A career as a database administrator (DBA) should appeal to individuals interested in a job that involves a diverse range of duties and technical abilities. DBAs are not relegated to performing the same activities every day as are practitioners of some of the more one-dimensional computing disciplines like programming or storage management. It’s the type of job that demands a wide array of skills to perform well.
In a typical modern computing environment, a SQL Server DBA never knows what they will be called upon to deal with at any given moment. They may have to address degraded database performance with management or irate users. Maybe backup jobs failed and have to be rerun to protect data resources. New systems might need to be added to the backup schedule and monitoring tools. There is always something that needs to be done if you’re a DBA.
Reacting to problems as they happen is one way to handle the job. The problem is that in a complex environment, you may soon be overwhelmed by the scope of accumulating issues that make it impossible to effectively address them. I want to suggest that a more proactive approach leads to greater productivity.
Different Ways to be Proactive
The specific methods a DBA adopts when attempting to address issues proactively need to be based on their environment’s unique qualities. The things that demand attention in one shop may not be an issue in another. So the following list should be looked at judiciously. Perhaps not all of these issues plague your systems, but it’s a good bet that taking at least some of these measures will help nip problems before they can cause major impacts to your databases.
- Keeping an eye on database backups is a critical part of a DBA’s job. Backups in themselves are not that useful. It’s when they are used for recovery that they show their real value. A proactive DBA will identify potential problems in database backups before they result in a failed recovery. Things to look at include the success and failure of backup jobs, the types of backups being taken, and if these backups address the desired recovery point objective.
- Testing restore procedures goes hand-in-hand with ensuring a proper backup schedule is being followed. Restore scripts should be tested and optimized. Database integrity checks should be scheduled regularly to ensure that corrupt databases that cannot be recovered are not being included in enterprise backups.
- Paying attention to the alerts generated by monitoring tools will help you proactively reduce problems that result in outages or degraded performance. You should develop a habit of studying monitoring reports and comparing them to historical benchmarks. You might be surprised at the trends you uncover that lead to tuning opportunities, speeding up systems, and increasing customer satisfaction.
- Investigating database indexes can often result in better-performing databases. Poor indexing can substantially impact database performance. Fortunately, a proactive DBA can take steps to improve the index landscape and speed up their databases. They should look for indexes that are unused, highly-used, and fragmented. This investigation provides opportunities for index optimization and may identify missing indexes that can be added for enhanced performance.
DBAs are encouraged to download an IDERA infographic that outlines specific elements of the job that should be addressed proactively in the interest of maintaining high-performing and available databases. It provides a reminder of the things you could be doing to eliminate potential problems before they become impossible to ignore.
Using a Versatile Toolset
SQL Server DBAs can take advantage of multiple desktop tools in SQL Admin Toolset to help find potential issues before they become business-impacting problems. The application combines 24 different SQL Server database tools in a unified interface to improve productivity. Many of these tools fit perfectly with the needs of a proactive DBA. Here’s an overview of a few of them:
- Index Analyzer enables a DBA to view SQL Server index usage and analyze them to determine which ones need tuning or can be eliminated. It’s great for finding performance improvements.
- Space Analyzer identifies disk and storage requirements for SQL Server instances. It helps plan for hardware upgrades and new databases as well as find runaway log files that need to be addressed.
- Backup Status lets you know when your databases were last backed up, which backups failed, and lists databases that do not have a proper backup. View backup status across all instances and be prepared when you need a restore.
- Password Checker gives DBAs a tool with which to strengthen the security of enterprise databases. Using industry best practices and corporate policies, password strength can be tested so weak ones can be eliminated to better protect your systems.
The features available in SQL Admin Toolset complement the needs of proactive DBAs by giving them a unified platform from which to conduct a daily overview of system health and ensure team preparedness. With the right tools and attitude, DBAs can make their lives easier by eliminating problems before they happen. Sounds like a plan!