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We are evaluating some of the SQL Server monitoring / debugging tools out there (Quest, Idera, Symantec etc.). Anyone here has war stories, opinions about tools that they might have used they want to share? Much appreciated.

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My view is that there are three aspects to application monitoring, such as SQL Server - you want to monitor availability (is SQL down?), and if you get good - take it to the next level by monitoring resource utilisation/performance (and logging it historically). The third and final level is monitoring the SQL workload periodically, wait stats, and logging them historically.

The big enterprise monitoring tools do availability well, and resource utlisation ok. Microsoft's SCOM does a lot of availability, and is tweakable to monitor resouce utlisation. HP Open View has similar capabilities, though performance monitoring is an extension.

For availability monitoring, be aware of the capabilities/limitations of NT event log monitoring versus remote polling. For instance, SQL Server can restart unexpectedly, and come back up, well within the time that some tools poll remotely. You'd never know SQL had been down!

Brent Ozar seems to recommend Services Alive http://www.brentozar.com/community/server-monitoring/serversalive-asp-template-setup/

The best tool I've seen for workload stuff, though I haven't used it live, is SQL Sentry: http://www.sqlsentry.net/

The one thing I will say is - defence in depth. If you can, and it's important, make sure you have two systems monitoring!

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Add Ignite to your list, I've been impressed with the features, and small footprint on the monitored instances.

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I have been using the free/trail version of this and really like it for looking at wait-stats. –  RateControl May 18 '11 at 17:36

You may want to look at up.time, from uptime software. It's a performance monitoring software for Windows, Unix, and VMware systems. Not sure if it might be overkill for what you need as it's a full mid-enterprise suite, but they have a free trial so you can see if it fits the bill - http://www.uptimesoftware.com/servermonitoring.php

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