Database Maintenance Best Practices Part I – clarifying ambiguous recommendations for Sharepoint

OK, it seems as though there's A LOT of confusion about what steps are required for proper database maintenance. And, it seems as though some recommendations are being given as "quick fixes" without any real recommendation for root cause analysis. I'm not saying that the generalizations are horribly wrong but in many cases they're just too broad and/or unspecific to actually be useful (and, well, in all honesty, some of them are just really bad recommendations because they’re so ambiguous). And, in my random internet trolling for the day, I found 4 different references that I want to go through (which is why this is only Part I). For this post, I’ll focus just on Sharepoint.

First, what did I see that’s motivating this post?
I found the following KB article – which was referenced by numerous sites as recommended reading. And, without knowing a lot about SQL (and, that’s NOT meant as a dig at all – it’s just that most apps that sit on SQL don’t ever even recommend that you need to know SQL and I can argue certain aspects of that point as well BUT, wrt to maintenance, it can really become a problem if you don't know a few things about these tasks), it does seem like good reading: Information about the Maintenance Plan Wizard in SQL Server 2005 and about tasks that administrators can perform against SharePoint databases

Here is the part that over-simplifies picking what maintenance tasks to run vs. what not to run:


We have tested these tasks and the effects that these tasks have on database schema and performance. The following table summarizes the results of these tests.

Task                                        Safe to perform this task?
Check database Yes
Reduce a database Yes
Reorganize an index Yes
Clean up the history Yes
Update statistics Yes. However, this task is unnecessary because the SharePoint Timer service performs this task automatically.
Rebuild an index No. The task does not restore existing index options before the rebuild operation. However, you can use scripts that restore index options.
Note This problem was corrected in SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2.

We used the following criteria to determine whether a task was safe to perform:

  • Whether the task modified the database schema from its default state
  • Whether the task decreased performanceResults may vary depending on the environment.

However, if you use the Maintenance Plan Wizard to perform the tasks that are listed in the table as "safe to perform," you are likely to experience increased performance in SQL Server 2005.

The big problem is: this is just too little information about too many VERY important tasks!

Let me break this down task by task and give you a few other places to go for more information.

Check database

The check database task refers to DBCC CHECKDB. This is definitely an important part of any maintenance plan. And, it really is a safe task to run as it’s NOT corrective by default. However, there is nothing mentioned about how this command may completely flush your buffer pool as it reads all of the pages of all of the objects it’s checking. So, this might impact performance but, of all of the tasks, this is the safest to run and it’s definitely a recommended task.

If you want to learn more about DBCC CHECKDB, check out these things: 

  1. Read Paul’s blog post to his TechNet article on Database Maintenance. It’s a great overview of all of these maintenance tasks and will give you a good overview of what each one does. Here’s a link to the blog post that pulls all of the TechNet resources together:  
  2. Read Paul’s blog post on Myths around causing corruption – so that you can get better insight into where/why the actual corruptions are occurring. 
  3. Finally, if you’re really interested in the internals of CHECKDB and how it works – Paul’s written a ton about it in his CHECKDB from Every Angle category. FYI, 3 of his 9 years on the SQL Server Development Team were spent writing CHECKDB and repair for SQL Server 2005 (so, he definitely knows how it works J). Here’s the link to the category:

Reduce a database 

OK, I’m sure I’ll get a lot of responses to this one but IMO, a database maintenance plan SHOULD NEVER INCLUDE A SHRINK.

Let me explain… J
To be honest, I'm not even a fan of manually running database-level shrinks (DBCC SHRINKDATABASE) either. Don't get me wrong – there are ACCEPTABLE times to shrink parts of a database but, in general, I'd recommend only using DBCC SHRINKFILE for individual file-level shrinks. I wouldn't schedule shrinks nor would I EVER turn on [the database option] autoshrink. I don't think shrinks should EVER be automated – either through the database option OR through maintenance plans.

If you need to do regular shrinks – then it's likely that you have some other problem. And, without DIRECTLY addressing this problem, you *might* be making things worse.

This is a bigger discussion and I’ve found a few other references that I want to pull together. I’ll post another post about this within the next day or so – and link to it from here BUT, for right now…Know this – free space is generally GOOD. Excessive free space has happened FOR A REASON. Maybe there’s a pattern to it but often shrinking is worse than just leaving the free space for the next data explosion (a bunch of data comes in, the database grows, the data is archived, the free space remains for the next set of data that comes in).

If you shrink the database you might make things worse by fragmenting everything. Paul’s video that goes with the TechNet article on Database Maintenance shows you the [shocking if you didn’t know this] effect of shrinking a database on indexes.

Reorganize an index, Update statistics and Rebuild an index

These need to be grouped together to start because this KB article does NOT address the impact of running these together. In fact, the problem, if you run these together – is that you MIGHT make things worse. First, let me give you an overview of each:

Reoganizing an index removes fragmentation in the largest part of an index (it’s called the leaf level of the index) and removing fragmentation in this level has the greatest (and positive) effect on range query scans and cache. So, this is really the most important type of fragmentation to remove. However, this is NOT the only way to do it… 

Rebuilding an index completely and totally removes ALL forms of fragmentation in all levels of an index; however, this is the most expensive (yet most effective) way to do it. As a result of rebuilding an index, SQL Server also updates the statistics for the indexes that were rebuilt. Therefore you do not need to update statistics OR reorganize an index if it gets rebuilt.

