Technology solutions have become so complex over the past few years that it's impossible for one person to know and understand every detail of every tool that an end-to-end solution includes. Unfortunately, businesses can't afford to maintain an army of world-class experts—a master for each solution component. That's why published best practices, which outline how to easily, efficiently, and effectively deploy solutions, are so important. What's even better is to have tools that do some of the hard work for you. Microsoft's new SQL Server Best Practices Analyzer (BPA) combines these aides, providing both best-practices information and verification tools to help you implement solutions in the best possible way.

BPA is a database-management tool that lets you verify the implementation of common best practices on your servers. The best practices, typically focusing on SQL Server database resource utilization and administration factors, help you manage and operate your SQL Servers securely and efficiently. Microsoft released the beta version of BPA 6 months ago, and now BPA 1.0 is available for download from the Microsoft SQL Server home page and from Microsoft's Download Center. Note that Microsoft doesn't support upgrading from the beta version. You need to uninstall the beta before installing BPA 1.0 and make sure that no files remain from the beta-release installation if you plan to install version 1.0 in the same folder you installed the beta in. Also, Microsoft changed the BPA Repository format from the beta to the final release, so the beta BPA Repository isn't supported.

I won't mislead you into thinking that a quick installation of this tool will magically solve all your SQL Server problems. Although BPA might not find a problem on your system, that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. I don't advise relying entirely on a tool to find problems on your servers without further investigation on your part. However, I think you'll find BPA a valuable addition to your SQL Server best-practices arsenal because it can detect more places for best-practices implementation than any one person or team. (For more information about best-practices resources, read my commentary "Top Best Practice? Learning Best Practices.")

BPA isn't the definitive word about whether your servers and databases are perfectly configured. The tool won't tell you anything about your system's performance—a database that adheres to best practices isn't immune to subtle performance problems. But the tool also suggests that Redmond is starting to make larger investments in providing the SQL Server community with best-practices information and tools. Microsoft became a database leader by providing intuitive, easy-to-use graphical tools that make it easier for customers to install and manage databases. The next generation of tools needs to take another step and help us install and manage our databases not only easily but most efficiently and according to best practices. Time will tell whether Microsoft will continue to invest in BPA if the tool captures the SQL Server community's support. Check out the new BPA release, and let me know what you think and how you're using it.