Workplace and career research focused on those in technical support roles consistently shows that a desire to help is a big motivator behind choosing this profession. In fact, many in IT support jobs excel because they combine a high-level of technical competence with a real sense of empathy. They find it personally rewarding to help customers solve challenges.
Put yourself in the shoes of a support pro who receives a panicked email or call from a DBA. The first thing this person does is empathize with the customer’s plight because the ramifications of a database going down are significant. According to Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC), 98% of businesses with more than 1,000 employees say just 1 hour of downtime costs the company more than $100,000, while 81% put the hourly cost in excess of $300,000, and 32% say it’s at least $1 million.
Data is the lifeblood of all organizations in today’s era of digital business transformation. Because it is, the corporate spotlight is especially bright on DBAs who are tasked with ensuring users and applications always have access to the data on which they depend. Considering the hit to a company’s bottom line, and potentially to its reputation in the market, when infrastructure and information becomes unavailable, it’s easy to see how important it is for these DBAs to have access to the highest-quality, expert technical support professional when help is needed.
Many database professionals are unsure of where to go for a support resource. It’s not that they’re unaware of the options, they simply don’t always know which option is right for them. Let’s review the support choices available, keeping in mind most DBAs need the one most capable of quickly restoring database availability in the event of performance degradation or failure.
Colleague, Community or Creator?
When it comes to technical support, most DBAs consider one of three sources for help: their colleagues, professional communities online, or the technology’s creator (i.e., an independent software vendor or ISV). Let’s look at the pros and cons of each option.
Calling on a colleague can be as easy as turning to the person sitting next to you. This is certainly one of the fastest ways to ask for help – that is, until it’s not. What happens if that trusted colleague is out sick, on vacation, or wrapped up in another priority? Or what if they just don’t know how to solve the immediate issue? With the number of hardware and software solutions most organizations have in place today, it’s unrealistic to expect even the most dedicated IT staffer to have mastered every hardware component or line of software code. They simply may not have the depth of understanding necessary to solve the problem.
Another option database professionals look to for help is the internet, specifically one of the many online technical forums or discussion boards available. These can be solid resources where peers freely exchange information simply because they want to help. However, good intentions don’t equal enterprise-grade support. These resources are completely voluntary and self-supervised. The timeliness and the quality of a response can’t be guaranteed. Individuals participating in discussion forums post their thoughts as time permits. While most seek to help, even the most well-intentioned can’t have detailed insight into the questioner’s IT environment. In short, free online resources are excellent for sharing opinions and some forms of information, but not as something on which to bet business operations.
For many DBAs, the best choice for tech support is the software developer itself. When it comes to mission-critical enterprise technologies – and database software certainly fits that category – no one knows the code better than the ISV that wrote it. And because the ISV supports hundreds, if not thousands, of enterprises using their software, it also draws on key learnings from those implementations to diagnose and resolve issues with even greater speed and accuracy.
A history of working with customers and spending time in a variety of IT environments has also allowed many ISVs to identify other ways they can help customers. Leading software developers have expanded their support offerings well beyond “problem resolution.” For example, under the “Support” heading today, some will offer “Consultative Support,” which frequently includes performance tuning, best practice recommendations and database query reviews. Under that same heading, you’ll also find “Engineering Support,” which might include bug fixes, patches, prefered consideration of feature requests and even the ability to talk directly with the current product engineering team, if necessary.
Empathy and Expertise Drive Enterprise-Grade Support
After considering the options, many DBAs decide that best option is to have access to an empathetic support professional who understands the database like only the developing ISV can, and who collaborates as if they are an extension of the DBA’s own team. DBAs with responsibility for maintaining the performance and availability of such a critical piece of infrastructure often conclude that anything less risks their reputation and their employer’s revenue.
Remember, support professionals want to help. For them it’s personally gratifying to come to the DBA’s rescue. Evaluate your support options today and choose the one that’s best for when the day comes you need to call for help.