Today, most corporate IT environments trust and are looking forward to investing in Microsoft SQL Server for transaction processing, business intelligence, and performing analysis on applications. It has known to be a great solution for data-intensive enterprises as it enables them to store and manage a large amount of sensitive or personal data with efficient permission management tools and access controls.
With so many advantages, there also comes a worry of being under constant threat as it holds a large amount of sensitive data that malicious hackers look forward to.
In this post, we have highlighted some of the best practices and monitoring tools that can enhance your SQL Server security and protect your data at all times.
What is SQL Server Security?
There are a dozen of database management software available online, yet Microsoft SQL Server is a top choice due to its in-built security features and functioning.
Microsoft SQL Server is a reliable relational database management system (RDBMS) that helps store and retrieve data as per the request. It has a user-friendly installation interface that makes it easier for users to install and secure data storage. Microsoft SQL Server also supports SQL programming language that helps various database administrators (DBAs) and other IT professionals to easily manage and query the data.
They also provide many permission management tools with access controls that help keep sensitive information safe and secure. It supports sophisticated encryption algorithms making it difficult for attackers to break the security layers and access crucial data.
Security of SQL Server is the primary responsibility of the database administrators. The server was designed with the capability and features to encrypt data, protect it from theft, limit access and authorization, and more.
Apart from maintaining security, it also enables you to maintain data integrity and consistency. Any individual with good knowledge and skills in SQL Programming language can run the server, make maximum out of its vital features, and improve performance.
The server is available in various editions, each having different functionality. Thus, customers can choose the right one from a wide range of options as per their budget and requirement. SQL Server is not a simple database engine but provides a variety of services, tools, and applications to improve overall results.
Why You Should Choose SQL Server
Here are a few reasons that most companies trust and choose SQL Servers over other database management software:
- Data Security SQL Server supports various features like encrypted communication over SSL/TLS, Transparent data encryption (TDE), and Windows Data Protection API (DPAPI) that protect your data and maintain proper security. It is completely in the hands of the database administrator to configure the above-listed features and address the security requirements of your applications.
- Optimizes Data Storage With a SQL Server, you do not have to look for duplicate data stored within your database while working on multiple computers. SQL Server provides integrity that helps in maintaining data accuracy. It also supports Microsoft’s proprietary language – Transact-SQL (T-SQL), that aids in programming queries and commands. SQL Server composes several other elements, including SQL Server Database Engine (manages processing and data storage) and Tabular Data Stream (connects SQL Server clients to database servers).
- Easy to Install and Provides Automatic Updates No special toolkit is required to run the server. The installation process is simple and cheap compared to other DBMS. Also, it supports automatic update features, thus reducing manual work.
A Quick Overview Of SQL Server Security
Poor database server security can cause too many data breaches. Thus, it is a must to invest in a server that supports powerful security features like Microsoft SQL Server. It supports Windows Authentication and SQL Server Authentication options. Also, it comprises various permission management tools.
Another advantage of SQL Server is that it supports multiple encryption options, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), Transparent Data Encryption (TDE), Backup Encryption, etc. Yet, many organizations raise the issue of experiencing SQL database vulnerabilities and attacks.
To protect SQL Server security, one must understand the potential threats and then take action to reduce the attacks.
SQL Server Security Best Practices
Default security settings can leave your servers vulnerable to attacks. Here are a few practices that all database administrators must adopt to reduce the risk and protect data against malicious attacks.
- Run Multiple Security Audits Failed server logins, changes to configurations, or restricted database objects are a few signs that someone is trying to hack or attack your server. Thus, make sure to conduct regular security audits to prevent potential attacks and perform analysis on the possible breaches. Try auditing user logins, SQL Server Auditing, Schema changes, etc., to improve the health of your database.
- Create a Strong Password Policy Attackers find it difficult to crack strong passwords. Thus, make sure your password is a combination of numbers, uppercase/lowercase letters, and special characters. Also, make it long with a minimum of 10 characters. Avoid easy-to-guess passwords and keep changing them from time to time. Thus, making it difficult for attackers to crack one.
- Allow Minimal Privileges It is best to grant privileges and permission to the least operators and administrators in your work environment. Determine which accounts must be allowed to run by a specific database service. Domain user account, Active Directory managed service account, Network service account, and Local service account are a few accounts one can have for SQL Server services.
- Introduce a Database Backup Strategy Maintaining a regular backup of your SQL database and storing it in different locations will always keep your business safe from huge losses. Even after so much security, if the attacker manages to damage your server, you can recover your data and tackle SQL database issues. While creating backups, remember to encrypt all your files and data.
- Invest in SQL Monitoring Tools Install SQL monitoring tools to protect your database from frequent attacks. By adding these tools, you can keep track of changes made to the server settings and scall all the database application processes. Further, you can also timely detect errors and address performance issues.
The Best SQL Server Security Monitoring Tools
Choose from the below-listed best SQL Server Security monitoring tools to ensure high server performance:
1. SolarWinds SQL Sentry – FREE TRIAL
SQL Sentry has an easy-to-use web interface with a performance analysis dashboard that allows operators to view all SQL Server activities. It further helps the administrators to get more details of Windows and SQL Server key metrics. Further, you can also monitor the current activities and stats over some time using the History mode.
