Security is vital in any IT context, and if you are responsible for running an SQL server then providing adequate protection to prevent successful attacks is particularly important.
To make your server safer, here are some steps to take that will set you on the path to security and efficiency.
Make use of monitoring tools
SQL servers are complex and multifaceted beasts, so taking advantage of modern monitoring tools will allow you to keep up to date with the ins and outs of performance and pinpoint potential security problems before they spiral out of control.
With the right monitoring solution in place you will be able to track everything from overall server activity to network, CPU and memory usage. This will not only allow you to seek out and deal with performance bottlenecks, but also recognize and respond to attempted exploitation by malicious outside forces.
Remember to consider server hardware security
When making efforts to protect your SQL server, it is all too easy to get bogged down in dealing with the digital threats, while overlooking the fact that the physical hardware also needs to be shielded from theft and tampering.
Making sure that hardware is kept in a secure location, with managed access and with a robustly reinforced network to which no third parties can connect will allow you to avoid the most common risks.
Of course you can also outsource these responsibilities entirely if you migrate from an on-site SQL server setup to one that is hosted in the cloud, so this could be worth pursuing if it makes sense for your business.
Carry out regular backups
No matter how hard you work to improve SQL server security, there is no way to completely guarantee that it will be able to resist a breach or steer clear of hardware failures.
As such it is necessary to make sure that mission-critical data is backed up frequently, preferably to an offsite location so that your eggs are not all in one basket, from a hardware perspective.
Backing up an SQL server is a process which monopolizes resources, of course, which is why you need to plan for it to take place when the server is not being used heavily. Establishing a routine of regular backups will allow you to recover in the event of a data disaster, no matter its nature, while sidestepping downtime expenses.
Keeping data encrypted both while it is stored on the server and when it is in motion will be the best way to ensure that even if hackers do manage to get a hold of it somehow, they will find it almost impossible to decipher.
You need to use end-to-end encryption not only across the entire database, but also on any backups that you make, to ensure that all of the most obvious gaps are plugged.
You can splash out on all of the most flashy security measures for your SQL server, but unless the people using it within the organization are properly instructed on how to maintain a safe and secure operating environment then all of this will have been for naught.
Studies have shown that the majority of breaches can be traced back to human error, which is a term that covers everything from plain forgetfulness to an outright lack of understanding of security threats. The only way to minimize the chances of such a scenario occurring is to employ skilled, experienced administrators for your server and also make sure that any other team members who might have access are up to speed with their security responsibilities.
Author Bio: Kevin Kline is a Principal Program Manager at SentryOne. He is a founder and former president of PASS and the author of popular IT books like SQL in a Nutshell. Kevin is a renowned database expert, software industry veteran, Microsoft SQL Server MVP, and long-time blogger at SentryOne. As a noted leader in the SQL Server community, Kevin blogs about Microsoft Data Platform features and best practices, SQL Server trends, and professional development for data professionals. You can follow Kevin on Twitter and LinkedIn.