Data is an integral part of today’s digital world and it is also a big source of wealth for organizations as they use it to learn more about customers, their preferences, trends, and so much more. At the heart of it all is the need for a secure place to store all this data so you can analyze it and glean business insights for actionable decisions.

A database is a secure place that makes it easy to store data in an organized way. You can query, sort, and manipulate data within seconds, and this is what makes the database a central piece of every organization’s IT landscape. As a system admin, staying on top of the health and performance of this critical resource is a high priority, as even a less-than-optimal performance can have a big impact on your business.

But doing it manually is tedious and highly error-prone and this is why there are many automated tools that give a quick insight into the functionality and performance of your databases. They measure the different aspects of the database as well as the applications that run on it to improve response time and efficiency while also reducing downtime.

Database tools

Database tools is a broad term that encompasses all the tools, utilities, and assistants that come in handy for performing the different database administration tasks. Each of these tools performs a specific task and not all the admin tasks, and this is why you may need more than one tool, depending on the task on hand.

Choosing the right tool

With so many database tools out there, choosing the right tool can be overwhelming, to say the least. Here are the main points that you have to consider when looking for a database tool.

Problem on hand

In the most common scenario, you are researching for the right database tool because you have encountered a specific problem or situation and want to remedy it. It’s also possible that you anticipate the occurrence of such a problem and want to proactively monitor your database to avoid it.

Either way, you want to solve a specific problem and this is the most important requirement when evaluating the different tools. As mentioned earlier, all database tools do not fix all problems, so pick the one that addresses your specific problem.

For example, if you have a problem related to database fragmentation, you should look at tools that offer remediation in that area.

Database structure

Another important aspect to consider is the structure of the database management system that could vary between organizations, and for that matter, between departments and projects too. Knowing this structure of the database and the possible problems related to it helps to reduce your effort in finding the right tool.

Functionality

Many times, you’ll want database tools that will handle a specific functionality such as comparing the data across two or more databases, managing your DBMS, getting insights into specific metrics of its performance, creating tables, and more.

Choose a tool that offers this specific functionality for you.

Operating system

All database tools do not work well with all operating systems. In other words, the compatibility between a chosen database tool and the underlying operating system is a key aspect you should consider. While making this choice, keep in mind the specific versions too.

Some products offer cross-platform support, so choose such products if you have different versions of operating systems in your organization.

Integration

Besides the operating system, compatibility with your database is also a key aspect. In fact, integrating third-party tools with your DBMS may not be easy and is sure to require additional effort and even possibly some coding from your end. If you want to avoid such extra work, try the integrated tools from the vendor or look for tools that are specifically designed for a particular database. This is all the more pertinent if you have more than one specialty DBMS within your organization.

Vendor-specific

Many DBMS providers sell database tools that work well with their specific DBMS. Such tools make the integration easier while maximizing the benefits you can get from the tools and the database itself. Such an integrated approach can enhance the overall performance of your database as well.

Separate installation

Some database tools require a separate executable and installation for each DBMS while others work well with a single installation across many DBMS. Obviously, the latter option is better because installation is easy and less time-consuming, the whole process is cost-effective, and sharing between DBMS is convenient and simple.

Thus, these are some of the key considerations when evaluating the right tool for your needs. In general, be proactive and have a set of database tools ready so you can fix the problem as soon as it occurs. Sometimes, monitoring tools point to impending problems in the DBMS and addressing these problems right away reduces the possibility of downtimes.

There are different tools for different database monitoring and tasks, so use the above-mentioned checklist to zero-in on the tool you want. Also, put together a comprehensive set of database tools that will handle the different aspects of your DBMS, so you always have the right tool to fix any problem that may crop up.

Top 10 free database tools for sysadmins

Here are the top 10 free database tools that perform a wide range of specific functions. The idea behind this list is to help you choose the right tools that best fit your needs.

