Tune and maintain indexes


The most common (and most effective) method for tuning T-SQL queries is to evaluate and adjust your indexing strategy. Properly indexed databases perform fewer IOs to return query results, and with fewer IOs there's reduced pressure on both the IO and storage systems. Reducing IO even allows for better memory utilization. Keep in mind the read/write ratio of your queries.

A heavy write workload may indicate that the cost of writing rows to extra indexes isn't of much benefit. An exception would be if the workload performs mainly updates that also need to do lookup operations. Update operations that do lookups can benefit from extra indexes or columns added to an existing index. Your goal should always be to get the most benefit out of the smallest number of indexes on your tables.

A common performance tuning approach is as follows:

  • Evaluate existing index usage using sys.dm_db_index_operational_stats and sys.dm_db_index_usage_stats.

  • Consider eliminating unused and duplicate indexes, but this should be done carefully. Some indexes may only be used during monthly/quarterly/annual operations, and may be important for those processes. You may also consider creating indexes to support those operations just before the operations are scheduled, to reduce the overhead of having otherwise unused indexes on a table.

  • Review and evaluate expensive queries from the Query Store, or Extended Events capture, and work to manually craft indexes to better serve those queries.

  • Create the index(s) in a non-production environment, and test query execution and performance and observe performance changes. It's important to note any hardware differences between your production and non-production environments, as the amount of memory and the number of CPUs could affect your execution plan.

  • After testing carefully, implement the changes to your production system.

Verify the column order of your indexes—the leading column drives column statistics and usually determines whether the optimizer will choose the index. Ideally, the leading column will be selective and used in the WHERE clause of many of your queries. Consider using a change control process for tracking changes that could affect application performance. Before dropping an index, save the code in your source control, so the index can be quickly recreated if an infrequently run query requires the index to perform well.

Finally, columns used for equality comparisons should precede columns used for inequality comparisons and that columns with greater selectivity should precede columns with fewer distinct values.

Resumable index

Resumable index allows index maintenance operations to be paused, or take place in a time window, and be resumed later. A good example of where to use resumable index operations is to reduce the impact of index maintenance in a busy production environment. You can then perform rebuild operations during a specific maintenance window giving you more control over the process.

Furthermore, creating an index for a large table can negatively affect the performance of the entire database system. The only way to fix this issue in versions prior to SQL Server 2019 is to kill the index creation process. Then you have to start the process over from the beginning if the system rolls back the session.

With resumable index, you can pause the build and then restart it later at the point it was paused.

The following example shows how to create a resumable index:

-- Creates a nonclustered index for the Customer table

CREATE INDEX IX_Customer_PersonID_ModifiedDate 
    ON Sales.Customer (PersonID, StoreID, TerritoryID, AccountNumber, ModifiedDate)

In a query window, pause the index operation:

ALTER INDEX IX_Customer_PersonID_ModifiedDate ON Sales.Customer PAUSE

The statement above uses the PAUSE clause to temporarily stop the creation of the resumable online index.

You can check the current execution status for a resumable online index by querying the sys.index_resumable_operations system view.


Resumable index is only supported with online operations.