Updating statistics is important for query processing and optimization. The query processor uses statistics on your data to help determine how many rows will be processed by your query/statement. If SQL Server can accurately estimate the rows, then it can choose a more effective plan. However, if it doesn’t have good statistics, then it may not do as good of a job at accurately estimating rows and therefore it might not come up with as optimal of a plan. So, this is an integral part to good database health. However, some of this might be done via the database option: auto update statistics which is ON by default in SQL Server (and, YES, you should leave this on). Check out this post on: Auto update statistics and auto create statistics – should you leave them on and/or turn them on??

However, if you use a maintenance plan then I really see two problems: 

  1. You’ll end up doing maintenance on things that may not need it. The default behavior for these tasks is just to run them on the selected objects. And, since many people will choose all objects (possibly even of all databases) then you’ll probably select objects that won’t really need this as frequently as you run this maintenance plan. 
  2. You might end up running a combination of things that either – wastes cycles/CPU and a MASSIVE amount of log space (which can translate into all sorts of concerns for DR technologies like database mirroring which will need to send all log rows to the secondary server). For example, if you run ALL three of these things then they’ll have to be run in a certain order (you can change this in a maintenance plan). However, the default order is: Reorganize Index(es), Rebuid Index(es), Update Statistics. This means that the work that’s done by reorganizing is effectively wasted as the rebuild would have taken care of it AND the work that’s done for updating statistics could mean that they update statistics TWICE (during the rebuild AND after) and the end result is WORSE because the update statistics command might use a sampling mechanism to generate statistics (which can lead to LESS EFFECTIVE statistics information). However, this is ONLY if you change the wizard’s default. The default is for the updating statistics command to do a “full scan”. So, even if the statistics will end up being the same – it’s still problematic because it means that for all indexes you’ve just rebuilt – you’ve now updated their statistics TWICE.


A database maintenance plan is CRITICAL for best performance (especially for databases that are prone to some of the problems corrected by these maintenance tasks (yes, you can read SHAREPOINT into that statement). Sharepoint uses GUIDs as PRIMARY KEYs (read this post to hear more about the side effects of this choice) and as a result, as clustering keys. This means that many Sharepoint tables are prone to [potentially a MASSIVE amount of] fragmentation.

You absolutely need to have a maintenance plan. But, what should it be?

My absolute preference is to NOT use the Database Maintenance Plan Wizard UNLESS you really know what you’re doing. It just doesn’t give enough prescriptive advice. And, if you just select the defaults, you will end up with an inoptimal maintenance plan.

A better approach would be to create your own maintenance plan. If you write the code yourself (or leverage one of the custom ones that are already out on the web) then you can strategically target ONLY the objects that have the warning signs and/or are out of date and you can set when to rebuild vs. when to reorganize (generally people rebuild if a table has more than 30% fragentation and they reorganize when it's less than 30%). Fragmentation is something that can be detected programmatically using the DMV: dm_db_index_physical_stats (in SQL 2005/2008) or by using DBCC SHOWCONTIG (in SQL 7.0/2000). Here are a few places to go to see the more flexible and programmatic way of rebuilding/reorganizing indexes:

Smart Indexing Part II – Conditional Rebuilding a blog post (with conditional index rebuild code) from SQLMCA Bob Duffy (a good friend who is located in Dublin, Ireland and whose wife (Carmel) just had a baby last week – congrats again Bob!! You guys are seriously outnumbered now!!!) here:

Custom Index Defrag / Rebuild Procedures – a blog post with some posted code as well.–Rebuild-Procedures.aspx

Rebuild and Reorganize Indexes in SQL 2005 – an article (with conditional index rebuild code) from SQL Server Central here:  (NOTE: You will need to become a subscriber to get to this article.)

Rebuild Only the Indexes that Need Help – an article by Andrew Kelly (SQL MVP) on SQL Server Magazine here: (NOTE: You will need to become a suscriber to get to the full text of the article.)

Or, build your own! Check out the BOL topic for the sys.dm_db_index_physical_stats for SQL 2005 here:, Example D has sample code to help you get started! For SQL 2008 it’s here: It’s still Example D for the sample code to leverage. J

The most important thing I can tell you is that a SMALL amount of time getting familiar with what’s really happening in SQL as well as WHY it’s happening to you WILL BE A LOT MORE PRODUCTIVE then just slamming in a maintenance plan that solves some problems but probably creates others.

Hope this helps!

4 thoughts on “Database Maintenance Best Practices Part I – clarifying ambiguous recommendations for Sharepoint

  1. Hey there Brandon – Thanks! And, yes, anyone that has an app on top of SQL should definitely check out more SQL-specific stuff. So, this is really cool. Thanks for the spotlight as well!!


  2. Great post. An important aspect of index rebuilding seems to be neglected, unless you read the ‘ONLINE’ specification of the ALTER INDEX statement – A table will be unusable while an index is being rebuilt. Of course you can mark "ONLINE REBUILD", but then you get failures on LOBs.

    Trying out this maintenance script the past few days and is working nicely –

    Thanks again!

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