SQL Server systems are complex, but adhering to best practices, which distill expert knowledge into useable suggestions and frameworks, can help you keep your head above water. Historically, Microsoft hasn't made information about best practices readily available to the SQL Server community. Best practices aren't published on a regular basis and aren't easy to find when they are published. Fortunately, the company recognizes the need to improve in this area and has been making progress.

The new Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Best Practices Analyzer 1.0 Beta is now available for download at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=B352EB1F-D3CA-44EE-893E-9E07339C1F22&displaylang=en. The analyzer checks your SQL Servers for common best practice implementations and helps you ensure quality management and operation. Don't get too excited: I'm not saying that the Best Practices Analyzer is a panacea that will find all of the potential problems that exist in your servers or databases. However, the analyzer can perform more than 70 helpful checks against individual databases and servers.

The tool isn't the definitive word on whether your server and databases are perfectly configured, but it is valuable. More importantly, it previews a bright future for SQL Server professionals if Microsoft plans to make the Best Practices Analyzer an integral part of the product and continues to offer regular enhancements to the rules repository. The people I've talked to at Microsoft led me to believe that Microsoft is viewing the Best Practices Analyzer as an important strategic offering to make it easier to manage and support SQL Server. Even better, Microsoft used .NET to build the tool in an open and extendable manner, and I understand that the company plans to encourage the SQL Server community to create and contribute best practices for integration into the tool. Or you could enhance the public version of the tool's best practices with custom rules that make sense in your organization. Only time will tell if Microsoft is willing to invest in this product and whether the tool will capture the SQL Server community's imagination and support. Take a look at the SQL Server 2000 Best Practices Analyzer and let me know what you think!