May 9

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When database disaster strikes who you gonna call?

By Charles

May 9, 2022


Database disasters can be both natural and supernatural (probably mean unnatural). If your database disaster is supernatural don’t call us, call these guys….

You know that your data is your most important asset. You hear and read all about how data can supercharge your business growth, increase customer satisfaction and improve customer retention but somehow the role of database administration slipped your business by.

Here’s a secret

I was creating databases, performing normalisation (and learning VB 6.0) from the age of 15 as I wanted to be a Software Engineer and project work was always to do with databases. Yes they were Microsoft Access databases but the foundation was there.

At this stage I did not even know that the role of Database Administrator existed. In fact it was not until after University and even during my first IT role as 1st Line Support that I even heard the term. Shortly after that I completed a Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Administration course and that is when I knew this is what I wanted to do with my career.

What does that have to do with the title of my post?

Where is the DBA?

There are very few companies we meet that actually have full time DBA’s and it’s not just the small companies. Many large companies do not have even a single DBA to look after all of their databases used across their business.

We do find on occasion that people are tasked with database admin tasks but they are not trained DBA’s. These accidental DBA’s do the best they can with what they have but they often do not know SQL, do not know about performance tuning or query plans.

They can monitor the infrastructure but do not know where to start to troubleshoot issues in the same way I can drive a car but when the engine warning light appears I go to a mechanic.

Do you really need a DBA?

Depending on the size of your business and how important data is to your company it can be quite difficult to justify a large spend on an individual for a sub set of your infrastructure. We totally get that. Once the backups are completed, restores tested, indexes organised, integrity checks completed and everything is running smoothly what do you get them to do next?

It may seem that they are just waiting for a database disaster to occur and in some cases you could be right. DBA’s would drop anything else they were doing and get to work to restore service to your applications and your users.

They would implement their trusted recovery plans to make sure that any data lost was inside the RPO (Recovery Point Objective) and that the service was restored within the RTO (Recovery Time Objective) both agreed with the business.

A DBA is there to ensure the smooth running and quick recovery from any database disaster related scenarios. This can include recovery from server failure, data corruption, metadata corruption, accidental deletion (Human Error) and more.

They are the guardians of your data but when a fire starts it needs to be put out as quickly as possible and to do that you need the battle hardened skills of a DBA.

Most of Our Clients

When most companies do not even have a single DBA no matter what their size it should not be surprising to tell you that most of our clients find us after a database disaster has occurred. This can make it very difficult to recover from, sometimes it can be impossible depending on the disaster.

This is a similar type of scenario to recovering from a ransomware attack. It is much cheaper, easier and faster to recover from a ransomware attack if you have everything in place including a procedure to follow when that scenario does arise.

The safest and cheapest option is to find us before you need us. We then have time to discover what you have in place and we can point out what it will take to get your business into a recoverable state should a disaster happen.

The controversial bit

My next statement is going to be very controversial to some. I do not believe that every business needs a DBA but I do believe that every business storing data in databases needs the skills of DBA’s.

There is just no way a small business can justify spending a full time salary on a DBA when they don’t even have a full internal IT team. There is also no benefit in hiring a junior DBA when their is no one to mentor them in the ways of the force (sorry the ways of the DBA).

Bad habits can be hard to break and worst case your business can be impacted by the things a junior does not know they do not know.

Where does that leave your business?

So you know you cannot justify the budget for a DBA or even a DBA team. Let’s face it if you have one you need two otherwise they never get a break and will burn out. They would be on call 365 days a year, during holidays, during maternity / paternity leave, at weekends, every evening and even on their honeymoon!

You know the skills could be the difference between customers trusting your services or using your competitors. They could even be the difference between recovering from a database disaster or ending up with no business at all so what’s the answer?

DBA as a Service

All the skills, processes, best practices, procedures and software needed by your business to make sure that your data is protected, available, recoverable and performing at its best.

  • No need to worry about having resource available during holidays, sickness, training.
  • No worries about finding all the skills in a single person (often the wider the range the more shallow the skillset).
  • Save money on SQL Monitoring Licenses (it’s included in the service)
  • No more time wasted spending months recruiting for a DBA for them to leave after a few weeks for more money somewhere else.

How to Get Started

The easiest way to get started is to request a SQL Server Health check. We routinely provide this service to help clients work out where they are right now. We usually find something that needs to be sorted out urgently.

In the past we have found finance systems that have never had a backup taken and ‘domain users’ being given sysadmin permissions on SQL Server Instances. Security and recoverability are two pretty big problems for DBA’s and they will pick this up straight away.

About the author

Microsoft Certified SQL Server DBA with over a decades experience including work for large FTSE 250 companies amongst others. The SQL Server stack has been the focus of almost all of my career in IT. I have experience designing, supporting and troubleshooting large Data Platform deployments.

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