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What to Do if Your Database is Slow

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A slow database is the bane of many businesses. But if you find that performance is lacking, you might not know where to start when it comes to troubleshooting it.

To help you out, here are a few common causes of sluggish database operation which should be a priority to check in your next maintenance session.

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Check index fragmentation

Looking into index fragmentation in the SQL Server setup you’re responsible for could provide an easy win in terms of performance optimization.

Fragmentation is unavoidable, and since indexes are designed to speed up data retrieval in the first place, if they are out of kilter then apps and services can quickly slow to a crawl.

If fragmentation is below a third, then you can simply defragment the index using the integrated tools. If it is greater than this amount, then rebuilding the affected index is both faster and more thorough as a solution.

Look for rogue processes

Databases can be brought to their knees unnecessarily if processes go rogue and monopolize hardware resources they have no need of.

There are two things to consider here, both at the SQL level and at the OS layer on which the database functions.

Deadlocks that occur when processes can’t access resources have to be dealt with if they occur too frequently.

Meanwhile, if the processes involved in keeping the operating system ticking over get out of hand, these may need to be terminated manually.

In either case, it’s about looking for unusual spikes in hardware usage, or abnormally long wait times, and pinpointing problem processes for further troubleshooting.

Assess hardware limitations

It’s not always software that’s to blame for a slow database, as sometimes the hardware is the culprit.

This is particularly apparent in periods of peak usage when high volumes of requests need to be handled and everything from the CPU and memory to the I/O could become a bottleneck.

There are a few workarounds for this, such as allocating more memory in the OS to the database so that it is not hamstrung by lacking adequate RAM.

However, it is better to avoid being blindsided by sudden, glaring hardware inadequacies, and instead, plan ahead so that you can implement upgrades as necessary in a timely manner.

Monitoring database performance over time and seeing how hardware resource usage changes from moment to moment is useful in this respect.

Storage, in particular, is a hard limit that you should really avoid reaching. Performance can be nosedive if your database hits the capacity of the drives onboard, so giving yourself a healthy buffer of extra space is wise.

Furthermore, your planning has to project forwards to predict the usage your database is likely to experience further down the line. If your business is growing, or you anticipate that the apps, sites, and services that the database supports will become significantly more popular, then you’ve got to provision for this on a hardware level.

We’ve really only scratched the surface of database performance troubleshooting, but this should be enough to get you started!

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