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Selecting and Understanding Counters

Selecting counters that will actually tell you something about the performance of your servers and help you understand what they are telling you is an extremely important aspect of using the System Monitor. As already mentioned, the System Monitor provides counters for hardware objects such as hard drives and processors, and includes counters for services that you have installed such as DNS and WINS. Counters are also available to track protocol performance such as IPv4 and NWlink.

Because hardware can often be a limiting factor in server performance, let’s look at some of the counters that you will want to watch as you assess the performance of a server’s processor, hard drives, and memory.

Useful Processor Counters

A potential bottleneck on a server is the processor. That is why high-end servers support multiple processors. The bottleneck arises because the processor can’t keep up with all the system calls that it gets from different software processes running on the server.

Counters that can help you track processor performance are listed here:

Useful Disk Counters

Another hardware device that can be a potential bottleneck on a server is the computer’s physical drives. Not only is the available space important, but the drive’s read/write speed is also an issue. Counters that you might want to monitor related to disk performance are listed here (the object type precedes the counter name):

Useful Memory Counters

Another key resource on network servers is memory (RAM). More memory (above the Windows Server 2008 minimum memory specification of 512MB) is always better. Remember that when a Windows server uses its entire RAM, it resorts to the paging file on the hard drive (what we sometimes call virtual memory); this means that data dropped to the paging file must be reloaded into RAM to be used. To track memory issues, use these counters in the Memory counter group:

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