What is SQL Server AlwaysOn?

Answer –AlwaysOn is a term Microsoft has used since SQL Server 2012 for high availability and disaster recovery solutions. As of now, two features fall under the umbrella of AlwaysOn. These two features support high availability and disaster recovery for SQL Server databases:

SQL Server AlwaysOn FCIs are SQL Server clustered instances whereas AGs are the new features introduced in SQL Server 2012 to support data high availability and disaster recovery. We can group each set of databases into one unit and execute a failover at one time with the help of the Availability Group.

What is the difference between AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instances and AlwaysOn Availability Groups (AOAG)?

Answer – Please have a look at the main differences between both AlwaysOn solutions:

Can you explain Availability Group Listeners?

Answer - The Availability Group Listener is a virtual network name that we use to make connections to the databases whether it is running from a primary replica or secondary replica after failover.


Can we configure Availability Groups without configuring Availability Group Listeners?

Answer- Yes, we can configure an Availability Group without configuring listeners. Listeners are configured to make databases connections irrespective of their replica status.

When I tried to create a new Availability Group in SQL Server Management Studio, I saw that "New Availability Group Wizard" is grayed out and I am not able to proceed further to configure Availability Group. What could be the reason for this?

Answer – The "New Availability Group Wizard" option is disabled until you enable the Availability Group feature from the SQL Server service property.


Can we add a new database to an existing Availability Group?

Answer – We can easily add new databases to an existing Availability Group. First, we need to prepare the secondary database by taking the full backup and subsequent transaction log backup then restore it on the secondary replicas in no recovery mode. Then we can right click on Availability Group name to launch the Add Database wizard. We should follow all required steps to proceed with this wizard. Once completed, your new database will be added to the identified Availability Group.

Suppose you have 5 databases in an Availability Group. One database becomes inaccessible. Will the Availability Group initiate an automatic failover?

Answer – Until SQL Server 2014, the AlwaysOn Availability Group will not initiate a failover process if anything goes wrong at the database level. Microsoft introduced an option named Enhanced Database Failover in SQL Server 2016 to trigger the failover in case any database participating in an Availability Group loses the ability to write transactions. We also call it Database Level Health Detection in an Availability Group. By default, this option is not enabled. You need to configure it if you want to initiate a failover if anything goes wrong at the database level.

Can we configure an Availability Group between SQL Server instances that are hosted on servers that are part of two different Windows server failover cluster groups?

Answer – No, we cannot configure AlwaysOn Availability Group between different Windows server failover cluster groups. All replicas must be part of same Windows server failover group. This is a basic prerequisite for AOAG.

What are the differences between a SQL Server Availability Group and Replication?

Answer - Below are the main differences between an Availability Group and Replication.

Can we take a SQL Server Availability Group offline?

Answer - Yes, we can take a SQL Server Availability Group offline by running the ALTER statement as shown below:


Have you heard the term "Automatic Seeding" in SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Group? If yes, can you explain it?

Answer – Automatic Seeding is a term that is used for automatically initialization of Availability Groups. This feature was introduced in SQL Server 2016. When you create an Availability Group with automatic seeding, SQL Server automatically creates the secondary replicas for every database in the group. You no longer have to manually backup and restore the secondary replicas.


How many secondary replicas can we configure in a SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Group?

Answer – We can configure eight secondary replicas for any Availability Group.

Can we add system databases to Availability Group?

Answer – No, we cannot configure SQL Server Availability Groups for system databases.

Can we configure automatic failover for a SQL Server Availability Group with the asynchronous mode of data transfer?

Answer – No, we must use synchronous commit data transfer to configure SQL Server Availability Groups with automatic failover.

Can we change failover modes for SQL Server Availability Group replicas? If yes, how?

Answer – Yes, we can change failover modes of a SQL Server Availability Group with these steps:

  1. In SQL Server Management Studio, navigate to the replica under the Availability Group node and launch the properties window.
  2. In the Availability Replica Properties dialog box, you can select correct Failover mode.
  3. Choose any value from the drop down as per your requirements and close the windows to apply this change.


