DBA NEWS

SQL Server techniques, how-tos and other random ramblings
Surround Yourself with Smart People

Tips for Success from Successful People

Love him or hate him, Robert Kiyosaki of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” fame is a successful person. Whilst his investment advice may not be to everyone’s tastes, we’ve always considered his advice to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you to be pivotal for businesses. It’s no surprise then to see similar quotes appear from other great business people of our era:

“It’s all about finding and hiring people smarter than you…” – Sir Richard Branson

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs

This becomes self-evident in a lot of areas of business. For instance, few people will attempt to represent themselves in legal matters relating to their businesses. That’s what we have lawyers for. Sure, you could spend four years (and a ton of money) studying law, but why bother? Firstly, you’re probably not going to be very good at it straight out of university; secondly, you’ve just lost time and money, both precious commodities. No, we make the smart choice and hire a professional.

The Dilemma of the Unknown

Unfortunately, in less well understood areas of business the lines become blurred. Here the adage “you don’t know what you don’t know” rears its head again. Business owners and managers alike tend to become jacks-of-all-trades over time, gaining a base understanding of all areas under their control. However, this can extend to an overconfidence in that knowledge, a false sense of understanding that hampers the business. New opportunities can be missed that would have increased business efficiency or cascading faults are not noticed until it’s too late.

When these problems occur, it can be even more costly to correct as you must expend resources to fix the issue, resources that may not be ideally suited to the task and therefore take a lot longer. The very same resources that should be using their time to grow your business. And the more specialised the problem, the longer this can take.

The Power of Support

This is where access to those “smarter” people comes into play. Today, we have specialists in just about every niche you can possibly imagine. Need someone to provide you with employment contracts for overseas workers? Covered. Want to maximise the efficiency of your core-business SQL servers? I think you see where we’re going with this.

Having access to the right people means that issues are solved in a timely manner. It means that your full-time staff are left uninterrupted to do what they do best. It means reduced costs as you’re only paying for the services you need. But it doesn’t stop at fixing problems. Bringing in these consultants before disaster strikes can avoid these situations in the first place, saving you even more.

So put down your law textbooks, stop Googling “how to reduce SQL server response time”, and pick up the phone. Don’t spend unnecessary time trying to achieve the level of understanding that is just a phone call away. Surround yourself with smart people now and receive the benefits successful businesses are already enjoying.

How Healthy is your SQL Server?

Let’s not beat around the bush, SQL is complex. There are few “experts” out there that deal with the intricacies on a day-in, day-out basis and as such, there is a large portion of sub-optimal configurations in businesses today. Whilst this may not be a factor for small business, if you’re running a high-transaction database with business-essential services, then your server performance WILL be costing you money.

Even Microsoft recognises that SQL Server is one of their most complex software offerings, and yet so many database server environments are managed by generalist systems administrators. And while this may suffice for basic backup and restoration duties, the risks associated with improper SQL Server database management can become very costly to your business, very quickly.

Common Symptoms

At DBA Services, we deal with databases every day. Unfortunately, we’ve seen the same issues arise time and time again, appearing in 80% of systems we review. Issues caused not by neglect, merely a lack of detailed understanding by system administrators. To be fair, they have a lot on their plate, dealing with a wider range of issues than just your database. But you know what they say, “Jack of all trades…”. That’s why we’ve identified the following key factors when it comes to tuning the performance of your database:

There’s a few tell-tale signs that your database infrastructure isn’t getting the attention it needs. The most obvious of which being users who are complaining of slow load times and poor application performance. This in itself is a serious productivity killer and isn’t something to be ignored. Another commonly overlooked indicator is to ask whether management has answered the following question: what are your recovery time and point objectives? That is to say, how long can your business last without its mission critical applications being online, and what’s the most amount of data your business could withstand to lose in the event of a critical failure. If these questions have never been asked, then chances are your business is at risk.

Maintenance plan configurations

Maintenance plans are an essential component in keeping your database running efficiently. A properly configured workflow will ensure that your data is regularly backed up, free of inconsistencies and optimised. An advanced maintenance plan can do even more. Microsoft’s default maintenance plans can only do so much, with more advanced systems of maintenance ensuring efficient management and consistency across your environment. Failure to perform correct SQL maintenance on the other hand, a poorly developed one can slow down your system over time as well as leave you vulnerable to data loss.

SQL Alerts

It always surprises us when we come across a system without alerts. Critical events, failure conditions, these things occur internally and can be difficult to identify without proper operator notifications. That is, until there is a system-wide outage at which point your business can grind to a halt. With a full range of alerts, minor inconsistencies can be located and corrected prior to affecting your operations.

Performance Bottlenecks

We’re talking specifically about hardware bottlenecks here. When you’re dealing with a high volume of database transactions, split second delays can add up to long queues. The hardware used to both store and access your systems plays a vital role in maintaining seamless business operations. Identification of these bottlenecks, whilst time consuming, can provide vastly improved efficiencies across all your business applications run via your servers.

The Solution

Thankfully, these and other SQL server issues don’t need to hold you back. There are people out there that specialise in database administration, of which DBA Services is one. A database administrator’s experience means that they can identify any misconfigurations in your system and address them prior to a serious fault. With ongoing management from an expert, your databases will be running optimally and securely, leaving your system administrators to focus on their areas of expertise.

