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Essentially Everything you need to Monitor SQL Server - at no cost!

By:   |   Last Updated: 2014-02-05   |   Comments (6)   |   Related Tips: More > Monitoring


As I'm sure you are aware, monitoring your SQL Servers should be a daily part of any DBA's activities.  The problem with monitoring is that it takes time to determine what to monitor and even more time to setup processes to collect and alert you of issues.  The other option is to use third party monitoring tools, but this can get expensive to monitor all servers.  So because of these issues, many servers are not monitored and DBAs take a reactive approach to server management instead of a proactive approach.


Dell Software understands these issues that DBAs face and has put together several free monitoring solutions for SQL Server available within Spotlight Essentials. These tools allow you to monitor and gauge all of your SQL Servers at no cost so you can begin to take a proactive approach to SQL Server monitoring.

Spotlight Essentials is a subset of Dell Software's flagship solution Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise, and offers many useful features such as:

  • Spotlight Freemium - A SQL Server Management Studio Plug-in to manage all of your servers
  • The Spotlight Healthcheck providing a prioritized list of health issues
  • Access to collective intelligence data that allows you to compare and benchmark your stats to similar servers

Spotlight Freemium - SQL Server Management Studio Plug-in

The Spotlight Freemium plug-in for SSMS allows you to manage all of your servers and see issues using a heat map as shown below.  Each box represents a server that is being monitored and the size of the box along with the color coding allows you to see which servers require your immediate attention.

spotlight essentials heat map

In addition, the plug-in allows you to setup Alarms to get real-time notifications of any issues, so you don't need to manually monitor your servers.

Spotlight Essentials - Healthcheck

The Spotlight Essentials Healthcheck is a process that reviews your monitored servers for any potential configuration and performance issues such as security, memory, I/O, SQL Best Practices and more. 

The healthcheck will provide information like the image below that shows four instances that were checked and two instances have high priority issues that should be addressed.

spotlight essentials sql server instance issues

From this high level review, if you drill deeper into the issues, Spotlight Healthcheck will give you a more detailed description of the issues.

spotlight essentials issue drill down

And drilling even deeper will give you the information you need to resolve the issue.

spotlight essentials issue resolution

Spotlight Essentials - Comparing Your Servers to Other Similar Servers

Sometimes having all of this information is not quite enough to know whether you have an issue or not.  Just because you are being alerted of these issues, it's helpful to compare your server to other similar servers.  If you have a big SQL Server shop you might have access to this information, but maybe the servers are not quite the same or maybe you don't have any others servers to compare to, this is where access to the Spotlight Essentials data is key. Spotlight Essentials allows you to compare your servers to other servers that are using Spotlight Essentials to get a better understanding of how your servers performance compares.

In the image below, we can see particular counters that were captured and this is then compared to the Spotlight Essentials data that has been collected from thousands of servers and has a repository of over 30TB of data that is used to help you get a better understanding of how your server's performance compares with others.

spotlight essentials data comparison


If you are looking for a way to monitor all of your SQL Servers or just need to monitor one, take a look at Spotlight Essentials for free options to take a proactive approach to SQL Server monitoring. 

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MSSQLTips.com Product Editorial sponsored by Dell Software makers of Spotlight Essentials.

Last Updated: 2014-02-05

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MSSQLTips author Greg Robidoux Greg Robidoux is the President of Edgewood Solutions and a co-founder of MSSQLTips.com.

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Thursday, February 06, 2014 - 5:04:37 PM - Patrick O'Keeffe Back To Top

Hi MH,

I understand your concerns.  The analysis we do in the cloud includes anonymized comparisons with other users like you – we call it collective intelligence.  We think it is useful to be able to see if what you are experiencing is normal, and what the range of normal actually is.  Another good reason is that we can take care of managing a potentially large volume of historical data so you don’t have to.

Thursday, February 06, 2014 - 1:34:16 PM - MH Back To Top

It's too bad these apps are so dependent on the cloud. Call me old fashioned, but I'm uncomfortable sending all this data about my production systems out to an external service. And it seems pretty wasteful - data that's already collected here needs to be packaged and sent out. ANd after it's analyzed external, the results are delivered back to me. I'd prefer to run software in a controlled environment here on our LAN. Thanks anyways.

Thursday, February 06, 2014 - 6:26:01 AM - Patrick O'Keeffe Back To Top

Hi – I work for Dell on the Spotlight team.

With that disclosure out of the way, Yes that is correct, though Spotlight Freemium supports a significant subset of alarms that its big brother does,  it does not support alerting via email or other means.

Spotlight Freemium collects data from the SQL Servers it monitors via the same remote means as Spotlight Enterprise.  Your database servers do not need an internet connection (which is good because this is not really a good practice).  As long as the machine that runs Freemium has internet access you’re good to go.

Please be sure to check out the doc on the web site (http://www.spotlightessentials.com) for full disclosure on what we upload to deliver the functionality that we do, how we use the data and how it’s stored.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 - 5:31:18 PM - Faran Back To Top

I think yes it's available in Enterpise edition not in freemium. Correct?

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 - 5:25:41 PM - Faran Back To Top

Hi thanks for this. I understand you can set alarms but does it send you email alerts of any problems? E.g., job failures, and other important messages in error log that need immediate attention?

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 - 4:40:45 PM - David Back To Top

I have used Spotlight before at another job and when I saw the Spotlight Freemium I thought it might be interesting.  So far the only problem I see after loading it on my test system is that you need to have an internet connection to sign into your Dell account and a lot of my servers don't have a direct connection to the internet.  I will continue to check it out.  Thanks!


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