1. Adminer

Adminer is a database management tool that allows you to manage databases, tables, columns, relations, indexes, users, permissions, and more from a web-based user interface. It is packaged as a single PHP file (similar to phpMyAdmin) and has support for popular database management systems like MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, MS SQL, Oracle and MongoDB. Different UI designs are available for you to download as CSS files.

Adminer

When you load the Adminer page, you are asked to choose a database management system to connect to, along with the server name, database name and user credentials. Once you successfully login you are shown the database tables and can begin managing the database.

Key features

  • Lists data in tables with sort, search, and aggregate functions.
  • Comes with extensive customization choices.
  • Executes any SQL command from a text field or folder
  • Shows processes and kills them.

2. DBComparer

DBComparer is a database comparison tool for analysing the differences in Microsoft SQL Server database structures from an easy-to-use UI. Amongst others, you can compare database objects such as tables, columns, indexes, foreign keys, users, roles, schemas and stored procedures.

DBComparer

When you launch DBComparer, you choose which database to display on the ‘left side’ and which database to display on the ‘right side’ of the comparison window. You can explicitly specify what objects and properties you’d like to compare from the Compare Options tab. Once the comparison process is complete you are shown both databases side-by-side (with the differences highlighted in red or blue). When you select an object, the data is shown on the Properties window and the SQL syntax is shown in the SQL Differences window at the bottom.

Key features

  • Automatically compares different database structures.
  • Compares databases by selected or all properties of objects
  • Comes with an advanced visual tree interface for an intuitive representation of the differences.
  • Offers many options for comparison.

3. EMS SQL Manager Lite for SQL Server

EMS SQL Manager Lite for SQL Server allows you to create and edit SQL Server database objects and create, edit, execute and save SQL queries. It has a user-friendly interface and a lot of the functionality is wizard driven. It makes a good alternative to Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio.

Note: EMS provide Lite versions for other RDBMS’ as well, so if you have Oracle or MySQL you can get the same tool to manage these databases.

SQLManagerLite

When you run EMS SQL Manager Lite for SQL Server, you’ll first need to register a database to manage. Once you’ve done that, you begin by navigating through the DB Explorer window on the left hand side or by opening a SQL script.

Key features

  • Supports SQL Server, Azure SQL database, Amazon RDS, and Unicode data.
  • Offers excellent visual and text tools for query building.
  • Compares and synchronizes different database structures.
  • Comes with a powerful transact SQL-debugger to trace procedures, functions, and SQL scripts.

4. Firebird

Firebird is a powerful and lightweight open source SQL relational database management system for Windows and Linux. Features include full support for stored procedures and triggers, full ACID compliant transactions, incremental backups and multiple access methods (e.g. native/API, ODBC, OLEDB, .NET, Python, PHP, and Perl).

FlameRobin

Note: Firebird doesn’t have a front-end UI for managing databases. You will have to use a 3rd party application like FlameRobin or TurboBird to handle database admin.

Key features

  • Uses advanced technologies such as FB25, FB30, and more.
  • Supports a hybrid cloud architecture
  • Synchronizes metadata and data for all databases.

5. SQuirrel SQL

SQuirreL SQL Client is a JAVA-based database administration tool for JDBC compliant databases. It allows you to view the database structure and issue SQL commands. It supports databases such as Firebird, IBM DB2, InterBase, Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, PostreSQL, and Sybase.

SquirrelClient

When you launch the Squirrel SQL Client you will need to start by configuring the driver definition and the alias in order to connect to a database. The driver definition specifies the JDBC driver to use and the alias specifies the connection parameters.

Key features

  • SQL editor comes with code completion popup and a tools popup menu.
  • Allows you to edit the rows returned from a query on a single table.
  • Presents a chart of tables and their relations.
  • Displays an object tree of the session window.

6. SQLite Database Browser

SQLite Database Browser is an open source tool that allows you to create, design and edit SQLite database files. Features include the ability to create and modify databases, tables, indexes and records, search for records as well as import and export data. It also contains a log showing all the SQL commands that have been issued by the user and by the application itself.

