Windows Servers - memory monitoring demystified

Having reliable information on hand about the amount of system memory used is vital . As the one responsible for maintaining the systems that runs the business applications and services, System Admnistrators  need to monitor their memory consumption constantly.


Let's have a quick look at what the different memory metrics mean, and which should be monitored carefully with server monitoring software.


Windows-specific memory metrics

Total

The amount of memory that can be used by Windows programs.

Free

The physical memory not being used by any programs. It is normal for the Free memory to be a small percentage of the Total memory - even if the amount of free memory is relatively low it is considered to be normal, but it is important to keep an eye on the critical thresholds.

Cache

The portion of Total memory that has been used by the system recently. Having Cache memory improves the overall performance of the system. When necessary, the system could flush the contents of cached memory to make room for newly summoned data. Usually there is no need to monitor the cache memory, but is nonetheless valuable to have insights into the status.

Used

A value calculated by subtracting the amount of Free memory from the Total memory. Since it is normal for the Used memory to be close to the Total memory, there is normally no need to monitor if the amount of Used memory is high. As with Cache value, however, it is useful to have insights into this metric.

Available

The estimated amount of memory that can be used for starting new programs. The mechanism for calculating the Available memory is inherent to the Windows operating system.  

It is important to monitor the Available memory, and set up appropriate  notifications when it gets low, so that preventative measures or corrective actions can be taken.

In general, it is recommended to monitor when  the Available memory falls to a small percentage of the Total memory, for instance 5% or less.

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Author: Rossen Karaivanov