New Year’s Day is a holiday we mark both with a big party and with some time for reflection and re-evaluation. New Year’s resolutions are a time-honored tradition here in the U.S., with more than 40% of Americans making conscious decisions to do things differently. (Yes, there are people who actually keep track of these statistics.) Yet despite all of the good intentions, less than 10% of people who make New Year’s resolutions are able to keep them.
In the spirit of new beginnings, here handful of promises for the SQL Server professional which adhere to the three cardinal rules of successful New Year’s resolutions: simple, tangible, and obvious. (Read more about successfully keeping your New Year’s resolutions at Forbes, http://bit.ly/2zjVgyf.)
1-Know What You’ve Got
When I was working my way through college, I worked at a couple part-time jobs simultaneously, one of which was in retail. Every so often, we had to conduct an audit of our inventory and send the results back to corporate HQ. In fact, most businesses have some form of review and audit of the various things under their control, from financial audits for the SEC to security audits for compliance certification. The same holds true for anyone who manages a variety of database resources.
Fortunately, if you are a SQL Server professional with more than just a server or two to manage, there are excellent, automated tools available so that you can build a detailed inventory of your SQL Server estate!
Start with SQL Power Doc, available for free at https://bryan5989.github.io/SQLPowerDoc/. This tool will poll your subnet and conduct a very thorough accounting of everything SQL Server-related within your enterprise. It can be a huge productivity gain for security audits, licensing audits, upgrade and migration planning, and more. I encourage you to set up a SQL Agent job to run SQL Power Doc on a regular basis, either monthly or quarterly, so that you have a running history of your SQL Server inventory and configurations.
The original source code is at https://sqlpowerdoc.codeplex.com/, but Microsoft might shut down Codeplex at any moment. So use the Github link for now.
2-Stay on Top of Versions, Licenses, and Cost
I know how hard it is to keep up with all of the new releases from Microsoft. In fact, I’m guessing that you read my column precisely because you want me to do all the hard work of reading the source material and summarizing it for you here. Plus, the rate of releases from Microsoft has accelerated, making it harder than ever to keep abreast of the latest developments. So it’s very possible you might have missed the news about major feature changes in the release of SQL Server 2016 SP1. (I wrote about it here: https://www.dbta.com/Columns/SQL-Server-Drill-Down/Major-Feature-Reconfiguration-for-SQL-Server-2016-Service-Pack-1-115504.aspx.)
To summarize, most features that were available only in Enterprise Edition are now available in Standard Edition, starting with SQL Server 2016 SP1. Need I remind you that Enterprise Edition is three to four times as expensive as Standard Edition per core. That means you might be able to save enormous amounts of money by doing a licensing review of your SQL Servers. If in fact you do not need the scalability and online operational capabilities of Enterprise Edition, you might be able to switch licenses for a big savings. Alternatively, you might be running on an older version of SQL Server Standard Edition, but are missing out on a variety of great features because you haven’t upgraded lately. Now is the time to review your needs versus the licenses you have in place and adjust accordingly.
3-Build Muscle Memory
There is a reason that first responders, military personnel, and other teams that must react rapidly to emergencies perform constant drilling. When things go crazy, our natural response to the fight or flight reflex is to literally freeze for a short span of time from seconds to minutes. The only way to successfully fend off that mind-blanking horror is to thoroughly drill for a good response so that your muscles remember and respond way before your thinking mind has actually engaged in building a response.
Now, as SQL Server professionals, I don’t think we can actually build up true muscle memory for a mission-critical system failure. But we can at least go through the drills on a regular basis. If you have never done a full database recovery drill, from server down through verifying the functionality of the applications that use the server after recovery, you’re in for some very unpleasant surprises when that day finally comes. Instead of dreading the worst and burying your head in the sand, take the challenge head-on by performing database recovery drills on the regular. (I usually performed mine twice per year.)
This facilitates two very important skills. The first is that you know how to calmly and professionally recover those mission-critical databases when the stakes are high. There’s no panic to contend with. And second, you already have a good idea of how long the recovery will take. That means that you can tell all the stakeholders “It’ll be back up in 75 minutes. Don’t worry, I have tested it quite recently.” You come out looking like a super-hero who is completely in control of the situation.
What’s Your Resolution?
Those are three easy and tangible resolutions that you might give try to commit to. But have you decided on another resolution or two that you want to implement? If so, I’d love to hear about them! Share them with me in the comments here or send them to me on Twitter at@kekline. Happy New Year!