Musings of an Accidental DBA

SQL Server Developer

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

Are you up and running?

I was re-reading some old blog posts by Steve Jones (the voice of the DBA), and stumbled across a few that really struck a cord for some reason.  It is really interesting how you can read something at a point in your life, and you won’t get near as much out of it as the day you read it that you are ‘ready’ to read it.  (but thats a post for another time)

Steve states that the availability of our applications should be like a utility.  Our users should be able to expect our application to be on all the time, the same as being able to turn on a light switch or get water from the sink.  There may be down times, or little glitches in availability, but are your users noticing it?

When I took over as application administrator 5 years ago (has it been that long already?), we had five different business units using their own stand alone production control application.  Within two years, we brought them all up on a single multi-company application centralized out of our Dallas office.  It is a SQL based application developed by a 3rd-party vendor, which has its own quirks, but for the most part is a pretty stable product.

Which brings me back to my topic…  Are you up and running?  When I first got here, my boss had taken over the project of getting everybody running on the same platform.  Things were a mess.  No common standards across BUs, and very little commonality in general.  We took the time to painstakingly map out everything.  It seemed like such a pain at the time, but looking back it has really helped us run efficiently, as well as make it easier for us to manage.

We’ve had to overcome the fact that the company as a whole expects our software to run slow, as well as have glitches in it.  The vendor has done a wonderful job of minimizing the glitches, and due to our architecture (beyond my control?) we still have our moments as far as not being the fastest application on the desktop, but lets look at my competition.

The two most utilized apps are Microsoft Outlook and Excel/ Word.  I have to hand it to Microsoft in the fact that their apps are on (99% of the time).  You aren’t going to get a lot of complaints that your inbox is behaving badly, or Excel is running slow.  Again, even my SQL server, another MS product is available ‘All the Time’!  I can remember only a handful of times where we had to reboot the server.

But it is interesting, especially recently, that I’ve found a bunch of little tweaks to make things run better.  We don’t have a certified DBA on staff, so I’ve been expanding my knowledge base in leaps and bounds.  The availability of more memory for the SQL Server engine to utilize, as well as regular maintenance on the index statistics has made some significant improvements in speed in the system.  It may not be that noticable to the user, but I’ve got stats to prove it.  Over time, half a second can really add up.

Tim Ford mentioned on a blogpost recently that there is ‘no such thing as a good DBA’.  What he was saying is, if you are good at what you do, the users shouldn’t know you exist.  Are you making changes that are causing downtime?  Do they even know you are making changes that are affecting them?  Nine times out of ten, they won’t notice the improvements you make.  But I guarantee that if you screw up, they’ll let you know about it.

So I ask you again, are you up and running?

What I’ve read this week – Week 50

This is going to be a short week (leftover vacation saved up for emergencies!).  Have to use it or lose it.  So I’m off for the next 4 days (business days, that is).  I just wanted to drop a list of what I’ve read over the past week.  I’ve always considered myself sort of an interesting conglomeration (part athlete, part geek), so what I read usually has to do with fitness or technology (SQL).

SQL Blogs

Perk Up Your Career with the SQL Server Troubleshooting Checklist

Kendra Little (Web FB TWIT Blog) gives some great advice about having a checklist to follow when there are issues (read ‘Emergency!’).  Also sharing it with your boss allows it to be available when you aren’t there, as well as show your boss that you aren’t just shooting from the hip (atleast, not all the time…).  Check it out.  Kudos to Kendra for putting this list together.  It also gives you a nice template to start with, which will get you part way there, depending on your environment.  With my third party vendor environment, this works quite nicely.

sp_Blitz Updated to v5

Brent Ozar (Web FB TWIT BLOG) took the time to send us out an update on his fabulous sp_blitz procedure.  Wow!  Some nice tweeks to an already fabulous must-have.  This is a piece of code I will take with me wherever I go.  (this sp and sp_whoisactive are two tools you need to have in your arsenal, as either a DBA or Developer). 

On the Fourth Day of Christmas…2011

Tim Ford (Blog TWIT), my vote for Redgate’s DBA in Space, is writing a ’12 Days of Christmas’ segment for IT.  The more I read this guy, the more I’m dissapointed that he didn’t win.  This is just his fourth installment, and it has some deep and meaningful thoughts in it (whether your in IT or not).  Definitely worth the read.

12 Things You Should Stop Doing in 2012

Tom LaRock (Blog TWIT) brings to light some interesting habits that we should all look at.  I really look up to Tom, and he has some wonderful insight, again not necessarily about SQL or IT, but I’m sure it will hit home just the same.


4 Lessons From Tim Tebow

Jason Ferruggia (Blog TWIT FB) may be a bit brash, but he certainly hits home.  A lot.  I especially like #2 (Skill isn’t the most important thing).  Take a read and let me know if you agree.  Warning, this is a Fitness Training site, and as I pointed out earlier, may be a bit harsh to the average joe.  Its like the cafeteria method that you hear about, take what you like and leave the rest.

Productivity. Get Some (Part I)

Tony Gentilecore (FB TWIT Blog) may also be a bit harsh, but I have always loved his writing style, as well as his ability to keep the male reader entertained (ha, Tony, take that.)  Tony brings up some great points on how to succeed, and reminds again about surrounding ourselves with like minded, productive people.  Looks like I need some new friends!  Just kidding.  (no, not really).

Well, I hope you get something out of today.  Maybe I have passed along some well rounded knowledge your way.  If I have, please let me know.  Thanks.

T-SQL Tuesday #025 – Tips and Tricks

As I sit down to write this months T-SQL Tuesday post, I’m finding it hard to figure out what exactly qualifies as a ‘trick’ that I use.  When you think about it, something that you use on a regular basis or almost habitually doesn’t just pop into your mind that quickly.

For instance, using ‘select top 10 * from Person.Contact’ gives you a quick list of all the fields, as well as a quick example of what you can find in those fields.  But is it really a trick?  Hopefully someone reading this will think so.  If you haven’t installed SSMS Tool pack, you may want to take a look.  Some wonderful shortcuts, practically built into SSMS.  For example ‘SST’, which will insert a ‘select top 10’ generic code right into your window, without you having to type it out, as well as a whole gambit of other nice ‘toys’.

What about using ‘activity monitor’ in SSMS?  Whenever my accounting department complains about timeouts or it being slow, its the first place I run to.  Filter out system processes, and set blocking types to not be all, and viola, instant info about who and what is causing issues for you?  In my case it is usually two users that happen to be using similar processes at the same time (vendor database, I can only do so much!).  From there I can contact a user, and see if they are hung up and then decide from there how to fix it.  Double click on a line, and it will show you what the sql statement run was.  Read more about it here.

Or what about something like sp_select as a shortcut in SSMS (compliments of Olga Klimova on SQL Server Central).  Is this a trick that I use?  Daily.  Almost second nature.  Olga explains all about it here so I won’t go too deep.  Just highlight a table name, and hit the quick key you have set up in SSMS, and boom, top 10!  She sets it up w/ top 50, but for the size of my databases, I just do a 10.  Great stuff!


I hope I have shown you something that you can use.  If you have stumbled across me, please take the time to see what ‘Tsql Tuesday’ is all about by clicking on the TSQL Tuesday logo at the top.  Thanks.



‘If your goals don’t scare you, they aren’t worth it…’   – Unknown

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