What the System Is Doing Now
At any given moment, there could be dozens, if not hundreds, of different
things happening on your system. Each requires systems resources, which may not
be sufficient for everything to have an equal share. As a result, resources must
be shared. As different processes interact and go about their business, what
resource a process has and the amount of that resource that it is allocated will
vary. As a result, performance of different processes will vary as well.
Sometimes the overall performance reaches a point that becomes unsatisfactory.
The big question is, what is happening?
Users might be experiencing slow response times and tell you to buy a faster
CPU. I have seen many instances in which this was the
case, and afterward, the poor administrator is once again
under pressure because the situation hasn't changed. Users still have slow
response times. Sometimes the users tell the administrator to increase the speed
on their terminal. Obviously 9600 isn't fast enough when
they are doing large queries in the database, so a faster terminal will speed up
the query, right?
Unfortunately, things are not that simple. Perhaps you, as the system
administrator, understand that increasing the
baud rate on the terminal
or the CPU
speed won't do much to speed up large database queries, but you have a hard time
convincing users of this. On the other hard, you might be like many
administrators who, because you were "unlucky" enough to have worked with a
computer before, was thrown into the position, as often is the case. What many
of us take as "common knowledge," you may have never experienced before.
The simplest solution is to hire a consultant who is familiar with your
situation (hardware, software, usage, etc.) to evaluate your system and make
changes. However, computer consultants can be like lawyers. They may charge
enormous fees, talk in unfamiliar terms, and sometimes in the end, you still
haven't gained anything.
Not all computer consultants or lawyers are like that. It's simply a matter of
not understanding what they tell you. If you do not require that they speak in
terms that you understand, you can end up getting taken to the cleaners.
If you feel you need a consultant, do two things. As with any other product,
you must shop around. Keep in mind that the best consultant to get is not
necessary the cheapest, just as the best one is not necessarily the most
expensive. The second key aspect is to know enough about your system, at least,
conceptually to understand what the consultant is saying.
In this section, I am going to combine many of the topics and issues I
discussed previously to find out exactly what your system is doing at this
moment. By knowing what the system is doing, you are in a better position to
judge if it is doing what you expect it to do, plus you can make decisions about
what could and/or should be changed. This knowledge also has a side benefit of
helping you if you should need to call a consultant.
So, where do we start? Well, rather than defining a particular scenario and
saying what you should do if it happened, lets talk about the programs and
utilities in terms of what they tell you. Therefore, I am going start with
general user activity and proceed to the specifics.