11 Incredibly Effective SQL Server Performance Tuning Tips

DIY troubleshoot your Microsoft SQL Server performance with these helpful tips and tricks

SQL in red on keyboard

Microsoft’s SQL Server is a sophisticated relational database management system designed to help business professionals store and access data as requested by other software applications. At least a dozen different editions of Microsoft SQL Server exist-each targeting different audiences and workloads.

When used properly, an organization’s SQL Server can boost efficiency, enable collaboration and be a cost-effective enterprise management tool. However, inefficiencies crop up over time as an organization evolves-or businesses get accustomed to glaring inefficiencies that were there from the beginning.

Just like your personal car or home air conditioning system, your business’s Microsoft SQL Server needs a performance tune-up occasionally. Unfortunately, SQL Server maintenance and tuning isn’t always easy, leaving many database managers clueless as to where to start.

Below, we’ve listed eleven incredibly effective SQL Server performance tuning tips to help improve your SQL Server experience. If you require professional assistance, contact the Microsoft Gold Certified experts at Innovative Architects.

#1: Be Impatient

Don't let your SQL Server stutter up and freeze. Make sure everything is up and running smoothly and as intended. Assess anything that may be causing stalls or failures and plan with future solutions to potential issues. Proper data modeling and input into the programming process can also deter most performance issues before they happen.

#2: Take Note of Monitor Index Usage

Querying the sys.dm_db_index_operational_stats() DMV can yield a plethora of information regarding your index usage. Use this information to find ways to ensure a smoother user experience.

#3: Locate Problem Queries

Up to 80 to 90 percent of poor SQL Server performance is the result of five to ten queries or stored procedures. This is common for most SQL Server instances. So, if your server performance is down, be sure to check your queries and procedures.

#4: Utilize the Tools Available

Many performance issues can be resolved using the tools available from Microsoft. SQL Server comes with Dynamic Management Views or DMVs, SQL Server Profiler, Extended Events, Execution Plans, and newer versions also contain Live Query Stats and the Query Store tools that provide an arsenal to performance issues.

#5: Find I/O Choke Points

I/O stalls are one of the most common reasons for SQL Server performance issues. Find any I/O bottlenecks and fix them.

#6: Refuse Hardware

Perhaps it's no surprise that one of the biggest IT expenses for most businesses is memory and CPU hardware for SQL Server instances. Any applications that don't utilize stored procedures or correctly define queries place extreme load on the server.

#7: Avoid Shrinking Data Files

Contrary to popular belief, shrinking data files should be avoided at all costs, as it can significantly impact SQL Server performance in a negative way. Shrinking causes fragmentation to occur and any following queries to suffer.

#8: Monitor Log Files

Transaction log files can be vital to monitoring overall performance of your SQL Server. One of the most common issues is failing to leave enough space for the transaction log file to function normally. In addition, forcing an autogrow operation may cause issues with SQL Server performance. Decreasing the log file backup interval can also prevent log files from growing out of control.

#9: Organize Data

Just as programmers keep their code clean, any savvy SQL Server user knows why it’s important to be diligent when it comes to organizing data and log files onto different physical drive arrays to reduce drive contention and latency. It is also prudent to locate those files away from the operating system drive to remove single points of failure.

#10: Reduce tempdb Contention

Some applications tend to rely heavily on tempdb. If this is the case for your organization, you may run into some contention relating to internal structures that work with tempdb file. If you experience contention, you should increase the number of tempdb data files ensuring that the files are equally sized.

#11: Modify MAX Memory Limit

Fortunately for 64-bit users, Microsoft has greatly improved memory allocation and sharing within the OS and other apps in the SQL Server. As a result, the MAX Memory setting being set at default is not ideal.

Don't be excessive when setting the memory on SQL Server; you want the OS and other applications to have access to this memory. The ideal practice is to set the MAX memory setting to 80-90% of the available memory on the server, if there are no other major applications residing on the server.