Keeping Users Happy with High-Performance Databases

Without users, databases are rather abstract constructs that, it can be argued, have no real purpose. It is certainly an interesting technical exercise to organize a bunch of information into a database so it can be accessed in a variety of ways. But if no one wants or needs to see that information, the database will remain a diversion that is of no importance to anyone but its developer.

Fortunately, there are database users or the majority of DBAs would be doing something else to earn a living. In fact, making sure that a database or database-based application meets the needs of its user community is one of the main responsibilities of database administrators. Unhappy users will often result in a stressed database team that spends too much time trying to please the individuals using their systems.

Two Kinds of Users

Users can be broadly categorized as either internal or external users. In many cases, a particular database or application will be designed primarily for one of these groups. While good performance should be offered to both types of users, there are differences in how these two very different classes of individuals need to be handled.

External users who are accessing your databases represent your organization’s customers. Poor performance with these systems can have a direct bearing on your company’s bottom line. Users may attempt to find another solution to the issue they hoped to solve by accessing your systems. Once they have found one, it will be extremely hard to win them back.

Complaints from internal users regarding poor response time may seem as if they are less important than those from potential external customers. There is a degree of truth in this perspective, but damage to an enterprise can be caused by a slow internal response that affects analytics and the ability to nimbly address business issues. Slow databases can impact productivity, causing less obvious harm to the organization.

Excessive complaints from either kind of user will make life uncomfortable for the DBAs associated with the systems in question. Management will eventually get involved and no one wants the additional pressure of your supervisor looking over your shoulder. So it’s a good idea to keep all of your users as happy as you can.

Slow-Response and Reduced User Engagement

SQL Server databases can demonstrate slow response time for multiple reasons. From the perspective of the user community, the underlying reason for poor performance is immaterial. They just want a timely response to their requests. It’s up to the database team to address the issues that are causing degraded performance.

SQL Server is a complex application that has many moving parts that all contribute to its ability to meet the needs of the user community. Some of the reasons that your SQL Server may be under-performing can be resolved by a motivated DBA while others may require network or infrastructure changes that are beyond the control of the database team. Performance bottlenecks resulting in slower performance come in a variety of shapes and sizes that include:

  • Missing indexes;
  • Poor index design;
  • Slow or unreliable network performance;
  • Poorly designed database schema;
  • Undersized buffer pool.

Tracking down the specific cause of slow response time can be challenging but is a critically important task, especially when working with systems that are designed for external users and customers. Many statistics indicate even a slight degradation in database performance can have a large effect on the satisfaction of its intended users and may influence their decision to look for alternative solutions.

In the ultra-competitive business world we inhabit, an enterprise cannot afford to do anything that might negatively impact customer satisfaction. Here are some examples of how a seemingly small delay in response time can have a large effect on potential users.

  • 88% of online customers are unlikely to return to a website after a bad experience. That means that your business essentially has one shot to attract a new customer.

  • The average user expects a webpage to load in two seconds or less. This means that the database serving up the pages needs to be performing well.

  • 39% of users will abandon a site if images take too long to load. Again, the database providing the images can be at fault. A simple issue like a slow response from the image database can drive customers away.

Not all latency in a website is due to its backend database, but poor database performance will contribute to unsatisfied users and lost business. The root of database performance issues needs to be identified and resolved to avoid this outcome.

A Tune-up Might be in Order

If you are using SQL Server databases to service external or internal users, you need to regularly engage in performance tuning to maintain the expected response times. Systems that performed well in the past may start to slip as more data is stored or more concurrent access is required. You should revisit systems regularly to ensure they are maintaining the level of performance desired by the user community.

IDERA’s SQL Doctor provides a database team with a comprehensive health-checking and performance tuning application that supports physical and virtual SQL Server instances located in your data center or with a cloud provider. With SQL Doctor, you can schedule health checks on a defined timetable to keep your servers running at peak efficiency. Categories for analysis can be selected based on the issues your systems face and you can drill down to obtain tuning suggestions.

SQL Doctor finds the sessions and queries that are dragging performance down and delivers recommendations to improve performance. With regular checkups with SQL Doctor, you can keep your SQL Server users happy whether they are a coworker in an office down the hall or are accessing your systems to make a purchase from the other side of the world. Spread a little happiness to your database users by furnishing them with great performance. It’s in everyone’s best interests to do so.

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