People Will Blame What They Do Not Understand

Today I was reminded about how easy it is for people to get frustrated with things they do not understand. And these days it seems as if there is even more to be confused about than ever. What can be frustrating for a DBA is that even though you are trying to help, you are simply perceived as being part of the problem. So I reached for my copy of DBA Survivor and went back through the chapter that covered some basics of the job and I found this section…

This one is fairly self explanatory. People will always tend to blame something they are aware of but do not fully understand. It is only natural, right? I mean, if you think you already know everything about nine out of ten items then your mind will focus on that tenth item and you will spend far too much time on why the tenth item is causing you so much heartache at the moment.

You will frequently be told such things as “Our code hasn’t changed in years”, “Everything ran fine last night”, or even “You guys must have done something yesterday because now all of our stuff runs much slower”. Get used to being the focus of attention for any problems with any system. Start developing some thick skin because you are going to need it, and soon.

Any time there is even one hint that something is amiss with a system and the first thing people will do is blame the database server. Despite the fact that there are many layers between their screen and the database server your phone will be the first to ring. You will be expected to investigate the issue immediately and you will also be surprised to see emails with sentences that say “I called the DBA and they are going to fix the problem.” Wait a minute! We never said there was a problem with the database server, why are you telling people we are going to fix anything? The problem could be the network, or a poor design that didn’t scale, or anything. And yet people will fixate on the database server because (1) it is known and (2) most people do not understand how it works. And, in some cases, because they will get an error message such as “Could not connect to the database…”, or the word “database” is in the error message somewhere, and people automatically assume that the problem must be with the database.

I have lost count of the number of times I have been told there is something wrong with the server only to find that the issue is that the person or account did not have rights to login. Sorry, but that is not a problem with the server. And it is also not a problem with the server if you try to load 100Gb of data onto a disk that only had 10Gb of space free. Same for filling up a 33Gb tempdb drive; the issue is not with the server, it is with inefficient code. And yet your server (and ultimately yourself) will be forced to carry the burden of fault.

That’s OK, because one of the reasons you are a DBA is because you are able to carry such a burden as would crush most of your peers.

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