SQL Server Performance Guide For Peak Performance

Microsoft SQL Server is an innovative technology set to revolutionize the way businesses handle data. This relational database management system supports various business intelligence and analytics operations as well as transaction processing.

SQL Server is robust and feature-rich which allows it to support a wide range of applications. However, you may experience performance issues. Queries may not run well, workloads might run into deadlocks, latency issues, or you may experience disruptions in service.

To navigate such a scenario, consider SQL Server performance optimization.



What is SQL Server Performance Optimization?

SQL Server performance optimization can seem overwhelming, especially when you aren’t too sure where to start. The different facets that make up SQL performance optimization include:


SQL Server Monitoring

The first step towards performance optimization has to be the monitoring of the Server. At the tenet of this step is effective monitoring that involves the periodic taking of snapshots of the current performance.

The goal of said monitoring is to isolate processes that might be the root cause of the problem. Additionally, the monitoring should facilitate the continuous gathering of data over time which aids in the tracking of performance trends.

This ongoing monitoring of the server’s performance is expected to minimize the response times and maximize throughput. This will yield optimal performance. This monitoring will often include network traffic, disk I/O, and CPU usage, all of which are vital to peak performance.

The database administrator is expected to thoroughly analyze the application requirements, understand the logical and physical structure of the data on the database and examine database usage.  They may also have to negotiate the trade-offs between, for instance, online transaction processing (OLTP) and decision support.

Understandably, changing conditions will often result in changing performance. For instance, as you monitor the server, you will see the change in performance as the number of users increases or when there are changes in connection methods.

You can also monitor additional aspects of the dynamic environment, including when the network traffic rises, when queries appear to become more complex, and when data within the application changes.

Overall, performance monitoring should help you associate changes in performance with changing conditions.


SQL Server Performance Tuning

SQL Server performance tuning comprises a set of processes and procedures meant to help with optimizing relational database queries to have these run as efficiently as possible. Some of the elements involved in SQL tuning include identifying which queries are experiencing slowdowns and optimizing these for maximum efficiency.

SQL performance tuning is meant to help you locate poorly written SQL queries and instances of ineffective indexing. The yield is often evidence that you need to invest in improving the hardware or technical specifications.

SQL performance tuning can be quite the hurdle, especially when you decide to perform said fine-tuning manually. What’s more, even a simple adjustment can have wide-ranging effects on the Server and database performance. These two scenarios should effectively then inform your decision to invest in the best SQL Server performance tuning tools.


SQL Query Optimization

SQL Query Optimization improves the performance of a query. This may include improving execution times, the number of disk accesses or other cost measuring criteria. The tenet of this entire process is making sure that the users have access to the data in the fastest way possible, which translates to an enhanced user experience.

Before understanding query optimization, it would be prudent to first examine query processing. The latter is defined as the collection of phases associated with the extraction of data from the database. It encompasses the conversion of queries that were likely written in a high-level language into a form that is easily comprehensible by the physical level implementation of the database.

The purpose of SQL query optimization is, first off, the reduction of response time. This is informed by proof that reduced response time enhances performance. As such, you want to minimize the time difference between when the user requests data and when they get a response.

What’s more, we see that when the CPU execution time of a query is reduced, faster results are obtained. This reduced CPU execution time improves the user experience.

Finally, when you optimize SQL queries, you improve the throughput. This pertains to the number of resources that are needed to fetch all the necessary data. When you minimize the number of rows to be featured for a particular query, thus using the least number of resources, you end up with overall improved throughput.


SQL Index Optimization

When it comes to SQL, Index is used to retrieve requested data speedily from the database tables. It is noteworthy that there are only two types of indexes used in SQL Server, clustered and non-clustered indexes.

When it comes to optimizing the SQL index, the non-clustered indexes are preferred to the clustered. The former has index key values and can retrieve data at a faster rate as compared to clustered indexes. The downside is that non-clustered indexes end up taking a tremendous amount of time to pull data. This would then require index optimization.

Notably, optimization of SQL indexes should improve the performance of a query. To optimize this element you can use a SQL profiler, the Index Tuning Wizard and SQL Query Analyzer.

Altogether, these elements encompass what is involved in server performance optimization. Granted, you must still ponder why you should embark on said optimization and specifically why it is of great importance.



letters that spell sql


Why is SQL Server Performance Optimization Important?

Most businesses consider storage and information access a primary business function. Employees and external users expect your website and its applications to work effectively.

This means that your servers and databases simply need to function efficiently. A single query delay of a few milliseconds might not seem like much. However, they can quickly add up and cause delays.

Besides, we are seeing vast amounts of continually generated data streaming in. Businesses now have to grapple with the reality of just how time-consuming retrieving information from databases can be.

The SQL server is expected to ensure such a business functionality, which is essentially a business-critical operation, is not slow. Successful SQL Server performance optimization, therefore, ensures that related data-based processes run as smoothly as possible, thus improving business processes.