- Creation and Management of Event Chain
- Proactive alerts
- Discover and troubleshoot high-impact queries
- Index analysis and management
- Blocking SQL view
- Performance Analysis Dashboard to view monitored server activities
- Eliminate alert fatigue with Advisory Conditions and allows the setting up of automated responses
- SQL Sentry has an easy-to-use web interface
- Blocking and deadlocks analysis
- Automate SQL Sentry Updates
SQL Server slowdowns can be a major setback. Thus, invest in SolarWinds SQL Sentry that helps save time and fixes performance problems. Its Top SQL View feature allows the administrators to discover problematic queries responsible for bottlenecks and fix them. Further, it allows you to perform blocks and deadlock analysis.
Website Link: https://www.solarwinds.com/sql-sentry
Download: Click here to download your fully functional SolarWinds SQL Sentry 14-day free trial.
2. Idera SQL Diagnostic Manager – FREE TRIAL
Idera SQL Diagnostic Manager is another popular SQL Server monitoring tool that must companies bid on. It enables companies to monitor all physical, virtual, and cloud environments. Further, you can alert predictively and ignore false alerts.
- Monitor operating systems and SQL Servers
- Allows monitoring server database in both physical and virtual environments
- SQL Query Tuner add-on helps discover and diagnose queries performing badly
- Provide a graphical view of the data
- Configure custom thresholds
- Compatible with most versions of Windows
- Monitors SQL Server instances in real-time
- Manages availability groups even during failover
- Reports with custom counters
- CPU and memory usage monitoring
Idera SQL Diagnostic Manager allows the administrators to monitor and view all performance data on hard disk, memory, and CPU. You can also keep track of network usage with this tool. It also supports the SQL Query Tuner add-on that helps in discovering poor SQL queries. The only drawback of Idera SQL Diagnostic Manager is that it is available for Windows servers only. Register for the 14-day free trial.
Website Link: https://www.idera.com/products/sql-diagnostic-manager
3. Datadog SQL Server Monitoring
Datadog is trusted by thousands of enterprises for its excellent features and query execution performance. It has an agent compatible with Linux and Windows platforms that gathers all data and performs monitoring, but all the processing is done on the server.
- Offers real-time monitoring
- Performs historical analysis
- Customizable dashboard
- Discovers slow-running SQL queries in seconds
- Offers end-to-end application tracing
- Provides visibility into the database
- Faster analysis of slow query logs
- Supports 600+ vendor-backed integrations
- Monitor and view anomalous behavior across all systems
- Automatic obfuscation of PII
- Allows creation of composite alerts
Companies prefer Datadog over other monitoring tools because it offers faster troubleshooting of SQL Server Performance Issues. Also, it provides features that help in the quick identification of slow-running SQL queries and error rates.
Another reason is that it helps detect unanticipated outliers and errors automatically.
Website Link: https://www.datadoghq.com/blog/sql-server-performance/
4. Site24x7 SQL Server Monitoring
Site24x7 is another trusted SQL Server Monitoring tool that provides instant notification on failover clusters and out-of-the-box database monitoring services. Get access to optimal SQL Server performance at all times with this all-in-one monitoring tool. It offers deep insights into errors, replications, and SQL compilations. Further, Site24x7 captures all information such as the log file size, log cache hit ratio, data file size used, etc.
It also includes alerting mechanism that instantly updates the administrators if the performance drops or the resources are about to reach full capacity.
- Monitors server resources supporting databases
- Alert options
- Capacity Planning
- Monitors all your internal networks
- Unify SQL monitoring across multiple environments
- Monitors servers and failover clusters
- Cron Monitoring
- Linux Syslog Monitoring
- Monitors Docker & Kubernetes
- Monitors websites and end-user experience
- Monitors and records errors, replications, and SQL compilations
- Database tuning
- Allows creation of application stack map to discover application dependencies
- Compatible with Windows, FreeBSD, Linux & OS X Servers
Website Link: https://www.site24x7.com/sql-server-monitoring.html
5. ManageEngine SQL Performance Monitor
Nowadays, most companies use enterprise database systems, and SQL database servers have been identified as the real cause of latency problems. Thus, to monitor your SQL Server performance, we recommend investing in ManageEngine Applications Manager. It is a powerful monitoring tool that helps prevent the occurrence of errors and troubleshoot issues faster.
- Live performance monitoring
- Helps in the quick identification of fault zones
- Offers real-time monitoring
- REST API Monitoring
- Java Runtime Monitoring
- Allows tracking resource usage stats
- Supports monitoring of ongoing sessions
- Keep an eye on all data availability operations
- Monitors cache and buffer performance
- Database Objects Analysis
- Offers log monitoring
Another benefit of the Application Manager is that it monitors and provides reports of multi-vendor applications. Also, it keeps track of live database statuses and records the utilization of database structures. With the help of the Application manager, one can faster discover and spot database objects that are badly implemented.
Website Link: https://www.manageengine.com/products/applications_manager/sql-server-performance-monitor.html
Servers are a vital resource within a network and must be timely monitored as attackers are always on a move. Even if you have a strong security system, do not underestimate the cyberattackers. Discussing the SQL Server database, today many companies trust and use it to store and retrieve data as it comprises various in-built security features.
SQL Servers support both Windows and SQL Server Authentication, provide multiple encryption options, and various permission management tools. Yet, we often hear cases of SQL database vulnerabilities and attacks.
To enhance the server security of SQL Servers, we have shared some of the best practices and monitoring tools that one must adapt and install to protect their sensitive information. Make sure to run multiple security audits, create strong passwords, follow a Database Backup Strategy, and install monitoring tools like SolarWinds SQL Sentry, Datadog, Site 24×7, and more.
Go through the above-listed server monitoring tools and compare their features and benefits before making a final call for the product.