Can you explain how many types of Availability Groups there are in SQL Server?

Answer – There are a few variants of Availability Groups in SQL Server.

Do we need to copy SQL Server Agent Jobs and Logins for Availability Group databases or will these objects automatically be replicated to their respective secondary replicas?

Answer – No, SQL Server Agent Jobs and Logins will not be replicated automatically. We need to manually replicate them to secondary replicas.

What impact will there be on the AlwaysOn Availability Group if we drop and recreate the Windows cluster?

Answer - If we drop and re-create the Windows Server Failover Cluster (WSFC), we must disable and re-enable the AlwaysOn Availability Groups feature on each instance of SQL Server that hosted an availability replica on the original WSFC cluster.

Does SQL Server compress data while transferring it to a secondary replica with AlwaysOn Availability Group?

Answer - By default SQL Server compresses data where appropriate while replicating it to secondary replica with SQL Server AlwaysOn. But this is not always true. It depends on the failover mode or type of operation that we choose to perform in AlwaysOn. The table below shows when SQL Server uses compression for Availability Group log streams:



Asynchronous-commit replica


Synchronous- commit replicas

Not Compressed

During automatic seeding

Not compressed


Q. We have got an alert “WSFC cluster service is offline”. What is your action plan?


This alert is raised when the WSFC cluster is offline or in the forced quorum state. All availability groups hosted within this cluster are offline (a disaster recovery action is required).

Possible Reasons:

This issue can be caused by a cluster service issue or by the loss of the quorum in the cluster.

Possible Solutions:

Use the Cluster Administrator tool to perform the forced quorum or disaster recovery workflow. Once WFSC is started you must re-evaluate and reconfigure NodeWeight values to correctly construct a new quorum before bringing other nodes back online. Otherwise, the cluster may go back offline again.

Reestablishment may require if there are any High Availability features (Alwayson Availability Groups, Log Shipping, Database Mirroring) using on effected nodes.

Q. How to force a WSFC (Windows Server Failover Cluster) Cluster to start without a quorum?


This can be done using

§  Failover Cluster Manager

§  Net.exe

§  PowerShell

Here we’ll see how this can be done using FCM.

Failover Cluster Manager

§  Open a Failover Cluster Manager and connect to the desired cluster node to force online.

§  In the Actions pane, click Force Cluster Start, and then click Yes – Force my cluster to start.

§  In the left pane, in the Failover Cluster Manager tree, click the cluster name.

§  In the summary pane, confirm that the current Quorum Configuration value is: Warning: Cluster is running in ForceQuorum state.


Q. We have got an alert “Availability group is offline”. Can you explain about this warning and your action plan?


This alert is raised when the cluster resource of the availability group is offline or the availability group does not have a primary replica.

Possible Reasons:

§  The availability group is not configured with automatic failover mode. The primary replica becomes unavailable and the role of all replicas in the availability group become RESOLVING.

§  The availability group is configured with automatic failover mode and does not complete successfully.

§  The availability group resource in the cluster becomes offline.

§  There is an automatic, manual, or forced failover in progress for the availability group.


Possible Solutions:

§  If the SQL Server instance of the primary replica is down, restart the server and then verify that the availability group recovers to a healthy state.

§  If the automatic failover appears to have failed, verify that the databases on the replica are synchronized with the previously known primary replica, and then failover to the primary replica. If the databases are not synchronized, select a replica with a minimum loss of data, and then recover to failover mode.

§  If the resource in the cluster is offline while the instances of SQL Server appear to be healthy, use Failover Cluster Manager to check the cluster health or other cluster issues on the server. You can also use the Failover Cluster Manager to attempt to turn the availability group resource online.

§  If there is a failover in progress, wait for the failover to complete.


Q. We have got an alert “Availability group is not ready for automatic failover”. Can you explain about this warning and your action plan?


