Database Monitoring 101: What Is It? Why Do You Need It?

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Database Monitoring 101: What Is It? Why Do You Need It?

Properly functioning databases are key to keeping your ITOps healthy and to determining the overall IT health of your organization. And when things aren’t quite right, running diagnostics on those systems can help determine what’s wrong. That is why database monitoring is important to IT operations.

But there are many different types of databases, serving different purposes, and populated by different types of data. For example, centralized databases/data warehouses and distributed databases, databases in physical systems and in virtual systems, relational databases associated with online transaction processing (OLTP) and online analytical processing (OLAP), cloud-based databases and on-premises databases, object-oriented databases, spreadsheets… you get the idea.

For that reason, database monitoring is not a one-size-fits-all prospect. Instead, database monitoring should be approached based on the needs of the organization, including the technical makeup of an organization’s IT infrastructure, and the nature of its operations and mission.

What Is Database Monitoring?

Given the importance of database monitoring, it’s important to know what database monitoring is in order to then understand how it applies to your organization. In short, database monitoring includes the tools and methods used to gather the performance metrics necessary to understand the health of an enterprise’s configuration items (CIs) and processes, and to inform actions intended to maintain a consistently high quality of system operation and service delivery.

When approached from the perspective of monitoring an organization’s systems and services, and then applying the metrics gathered to understanding and improving operations, the organization will enjoy a number of database monitoring benefits, including:

  • Effecting proactive maintenance on systems and services;
  • Maintaining an historical record of CI performance;
  • Identifying and diagnosing CI performance issues;
  • Gaining insight into the performance of CIs; and,
  • Avoiding service disruptions and outages.

Database Monitoring Metrics

Today’s enterprises generate a lot of data, populating a lot of different databases to be applied to different operations. Some of that data involves performance metrics, but not all metrics are applicable across all systems. Some metrics might be valuable to one component or service, but not other—even similar—systems. Ultimately, the metrics gathered through database monitoring should be used to evaluate, maintain, optimize, and improve overall system performance, as well as inform maintenance and troubleshooting.

A few of the key performance metrics that might be captured by database monitoring include:

  • Memory use, available memory and disk space, and percentage of memory in use;
  • CPU performance used by the database process, and time in-use;
  • Query details, such as rows, devices, frequency, etc.;
  • User activity and associated session details;
  • Bandwidth use and availability; and,
  • Execution time and latency.

Database monitoring, and the monitoring and collection of associated database metrics, serves to provide IT operations with key insights into areas such as database performance, and the performance of activities associated with an organization’s databases. Each of these areas requires monitoring as well

What Is Database Performance Monitoring?

Database performance monitoring is exactly what the term describes: monitoring data associated with the performance of a database to measure and evaluate its functioning, healthy or otherwise. Should a database’s performance be below standards, database performance monitoring can be used to identify the reasons why, as well as identify signals that may point to future problems. This information can then be used to direct IT operations teams in the mitigation of those issues.

What is Database Activity Monitoring?

Another self-described function, database activity monitoring is the means by which access and use of databases is tracked and logged to ensure their legitimacy, and to identify any attempts—successful or otherwise—at fraud or misuse. Database activity monitoring can be an important element of change management and auditing, and is complementary to security functions like access management, information security, and data privacy. Database activity monitoring is vital to ensuring the integrity of data and IT operations and, in turn, enterprise security as errors or fraudulent data contained in databases may be used by cybercriminals as a vector for attack.

The Importance of Database Monitoring Tools

Data is vital to the proper operation of the enterprise, its components, and the services its users and customers rely on. Database monitoring tools provide a view into the way data is accessed and used, the veracity of the data populating an organization’s databases, as well as the health, availability, and reliability of the databases themselves.

Some database vendors integrate tools in their products to assist in their monitoring, but database monitoring, database metrics monitoring, database performance monitoring, and database activity monitoring is at its most effective when it occurs within the context of an enterprise’s entire operation. Because the enterprise is interconnected, database monitoring must also be interconnected, helping to show not only the status of individual databases, but providing a picture of IT operations as a whole, including downstream effects.

Database Monitoring Best Practices

To maximize the value and impact of database monitoring, it is vital to ensure the databases being monitored, and the data populating them, are seen within the context of the entire enterprise—not siloes—and that monitoring is done in real-time. Organizations that build their IT operations strategy on an AIOps platform like ScienceLogic’s SL1 will gain the maximum value from their database monitoring tools because the data, metrics, performance, and activities can be evaluated in their proper context.

Some best practices to follow for database monitoring include:

  • Ensure all databases are online and operational at all times, unless scheduled to be offline for maintenance or other legitimate purposes.
  • Monitor for changes to configuration, schema, logs, and other settings, and record and archive all associated activities. This is vital for audits, forensics, and restorations.
  • Track and evaluate the performance of queries, bandwidth usage, and throughput in order to ensure optimal results.
  • Analyze data to gain insights into database and systems performance and use that data to inform machine learning in support of process automation.

Just as keeping the circulatory system healthy is essential to keeping the entire body healthy, as enterprises grow more complex, keeping data and the systems that rely on them healthy is critical to maintaining proper IT operations. The ability to monitor and understand all the data and systems that comprise the IT estate is vital to ensuring proper IT operations. But keeping those tools and processes as simple as possible is important. Otherwise, the ill-effects of tool sprawl, or of asking too much of IT staff by making them rely on outdated legacy tools and obsolete processes, will undermine the goal of running your enterprise at maximum efficiency.

You’ve invested in the systems and the tools. ScienceLogic can help ensure that they are operating at their healthiest.

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