When you optimize SQL Server Performance, you keep coding loops at bay. These coding loops can damage the database as the query ends up running several times. If you were to do this query out of the loop, you should boost performance as the query runs just once instead of having it run in several iterations.


Tips on How to Improve SQL Server Performance

If you are experiencing poor SQL Server performance, here are practical suggestions on how to improve it.


Segment Hardware Based on Performance Requirements

When you are having performance issues, the hardware that supports the SQL Server environment is where you should start. You want to have a grasp on this infrastructure if you are to prevent hardware-related performance issues. This hardware review should capture the number of CPUs in use, their speeds, and specific RAM sizes.

SQL Server is a resource-intensive application. It will require significant processing and memory power to properly manage and drive the workload in real time. Note that when the processor or memory can’t keep up, applications end up being less responsive.

Review your available memory and determine if it can handle your data throughput. Overall, ensure that the storage capacity you go with can deliver the necessary input/output operations per second (IOPS) without having the latency rates at the minimum.


Design and Build Indexes Curated to Improving Performance

When the business doesn’t have an experienced DBA on board, it is quite tempting to keep adding indexes to their tables in the hopes that these will improve performance. The truth, however, is that this is considered improper indexing that could steadily worsen performance. 

These unnecessary indexes create the need to periodically rebuild and reorganize operations which adds additional complexities that you could do without.

What’s more, we see instances of duplicate indexes where the “Index Name” fails to be unique within the schema. This wastes precious SQL Server resources and ends up generating unnecessary overhead and further lagging in database performance.

Finally, it would be prudent if you collected, aggregated, and analyzed any missing indexes that would otherwise delay swift access to the requested data, fondly referred to as the index seek operation.


Review SQL Server Configuration for Performance

When discussing optimizing SQL Server, it’s important to consider the version and edition you are using. Specifically, you want to consider the features, stability, and shelf life of the version and edition available to you.

Many businesses today are running versions that are outdated or nearing the end of their lifecycle. In this case, a move to a modern version may be the single biggest performance improvement you can make.

SQL Server 2019 is the latest version, whose mainstream support should extend to 2030. You want to have this latest version as it provides the longest support lifespan and consistent features and security patches.

Depending on the edition you run, you will get SQL Server Analysis Service (SSAS) which is an online analytical processing, data mining, and reporting tool that fits right in with business intelligence

Additionally, you get SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) that provides you with data transformation and migration capabilities that make it possible to extract, transform, and load the data.

Finally, you get the latest SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) which provides you with the tools necessary to create reports for a better understanding of the data, whether it is in the native transaction system or already transformed into a data mart.


Optimize Performance

The first step of optimizing your SQL Server is understanding the max degree of parallelism (MAXDOP) setting. If the server is running on a computer with more than one CPU, it detects the best degree of parallelism.

This indicates the number of processors needed to run a single SQL statement for each query with a parallel execution plan. You can use MAXDOP to limit the number of processors to use for parallel plan execution, thus preventing run-away queries that would otherwise impact the SQL Server performance.

Additionally, consider configuring the cost threshold for parallelism server configuration option with SQL Server Management Studio or Transact-SQL. This will ensure that a parallel plan is created and run for a query when the estimated cost is higher than the value you set in the cost threshold for parallelism.


Wait Events

There are many events that can occur on a SQL Server the create a considerable wait time. These “wait events” can have an impact on performance. If you check wait statistics, you may uncover wait types related to Disk I/O, Lock Contention, CPU or memory. Finding and eliminating these extended events will improve the performance of your server significantly.



To optimize the SQL server index, consider using SQL Profilers. The Profiler will identify queries that perform poorly. The Profiler has the ability to trace the number of reads and writes operations that have been run to satisfy a query.

An insider tip would be to correctly choose the events to monitor and run the SQL Profiler from a remote computer. Finally, be sure to identify frequently running queries that register longer durations. An additional optimization tip would be to use an Index Tuning Wizard. The wizard will identify indexes that need to be created or alternatively dropped.


Create a Maintenance Plan

Your Maintenance Plan should cover tasks that need to be completed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Some of these tasks will prevent performance issues while others may uncover issues that exist. This will allow you to develop a plan for optimizing.

Your maintenance plan will cover a lot of topics. A backup strategy, a patching strategy and even a recovery strategy in the event of a breach. What’s more, make room for integrity checks for your entire SQL ecosystem.


two men discussing SQL performance


Don’t Let the Complexity of SQL Server Performance Overwhelm You

Hiring the right professionals to take care of your SQL database server ensures top-tier SQL database performance tuning. You get a team dedicated to efficiently and practically boosting your SQL database performance, which means greater optimization. We invite you to sign up for a SQL Server Performance Evaluation where our experts will inspect all the areas and provide you with actionable steps for improving your SQL Server Performance.

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