25 Questions to Evaluate DBA Tool Vendors

Although the most important aspect of DBA tool selection is functionality and the way it satisfies your needs, the stability of the vendor that provides the product is also important. Consider these questions as you evaluate DBA tool vendors:

1.  How long has the vendor been in business? How long has the vendor been supplying DBA tools?

2.  Does your company have other tools from this vendor? How satisfied are the users of those tools?

3.  Are other organizations satisfied with the tool you are selecting? Obtain a list of other organizations that use the same tool and contact several of them.

4.  Does the vendor provide a 24-hour support number? If not, what are its hours of operation? Does the vendor have a toll-free number? If not, be sure to determine the cost of long-distance charges when you are requesting customer support.      Does the vendor provide Web support? The Web support should be in addition to phone support, not a replacement.

5.  Evaluate the response of the technical support number. Call the number with technical questions at least four times throughout the day: before 8 a.m., around noon, just before 5 p.m., and again after 9 p.m. Were you put on hold? If so, how long? When you got a response, was it accurate and friendly? Did the person who answered the phone have enough technical knowledge to be useful?

6.  How knowledgeable are the technical support representatives who answer your test calls? Do they know their products inside and out, or do they struggle? Do they know enough about database issues to be helpful (such as a former DBA) or are they unseasoned?

7.  Will the vendor answer non-product questions free of charge in addition to questions about its product? Try it out by calling the technical support number.

8.  Does the vendor provide a newsletter? What type of information does it offer? Request several back issues and have your staff read them and comment.

9.   Does this vendor supply other tools your organization might need later? If so, are they functionally integrated with this one? Does the vendor supply a full suite of products or just a few?
10.   Does the vendor integrate its tools with other vendor's tools? For example, can required processes integrate with your shop's job scheduler?

11.   Does the vendor provide training? Is it onsite training or will you have to travel to another location (local or remote)?

12.   Are installation, technical, and user manuals provided free of charge? Are the manuals available in both hard and soft copy?

13.   How are software fixes provided? Electronically? By tape? On the Web? Is a complete reinstallation required? Are fixes typically accomplished using zaps? For mainframe folks, does the vendor support SMP/E?

14.   How much time, on short notice, is the vendor willing to spend to resolve problems? Is there a guaranteed service level?

15.   Is the vendor willing to send a representative to your site to do a tailored product presentation? How knowledgeable is the rep?

16.   Is the vendor a business partner of your DBMS vendor(s)? How soon will the vendor's tools be modified to support new DBMS releases and versions? Does the vendor participate in Early Ship Programs for new DBMS versions and releases?

17.   Have the vendor's tools been recently reviewed or highlighted in industry publications? If so, read the articles.

18.   Will the vendor assist in developing a cost justification? Most tool vendors are more than willing to provide cost justification to help you sell upper management on the need for the tool.

19.   Does the vendor provide sample scripts (or JCL) to run its product? Can any needed scripts be automatically generated by the product? Are templates provided to tweak the scripts to your shop standards?

20.   Does the vendor charge an upgrade fee when you upgrade your hardware? How flexible are the contract terms and conditions?

21.   What guarantees are available from the vendor against it being sold or going out of business? Will the vendor supply the source code for the tool (perhaps in escrow), or even offer a money-back guarantee?

22.   Is the vendor willing to set a ceiling for increases in annual maintenance charges?

23.   Does the vendor supply DBA tools for other DBMSes used at your shop? Can the same tool be used to manage multiple databases across multiple operating systems?

24.   How does the vendor rank enhancement requests?

25.  What is the status of the vendor? Have recent business down turns resulted in lower market share? Did the company recently undergo a layoff? Are there any outstanding lawsuits against the company?

Use these 25 questions to provide a basis for evaluating DBA tool vendors. As you evaluate vendors each company will score high on some questions and low on others. You can judge for yourself which criteria are most important to your organization.