This alert is raised when the failover mode of the primary replica is automatic; however none of the secondary replicas in the availability group are failover ready.

Possible Reasons:

The primary replica is configured for automatic failover; however, the secondary replica is not ready for automatic failover as it might be unavailable or its data synchronization state is currently not SYNCHRONIZED.

Possible Solutions:

§  Verify that at least one secondary replica is configured as automatic failover. If there is not a secondary replica configured as automatic failover, update the configuration of a secondary replica to be the automatic failover target with synchronous commit.

§  Use the policy to verify that the data is in a synchronization state and the automatic failover target is SYNCHRONIZED, and then resolve the issue at the availability replica.

Q. In your environment data inserted on Primary replica but not able to see that on secondary replica. When you check that Availability is in healthy state and in most cases data reflects in a few minutes but in this case it’s didn’t happen. Now you need to check for the bottleneck and fix the issue. Can you explain your views and workaround in this situation?


Possible Reasons:

§  Long-Running Active Transactions

§  High Network Latency or Low Network Throughput Causes Log Build-up on the Primary Replica

§  Another Reporting Workload Blocks the Redo Thread from Running

§  Redo Thread Falls behind Due to Resource Contention



Possible Workaround:

§  Use DBCC OPENTRAN and check if there are any oldest transactions running on primary replica and see if they can be rolled back.

§  A high DMV (sys.dm_hadr_database_replica_states) value log_send_queue_size can indicate logs being held back at the primary replica. Dividing this value by log_send_rate can give you a rough estimate on how soon data can be caught up on the secondary replica.

§  Check two performance objects SQL Server:Availability Replica > Flow Control Time (ms/sec) and SQL Server:Availability Replica > Flow control/sec. Multiplying these two values shows you in the last second how much time was spent waiting for flow control to clear. The longer the flow control wait time, the lower the send rate.

§  When the redo thread is blocked, an extended event called sqlserver.lock_redo_blocked is generated. Additionally, you can query the DMV sys.dm_exec_request on the secondary replica to find out which session is blocking the REDO thread, and then you can take corrective action. You can let the reporting workload to finish, at which point the redo thread is unblocked. You can unblock the redo thread immediately by executing the KILL command on the blocking session ID. The following query returns the session ID of the reporting workload that is blocking the redo thread.


Q. You perform a forced manual failover on an availability group to an asynchronous-commit secondary replica, you find that data loss is more than your recovery point objective (RPO). Or, when you calculate the potential data loss of an asynchronous-commit secondary replica using the method in Monitor Performance for AlwaysOn Availability Groups, you find that it exceeds your RPO. What are the possible reasons that causes data loss is more than your recovery point objective?


There are mainly two reasons:

§  High Network Latency or Low Network Throughput Causes Log Build-up on the Primary Replica. The primary replica activates flow control on the log send when it has exceeded the maximum allowable number of unacknowledged messages sent over to the secondary replica. Until some of these messages have been acknowledged, no more log blocks can be sent to the secondary replica. Since data loss can be prevented only when they have been hardened on the secondary replica, the build-up of unsent log messages increases potential data loss.

§  Disk I/O Bottleneck Slows Down Log Hardening on the Secondary Replica. If the log file and the data file are both mapped to the same hard disk, reporting workload with intensive reads on the data file will consume the same I/O resources needed by the log hardening operation. Slow log hardening can translate to slow acknowledgement to the primary replica, which can cause excessive activation of the flow control and long flow control wait times.


Q. Let’s say you have configured Automatic failover on SQL server 2012 AlwaysOn environment. An automatic failover triggered but unsuccessful in making secondary replica as PRIMARY. How do you identify that failover is not successful and what are the possible reasons that causes an unsuccessful failover?


If an automatic failover event is not successful, the secondary replica does not successfully transition to the primary role. Therefore, the availability replica will report that this replica is in Resolving status. Additionally, the availability databases report that they are in Not Synchronizing status, and applications cannot access these databases.