If you’re concerned that your SQL server is not in tip-top shape, then come and talk to us. We offer a comprehensive SQL health check covering operating systems, performance baselining, SQL components, instance configurations and critical databases. All this, at a fraction of the price of a Microsoft SQL RAP. Find out more here.

How outsourcing is changing the way you do business!

Outsourcing, it almost used to be a dirty word, evoking images of offshore call centers. Thanks to the rise of dynamic work forces and increases in available contract resources, outsourcing has become mainstream. Not only can your business save money, it can now gain access to technical experts previously outside the financial reach of most businesses.

Why outsource

Put simply, outsourcing fills voids within your business, covering tasks ranging from administrative and financial through to specific areas of expertise. Instead of placing a salaried position to cover knowledge gaps, a contract service provider can be engaged on retainer or ad-hoc at a fraction of the price. Essentially, you are splitting your costs with other businesses who use the same contractor, pooling your resources to reduce overheads. It is a simple yet effective method of gaining access to different skill sets without bearing the financial burden alone.

What does this mean for you? As your business grows, the systems and processes you use can increase in complexity. So much so that your current support team may be insufficient to manage new issues. Training your existing staff is one solution, though this can be a high cost and time commitment with uncertain end results. Will the staff be able to handle the new responsibilities? Do you want an “inexperienced” expert looking after business-critical systems? Hiring specialist staff used to the be the only alternative; however, the high costs associated with bringing in subject matter experts on a full-time basis, or even for a large-scale project, can be prohibitive to all but the largest enterprises.

One of the biggest advantages seen in modern times is the advent of niche experts offering their services on a contract basis. No longer do business owners need to rely upon their existing knowledge base to cover specialised services, especially within the information technology sector. With an ever-increasing complexity, getting the right advice from experienced hands is more important than ever.

How DBA Services can help

As database administrators, we’ve seen all this first hand. Having been fortunate enough to work with industry giants such as Dominos, Veolia, Qantas and QSuper, we’ve put the same technology specialists and advanced systems of management used by these organisations within the reach of all businesses.

When it comes to getting the most out of your SQL servers, there are some things that your in-house system administrators just may not be aware of: issues that, without the right knowledge, can lie dormant for weeks, months, or years, until a catastrophic event causes the loss of crucial business systems and data. This lost data can mean business disruptions or even loss of clients, reducing your business’ growth and profitability.

So why not join the modern workplace and delve into the world of outsourcing? If you’re running an SQL server, then consider starting with a DBA Services SQL Health Check to understand your current position and highlight opportunities for server performance improvements.

For an obligation free consultation to find out how DBA Services can help tailor a support solution to suit your business, contact us today!

How to Fix Very Large MSDB Database

The MSDB database houses your maintenance plan information and job histories (amongst a few other things). For the most part this should generally remain well under 1GB in size (normally only a few hundred MB)… but there are certain conditions where the history clean up task can get a bit overwhelmed and start failing, and leave you with an MSDB database that’s starting to grow a bit out of control.

Generally running a clean up history task will resolve this, however in the event that this is failing also, you can try the following scripts to fix the issue.

How to check and fix a large MSDB database – first check what’s using the space;

Chances are it will be the sysmaintplan_logdetail table that’s blown out, so to resolve this;

Then we shrink it down;

… rebuild the indexes to make sure it’s all performing nicely;

and BOOM! MSDB should be back under control, and your scheduled history clean-up task capable of completing successfully again!

How to Find the Up-Time of a SQL Server Instance

Your DMV stats are only as good as the amount of data they’ve managed to collect since the last SQL Server restart.

To find out how long your SQL Server has been running, you can check the time stamp of the spid 1 using the following TSQL;

How to update DB File Growth Settings for ALL Databases at the same time

SQL Server’s default filegrowth settings grow a database in only 1MB increments. For larger databases this can lead to additional and unnecessary disk IO overheads, as SQL continually needs to first grow the DB file before it can write to the database. Best practice is to set these growth increments to a more appropriate size to ensure that you minimize these growth increments during peak periods.

For new SQL Server installations, this can easily be set by updating the growth settings on the model database (which is the template used for any newly created DBs in that environment). For existing environments however, a DBA could be faced with having to manually update a whole bunch of databases that reside in that environment already… and as DBAs are all busy and important people, we’ve hunted down this cool script which largely does this bulk update of all databases’ growth settings all at once.

Firstly, we’ll want to identify what the current file growth settings are for each of the existing DBs:

Then after updating line 54 below to an appropriate NEW growth increment value, we can then execute this script to update this across all DBs;

And presto, we’re done… and back onto other busy and important DBA activities!

How to Find Longest Running Queries

The following DMV query returns the creation time, last execution time, physical and logical reads / writes, as well as time elapsed in the execution of a SQL statement (also detailed).

Very useful in establishing the heavier TSQL queries within an environment!

DBA Services

Professional SQL Server Database Administration Services, because we believe every business deserves to have a specialist DBA.

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Australia 4127

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