Total SQL Analyzer PRO

Super-Charge SQL Server

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"No question this was one of the easiest transitions I have experienced due to the documentation you provide."

- R. Carter

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Microsoft SQL Server documentation program Download the trial version of the premier Microsoft Access documentation program

Product Review - FMS Total SQL Analyzer

SQL Server Central.Com, Brian Knight December 12, 2001

Often times, I'm asked by clients to document their entire server. This usually includes jobs, database objects and DTS packages. This used to take a huge amount of time, even with a few make-shift scripts I had created to perform this action. Not to mention what an utterly boring task it is for a DBA to document the properties of each column, table, and database. FMS's new Total SQL Analyzer to the rescue, freeing up time for people who are tired of creating mountains of documentation. FMS's Total SQL Analyzer allows you, as a DBA or analyst, to get back to what you really love to do.

In this review, I took a look at Total SQL Analyzer 1.00.0116. The installation was quick, easy, and behaved flawlessly while I tried to "break it". One item I was impressed about is that the product had a Product Update option, which will detect if there's a later release of the product. This feature was not completely seamless however. After detecting there was a newer version of the product, it did not download it automatically. Instead, it opened a browser and the download page of FMS.

The purpose of FMS Total SQL Analyzer (TSA) is to provide you with detailed documentation about every detail on your system. From a product that specializes in documentation, you would expect to see good online help included. I found that not only was the online help strong, but also a hardcopy manual was included. This is an extreme rarity for technical products.

The documentation is done completely through a wizard. Actually, if you didn't know any better, you would think you were still in Enterprise Manager. Within a few screens, the documentation engine cranks up, documenting every facet of your SQL Server. This takes a substantial amount of time. As a matter of fact, I have a Pentium III 800 and was able to go away to lunch and come back before my databases (3 not including the system databases) on my server were documented. The speed of TSA is my main complaint. Even when I scaled back the depth of my documentation, it still took 30-45 minutes to run. This can be quite intense on your database server as well as it's probed. TSA has an option to reduce the impact on your servers though. By selecting the Minimize Server Load option in the documentation wizard, the documentation engine will pause occasionally so your database server is not overwhelmed. By checking this option, your overall scan will take longer, but it's recommended against production servers.

Once the documentation process is complete, you're ready to begin exploring your server's properties. You can do this in the GUI by drilling down to the specific object in question or by generating a report. One nice item about this product is it does keep in-depth historical documentation, so if an object changes, you can track down when it occurred and by who. The GUI also gives you performance tips and issues it has stored in its system about your database. A typical recommendation would be to not use NULLABLE fields or to use a non-variable character field. The GUI was very easy to learn because it looked like the familiar Enterprise Manager for SQL Server 2000.  I liked that as you drilled into each object, it showed you the DDL statement to create the object, but a negative is that you can't export this into notepad or similar tool.

As one would expect, the reports are the best feature of the application. They're a very flexible way of exporting the results of the documentation into a highly-presentable format that I can easily hand to a client and make my own. You can edit the style of the report to strip out any FMS information. You can export it into HTML style format or Word. Keep in mind that as you would hope, these reports can be quite large. Just exporting a small database ran over a 100 pages in documentation. This is the beauty of the product. Imagine how boring this task would be if I were to manually do this. TSA gives you tons of types of reports and you can generate a report for any type of SQL Server object.

Total SQL Server Analyzer is an invaluable tool that can save you time in preparing documentation, whether for Business Analyst, customers, or for disaster recovery preparedness. The documenting engine outputs data that is gold to me because I don't have to spend the days it would take to generate it. It lets me spend those days performing better uses for my time.

Summary of Pros and Cons

 Pros Cons
  • Ease of use
  • Saves tons of time in documenting your SQL Server
  • Historical view of your data change. Let's you see when your objects  have changed
  • Documenting engine can be scheduled to run during slow times
  • Slow documenting engine
  • Can be intense on a production server while documenting is occurring
  • Can't automatically compare two reports to look for differences

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