Possible Reasons for Unsuccessful Failover:

§  “Maximum Failures in the Specified Period” value is exhausted: The availability group has Windows cluster resource properties, such as the Maximum Failures in the Specified Period property. This property is used to avoid the indefinite movement of a clustered resource when multiple node failures occur.

§  Insufficient NT Authority\SYSTEM account permissions: The SQL Server Database Engine resource DLL connects to the instance of SQL Server that is hosting the primary replica by using ODBC in order to monitor health. The logon credentials that are used for this connection are the local SQL Server NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM login account. By default, this local login account is granted the following permissions: 1.Alter Any Availability Group, 2.Connect SQL, 3.View server state. If the NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM login account lacks any of these permissions on the automatic failover partner (the secondary replica), then SQL Server cannot start health detection when an automatic failover occurs. Therefore, the secondary replica cannot transition to the primary role. To investigate and diagnose whether this is the cause, review the Windows cluster log.

§  The availability databases are not in a SYNCHRONIZED state: In order to automatically fail over, all availability databases that are defined in the availability group must be in a SYNCHRONIZED state between the primary replica and the secondary replica. When an automatic failover occurs, this synchronization condition must be met in order to make sure that there is no data loss. Therefore, if one availability database in the availability group in the synchronizing or not synchronized state, automatic failover will not successfully transition the secondary replica into the primary role.

Q. Have you ever seen the Error 41009?


Yes! This error might occur when you try to create multiple availability groups in a SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn failover clustering environment. This issue can be resolved by applying Cumulative Update Package 2.

Q. Let’s say you added a new file to a database which is a part of AlwaysOn Availability Groups. The add file operation succeeded on primary replica but failed in secondary replica. What is the impact and how you troubleshoot?


This might happens due to a different file path between the systems that hosts primary and secondary replica. Failed add-file operation will cause the secondary database to be suspended. This, in turn, causes the secondary replica to enter the NOT SYNCHRONIZING state.


§  Remove the secondary database from the availability group.

§  On the existing secondary database, restore a full backup of the filegroup that contains the added file to the secondary database, using WITH NORECOVERY and WITH MOVE (Specify the correct file path as per secondary).

§  Back up the transaction log that contains the add-file operation on the primary database, and manually restore the log backup on the secondary database using WITH NORECOVERY and WITH MOVE. Restore the last transaction log file with NO RECOVERY.

§  Rejoin the secondary database to the availability group.


Q. Data synchronization state for one of the availability database is not healthy. Can you tell me the possible reasons?


If this is an asynchronous-commit availability replica, all availability databases should be in the SYNCHRONIZING state. If this is a synchronous-commit availability replica, all availability databases should be in the SYNCHRONIZED state. This issue can be caused by the following:

§  The availability replica might be disconnected.

§  The data movement might be suspended.

§  The database might not be accessible.

§  There might be a temporary delay issue due to network latency or the load on the primary or secondary replica.


Q. Let’s say we have a premium production server and it is in AlwaysOn Availability Group. You oberve that CPU utilization is hitting top at a specific time in a day. You did an RCA and found that CPU utilization reaches top and most CPU is from backup process due to backup compression is on. Now what do you suggest? Do we have any features for backup


Yes! There is an option to perform backup from secondary replicas. We can set this from Availability Group properties we can find “Backup Preferences” and from that we can choose one of the option from:

Preferred Secondary: Backups performed on Secondary if there is no secondary configured performed from primary

Secondary Only: Backups should be done from secondary only

Primary: Must occur on Primary Replica

Any Replica: Can occur from any replica in Availability Group


Q.Is there any specific limitations if we need to perform auto backups from secondary backups?


Yes! There are few:

§  Only Copy_Only backup allowd from secondary replica

§  Differential backups not allowed from secondary replica.

