I find that auto_update statistics in SQL Server is a really good thing. Without it, many third-party applications would simply fall over from lack of preventative maintenance. With it, they are able to run for extraordinarily long periods of time without really needing a full-time DBA to check up on the databases.
Having said all of that, auto_update statistics is a mystery for many of us. This is reflected in the fact that I get lots of questions about auto_update statistics when I speak publicly (which seems to be at least once per month these days). The most common question is “why isn’t auto_update statistics running?”
There are many elements to the answer to this question. Naturally, you’re not going to have any new statistics in a database that is marked as readonly. However, you might not know that approximately 20% of a table needs to change before triggering an auto_update statistics run for the given table. If the table is really big, it’s possible that you’re simply not changing enough data.
Also remember that statistics are not the same in SQL Server 2005 as they are in SQL Server 2000 and that they must be upgraded using the sp_updatestats stored procedure after you migrate from version 2000 to 20005. Otherwise, the old statistics are unusable by the query engine. Once you’ve run sp_updatestats, the engine will maintain them automatically. Be sure to check the article “After Upgrading the Database Engine” at http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-s/library/ms143695.aspx to make sure you covered all the bases.
Thanks to Connor Cunningham and Simon Sabin (http://sqlblogcasts.com/blogs/simons) for help on this post.