SQLLiteBrowser

When you open SQLite Database Browser, start by opening an existing database or creating a new database. Once you’ve loaded a database, you can view the database structure, browse data and execute SQL commands using the appropriate tabs.

Key features

  • Works with all database files that are compatible with SQLite.
  • Ideal for anyone who wants to create, search, and edit databases.
  • Comes with many controls and wizard for ease of use.
  • Plots simple graphs based on a table or query data.

7. DBeaver

DBeaver is an open source universal database tool for developers and database administrators that has a low memory footprint. It supports JDBC compliant databases such as MySQL, Oracle, IBM DB2, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, Firebird, SQLite, and Sybase. Its main features include the ability to browse and edit databases, create and execute SQL scripts, export data, transaction management and ER diagrams. Additionally, DBeaver’s functionality can be extended by the use of plugins.

DBeaver

When you open DBeaver for the first time, go to Database > New Connection to setup a new connection to a backend DBMS and load a database. When connected, the database will appear in the Database Navigator tab on the left hand pane of the main window.

Key features

  • This is a multiplatform product
  • Supports any database with a JDBC driver.
  • Comes with a rich set of plugins.
  • Handles external data sources that may or may not have a JDBC driver.

8. DBVisualizer Free

DbVisualizer Free is a universal database tool that allows you to manage a wide range of databases including Oracle, Sybase, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, DB2, MySQL, Informix, H2, and SQLite. Features include a database browser to navigate through database objects, visual support for creating and editing database objects, the ability to import data from a file, a SQL Editor with auto-complete and visual query building support and database admin features like managing database storage and security. DbVisualizer Free runs on Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.

DbVisualizerFree

When you launch DbVisualizer Free for the first time, a connection wizard pops up that guides you through the connection to a database. Once a connection has been established, the database appears in the Databases tab on the left hand pane of the main window. The right hand pane shows the properties and data related to the object you select from the left hand pane.

Key features

  • Manages database-specific objects.
  • Creates, edits, and compiles procedures, functions, and triggers.
  • Offers schema support
  • Shows visual actions to create, alter, drop, and more.

9. HeidiSQL

HeidiSQL is a database query tool that supports MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server and PostreSQL databases. It allows you to browse and edit data, create and edit tables, views, procedures, triggers and scheduled events. Features include managing multiple servers from one window, exporting from one database server into another, bulk editing, an advanced SQL syntax editor, and database optimization and repair functions.

HeideSql

When you launch HeidiSQL for the first time, you’ll need to set up a connection to the database server. Use the navigation pane on the left hand side to view database tables and the tab on the right hand pane to manage database options, indexes, foreign keys, as well as create database queries.

Key features

  • Connects to many servers in a single window.
  • Imports text files
  • Manages user privileges
  • Monitors and kills client processes
  • Optimizes and repairs tables

10. FlySpeed SQL Query

FlySpeed SQL Query is a database query tool that aims to make working with data easy. It supports popular database servers such as MySQL, SQL Server, and PostgreSQL as well as office file formats like CSV and Excel. Using FlySpeed SQL Query you can find, browse and edit data in your database in grid format or via the customizable form view.

FlySpeed SQL Query

When you first launch FlySpeed SQL Query you will need to create a connection to a database via the database connection wizard. Once you do this, navigate to the database tables and views on the left hand pane and use the Query Builder to create queries.

Key features

  • Comes with a visual query builder
  • Allows you to create new SQL queries through drag and drop.
  • You can build parameterized queries or browse data from linked tables through a foreign key.
  • Saves queries with database connection, so you can continue from where you stopped the last time.

To conclude, database tools make it easy to create, maintain, edit, and delete database entirely, and give you insights into the performance of your database at any time. Though the functionality varies from tool to tool, they are nevertheless a must-have in your arsenal to ensure that your database is up and working optimally at all times.