and Scheduling Tool. SqlSentry's alerting capability lets DBAs eliminate SQL Mail, receive more-detailed messages, and even vary responses by condition. The tool also offers graph and chart reporting of performance statistics and information about possible conflicts. sqlSentry does it again in job automation, this time winning by a 500 percent margin over its next-closest competitor. sqlSentry lets users schedule jobs efficiently through its Outlook-style calendar view of the job scheduler, then use Windows performance counters to monitor the jobs as they run. One voter called sqlSentry the "best on the market."

Best SQL Server Operations-Management Solution and Best Capacity Planning/Trend Analysis Software. Embarcadero Technologies' DBArtisan Workbench is a unifying tool that lets you manage all your databases across all platforms with a handy visual interface. DBArtisan Workbench takes its second win in capacity planning/trend analysis, delivering higher database availability and performance through proactive management. Readers who voted DBArtisan Workbench as their favorite said they love Embarcadero products.

Best Change- and Configuration-Management Tool and Best Comparison and Synchronization Tool. Imceda Software's Speed Change Manager (now a Quest Software product) wins big in the change- and configuration-management category—garnering more than four times as many votes as the next competitor. Change Manager provides the ability to store periodic snapshots of database change activity and makes them easily available in the event of an audit.

Speed Change Manager won again in the comparison and synchronization category. The product is particularly valuable to DBAs because it lets them quickly validate data synchronization and identify and fix errors. Change Manager uses a unique scripting methodology to generate change scripts that correctly handle tables, user-defined data type (UDT) modifications, and dependencies. And Change Manager intelligently handles object renames: When it identifies a possible rename, Change Manager lets you select how to script it.

Best Database Performance-Tuning Tool. Imceda Software's Speed Coefficient (now a Quest Software product) won by a big margin in this essential category. Coefficient profiles the SQL activity on SQL Server 2000 and 7.0 databases and automatically analyzes that activity for DBAs to use in the tuning process. With the convenient XML-based HTML reports, DBAs and developers can view the information from any client computer. Speed Coefficient even offers long-term trend analysis, so you can tune your database for the future.

Best Database Monitoring/Analysis Software. Honors in this category go to Quest Software's Quest Central for SQL Server Performance Analysis, a workload-analysis tool that offers both real-time and historical monitoring and includes integrated problem diagnostics and resolution features. The Performance Analysis tool lets DBAs find application- and database-related performance problems, solve those problems quickly, and improve application responsiveness with its "root cause analysis" and long-term performance-data storage. Pearl Knowledge Solutions' SQL Centric was a close second in this category.

Best Database Hosting Service. Rackspace Managed Hosting offers customers a variety of customizable database-hosting configurations. Most include 1GB of RAM, 100GB of bandwidth per month, and 10GB of weekly managed backup. Variations might add a DELL PowerEdge server, dual or single Intel or AMD processors, one or more SCSI hard drives, and a redundant power supply and cooling system. Configurations include tons of useful software: MDAC 2.8, VBScript 5.6, Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1, Adobe Acrobat Reader 6, Microsoft XML 4.0 SP2, Windows 2000 Resource Kit, IIS 6.0 Resource Kit Tools, .NET Framework 1.0 and 1.1, and WinZIP. And all Rackspace Managed Hosting solutions include standard features such as 1-hour hardware replacement, unlimited access to a 24x7x365 dedicated support team, full administrative access, managed backup and DNS, pre-emptive Microsoft security patching, and free incoming bandwidth.

Best Log-Analysis Tool. In this category, we have a tie between Coherent Software's Log P.I. and Lumigent's Log Explorer. Log P.I. includes intelligent log analysis, which helps DBAs make sense of what's in the log by providing a summary and breakdown of the contents. And it generates tiered performance statistics. Log P.I. delivers the ability to discover who made what changes in the database—essential for both security and auditing.

Log Explorer is a transaction-analysis and data-recovery solution that improves data availability and integrity. It lets DBAs identify the source of data changes, selectively recover modified, deleted, dropped, or truncated data, and export data for follow-up analysis and reporting.

Best MSDE or SQL Server Express Management Tool. In this category, we have another tie for top honors—this time between Cibersql's Web Admin and Laplas-soft's SQLExecMS. Cibersql Web Admin lets DBAs remotely manage MSDE as well as SQL Server 2000 and 7.0. At any time, and from anywhere in the world, a DBA can manage databases and tables, add users, generate trigger and procedure code, configure alerts, and update security. These capabilities add availability and flexibility to your database servers.

Laplas-soft's SQLExecMS is a lightweight utility that includes features for the DBA, developer, and end user. With SQLExecMS, DBAs can monitor jobs and utilization, manage users and tables, analyze statistics, and more. Developers can use the product to generate and execute code, compare scripts, and manage triggers. And SQLExecMS lets end users view and edit table data, filter and search, export, and print.

Best Database Remote-Management Tool. iAdmin Mobile's Microsoft SQL Server Mobile Management Pack (MMP) lets you manage your SQL Server by creating users, managing tables, and configuring and managing entire databases through any wired or wireless connection to your network. MMP supports SQL Server 2000 (standard and enterprise editions) and MSDE, and offers 128-bit SSL encryption to keep your data secure.

Best SQL Server Migration Tool. Red Gate Software's SQL Packager packages and compresses the schema and contents of SQL Server databases to simplify installation and deployment. SQL Packager, with its wizard-based interface, also lets you compress existing data for reduced storage overhead and faster deployment.

Best SQL Server Management Tools

Best Alerting/Notification Software sqlSentry, sqlSentry
Price: $995 per monitored instance

Best SQL Server Operations-Management Solution Embarcadero Technologies, DBArtisan
Price: starts at $1895

Best Job Automation and Scheduling Tool

sqlSentry, sqlSentry
Price: $995 per monitored instance

Best Capacity Planning/Trend Analysis Software

Embarcadero Technologies, DBArtisan Workbench
Price: starts at $1895

Best Change- and Configuration-Management Tool

Imceda Software, Speed Change Manager
888-763-7685, 781-229-6300
Price: $714 per client

Best Comparison and Synchronization Tool

Imceda Software, Speed Change Manager
888-763-7685, 781-229-6300
Price: $714 per client

Best Database Performance-Tuning Tool

Imceda Software, Speed Coefficient
888-763-7685, 781-229-6300
Price: starts at $954

Best Database Monitoring/Analysis Software

Quest Software, Quest Central for SQL Server Performance Analysis
800-306-9329, 949-754-8000
Price: $1995 per server

Best Database Hosting Service

Rackspace Managed Hosting
800-961-2888, 210-447-4700
Price: Contact vendor for pricing

Best Log-Analysis Tool—Tie

Coherent Software, Log P.I.
Price: $825

Lumigent, Log Explorer
Price: starts at $1400

Best MSDE or SQL Server Express Management Tool—Tie

Cibersql, Web Admin
Price: $299

Laplas-soft, SQLExecMS
Price: $119 per personal license

Best Database Remote-Management Tool
iAdmin Mobile, Microsoft SQL Server Mobile Management Pack
Price: $120 per managed server

Best SQL Server Migration Tool

Red Gate Software, SQL Packager
Price: $490

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