Essentials of setting up a good performing production Sql Server instance

To set up a Sql Server in production, it is better to get it right for the first time. Obviously, you can’t plan for the best performance when you don’t know how exactly your data will grow, but there are a few key points that won’t change regardless of your data growth pattern. You better get them right from the first day. Two components of a typical sql server system need special attention: First is the log file, and second is the tempdb.

Sql Server writes any transaction on the log file instantly as it happens, it then writes them back to pages. Note that pages might not be written back to disk for a while. If server crashes before writing down a page, you can recover from the log file. Tempdb is also very important bacause sql server does all its internal jobs on tempdb. Stuff like index or table spooling, row versioning, etc all happen at tempdb. Below are the list of cautions you may take to architect a good performing mid size sql server database: (and by mid size I mean anything above 1GB. For larger databases -say above 20GB- you also have to think about partitioning, filegroups, etc as minimum).

1- Keep the log file in a sperate dedicated and fast drive. If you are using a virtual host make sure to get a separate physical drive for ONLY your log file.

2- Run sql service using a specificly created account not the generic service or network accounts. Make sure no one (specially service accounts) has any read or write access to the hard drive with the log file. This will asure that the disk head will not mock around, so that Sql Server can write its log files using the advertised hard disk write speed.

3- Use log shipping and log based replication with caution, because they read from the log file, hence they may make hard disk’s head to dance instead of running.

4- Put the tempdb on a very fast har drive. Possibly an SSD or at least make sure its hard drive is seperated from the database file, log file, and even operating system’s drive.

5- Make sure you have enough RAM. RAMs are cheap but their effect on performance is more than anything. Run a task that monitors the “SqlServer – BufferManagement: Page Life Expectancy” counter periodically, and add more RAM as the value starts heading south.

Obviously, above considerations will not make your slow dead database to rock and roll but it will assure you that effect of the environmental on performance is minimum. Then you can use your smart Sql tachniques to make the db fast and performing.


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