§  Log backups can be performed from different secondary replicas but all these backups maintains a single log chain (LSN sequence). It might help in some of the situations


Q. Have you ever applied patches / CU / service packs on Alwayson Availability Groups? Did you face any issues while applying?


Yes! I have applied CU and service packs on SQL Server 2012 SP2 Cumulative Update 4

I had a bad experience with Alwayson AG:

After CU4 applied we saw that AlwaysOn vailiabilty Gropus are in Non- Synchronizing state.

After RCA we found that there was a huge blocking between user sessions and a unknown session, CHECKPOINT with command running as “DB_STARTUP”.

Through of the MSDN SITE we found that Microsoft declared it’s a bug and the solution chosen as below:

§  We had to open an outage:

§  Disable Automatic Failover

§  Restart the SQL Server on Primary Replica

§  Re-enable automatic failover.

§  This worked and fixed the issue.


Q. Can you explain any difficult issue you have faced recently on High Availability Groups?


Sure! We are configuring AlwaysOn AG on SQL server 2014.

We have taken backup from Primary replica and restored on secondary replica

When we are trying to add secondary replica to availability group to our surprise sql server got shut down and we found the error message:

(Error: 3449, Severity: 21, State: 1.

SQL Server must shut down in order to recover a database (database ID 1). The database is either a user database that could not be shut down or a system database. Restart SQL Server. If the database fails to recover after another startup, repair or restore. SQL Trace was stopped due to server shutdown. Trace ID = ‘1’. This is an informational message only; no user action is required. )


We did RCA and found the below.

§  Service broker is enabled at Primary Replica

§  We have taken a full backup from Primary Replica

§  Restored on Secondary Replica where Service Broker is not enabled

§  When we try to add secondary replica to AG, Service Broker is enabled, the same GUID on availability database is detected which causes an silent error 9772:

§  “The Service Broker in database “<dbname>” cannot be enabled because there is already an enabled Service Broker with the same ID”.

§  This results into error 3449 and shut down the sql server unexpectedly.


This has been fixed by applying the CU1 on SQL Server 2014.

Q. Replica is in “resolving” status? What does it mean?


A replica is into “RESOLVING” state when a auto failover is not successful.

Additionally the availability databases reports that they are in non-synchronizing state and not accessible.

Q. What are the top reasons that cause an unsuccessful failover?


§  Auto failovers in a specific period may crossed the value “Maximum Failures in the Specified Period”

§  Insufficient NT Authority\SYSTEM account permissions

§  The availability databases are not in a SYNCHRONIZED state



§  Q. Suppose primary database became in suspect mode. Will AG have failover to secondary replica?

§  Ans:

§  Issues at the database level, such as a database becoming suspect due to the loss of a data file, deletion of a database, or corruption of a transaction log, do not cause an availability group to failover.

§  Q. How many types of Data synchronization preference options are available in Always ON?

§  Ans:

§  There are three options- Full, Join only, or Skip initial data synchronization.

Q. What are the benefits of Always on feature?


§  Utilizing database mirroring for the data transfer over TCP/IP

§  providing a combination of Synchronous and Asynchronous mirroring

§  providing a logical grouping of similar databases via Availability Groups

§  Creating up to four readable secondary replicas

§  Allowing backups to be undertaken on a secondary replica

§  Performing DBCC statements against a secondary replica

§  Employing Built-in Compression & Encryption


Q. What all types of DB backups are possible on Secondary Replicas?


§  BACKUP DATABASE supports only copy-only full backups of databases, files, or filegroups when it is executed on secondary replicas. Note that copy-only backups do not impact the log chain or clear the differential bitmap.

§  Differential backups are not supported on secondary replicas.

Q. Can we take Transaction log backups on the secondary replicas?


Yes, we can take transaction log backups on the secondary replicas without COPY_ONLY option.

Q. How many types of Failover are supported by Always ON?


Three forms of failover exist—automatic, manual, and forced (with possible data loss). The form or forms of failover supported by a given secondary replica depends on its availability mode.