When Alerts Have No Value

May 18th, 2011

You’ve spent weeks or months building out your monitoring solution. When it is up and running for the first time you are excited because you get alerts. These alerts allow you to be proactive, and to fix problems before your customers know the problems exist.

Soon enough the volume of alerts increases, like a tidal surge. You don’t notice the increase right away, but it is there. There are two things that will happen next:

  1. You ignore/delete the alerts, because you cannot take action on them.
  2. You create a rule to file the alerts in a folder somewhere for review later.

If you are at this point then take a moment to go back and evaluate the value of the alert itself. If you cannot take action, do you really need an email to be sent? If you are filing them for later (perhaps creating a paper trail), do you really need that in an email?

This is the point where the alert you create, something with enormous value originally, no longer holds any value.

Just turn them off. I bet you will find less stress and feel more productive at the end of the day.

Being Open

May 16th, 2011

As a DBA, you need to be able to help educate developers with regards to good database practices. But this is only useful if the developer has an open mind to new things. I recall one time when I pointed out that a cursor was not the best solution for a particular update process and was met with the response “How do you expect me to do row-by-row processing without using a cursor?”

Being open is key to moving forward as a database professional. But this is a two way street. For all the times we desire to have a developer present an open mind, we also need to ask ourselves if we are being open.

How do you react if a developer wants to try something new? What about if the server team needs to change something? Are you being open with them?

Never forget to treat others the way you want to be treated. If you are open with others, you will find that they will be open with you.

Lessens From the Cloud

May 11th, 2011

Recently there was an outage with one of the major Cloud providers, Amazon Web Services (AWS). My company uses Get Satisfaction, which was hit by the outage. We got an email apologizing for the interrupted service along with a promise to “get under the hood” to understand more about how this can be avoided in the future. When I read that my first thought was “why didn’t you already understand what was going on under the hood?”

Now, compare that to the email I got from Netflix regarding the AWS outage. Wait a minute…I didn’t get an email? Is that because they didn’t feel the need to send me one? No, it’s because they didn’t have any downtime as a result of the AWS outage. And the reason why is because they already knew what was going on under the hood.

I am a big advocate of the Cloud, I really am. But I a bigger advocate for knowing more about what I am building, and understanding what it means to have a single point of failure.

I want you to do the same. Just ask yourself a simple question: “what if?” Try it. Go ahead and say “what if this server fails”, and run through the different scenarios. If your company is providing a service that requires uptime make certain you have the right solution in place, and not just the promise of the right solution.

The “Come Back” Price

May 9th, 2011

The idea of a “come back” price is simple: you set the price for a customer so that they will be compelled to come back. Sometimes you set a price so low that you may not make any money (or even lose money) but the idea is that you will create a loyal customer that will hopefully engage their friends in some word-of-mouth advertising for you. If you are lucky you will get many more customers, who will buy other products that you do make money on, and who will also tell their friends about your store.

So, as a DBA, what is your “come back” price. What are the things you do for your end users that make them want to come back, or to tell their friends? Part of being a DBA Survivor is all about how well you manage your relationships with everyone around you.

What is your come back price? What do you do to make people want to come back to work with you again?

And will they bring a friend?


May 4th, 2011

How do you ask your end users for more information? How do you treat others around you in a meeting? How do you respond to the perceived tone in an email?

Sometimes the more important thing is how you ask a question. The question, by itself, is not always the bad thing. But if the person feels as if they are being interrogated chances are they will be less than cooperative.

When you need information, you need to find a way to get it. Being aggressive in your line of questioning will not get you all of the information that you need.

The old saying is “you get more flies with honey”, and it’s true. People need to be drawn towards you and give information freely.

As a DBA this is critical to your success. The more information you have, the better you can be in your role.


May 2nd, 2011

I have never liked forums. For one thing, they are highly disconnected. While they can serve as a decent resource to search through for material, they pale in comparison to be able to “ask an expert” and get immediate feedback. An example of that would be the use of Twitter and the #sqlhelp hashtag.

The other reason I never liked them is because people tend to be quite rude with their answers. I don’t know what it is about typing that makes a person feel as if they can be a complete jerk, but it doesn’t make me want to participate.

The problem with that is I want to participate. I want to help. And I want to learn.

But I don’t want to be treated rudely. And I certainly don’t want to be rude to others. I participate frequently in the DBA StackExchange at http://dba.stackexchange.com/ and I am enjoying doing so as it allows for me to learn more about systems other than just SQL Server.

Think about the areas of your life where you participate. Not just in a technical aspect, but think about other aspects of your life. For some, their religion or church is a place to participate. Or perhaps they have a hobby, something they really enjoy. Or maybe it is something they do for their children. It doesn’t matter.

What I see is that when people do something they enjoy they rarely treat the others around them poorly.


Job Security

April 27th, 2011

I am always surprised as to how often I find people who feel that the only way they have job security is if they are the only ones that can do their job.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If you are the only person that can do a particular job for your company then you are putting yourself more at risk for losing that job than you may realize. What you see as ‘security’ your management may see as ‘risk’. They could easily decide to outsource your function or role in order to reduce that risk.

Now consider the person who looks to perform their tasks and share knowledge with others. They are not afraid to document how things are done, so that others can understand how things work. They are able to take a vacation day without having to answer the phone or email to help solve a problem because others on the team would already know what to do in their absence.

If your whole strategy to job security is to funnel everything through you, that you want to be a silo of knowledge, then you are going to be seen as a bottleneck at some point.

And we all know that when it comes to increasing performance, we look to remove bottlenecks.

Horizontal or Vertical View?

April 25th, 2011

Which one do you take when you approach a task or project?

Do you have a vertical view, one that focus on exactly what you need to accomplish in order for your task to be completed?

Or do you have a horizontal view, one that looks to consider a wider reach into areas outside of your role?

I tend to summarize the difference between the two as this: do you think of others when you are doing your work, or do you only think of yourself? Certainly there are going to be times when you need to have a vertical view, but there are also going to be times when you need to think of other groups. I think a lot depends upon your role on the team as well. Those in more of a leadership role should be thinking horizontally, for example.

Next time you have a task handed to you, try thinking horizontally. Think about things like documentation, or commenting your code, or engaging the end user to make certain that what you are building is exactly what they are expecting.


April 20th, 2011

Vince Lombardi once said “Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

So does success. Once you have success, it becomes a habit as well. The trouble here is when you have had success and you hit a “bump in the road”, so to speak. Sometimes life doesn’t take you in the direction you thought you were heading.

How do you react then? Do you quit? Probably not. Do you dig in your heels and force the action further, to the point that you alienate the people around you that are there trying to help? You might, especially if you are in the habit of succeeding.

The trick is to know when to dig in, and when to let go. Not every battle is worth fighting. If you have been successful before, you will be successful again. It doesn’t matter about those bumps in the road. They are just there to let you know the ground is still beneath your feet, and you decide which direction your feet will take you.

Blame Versus Credit

April 18th, 2011

Which one does a DBA typically see more of? Does a DBA usually see more blame during their day, or more credit?

Now turn that around and ask yourself this: What do you tend to give more of during your day? Do you find opportunities to give credit, or blame?

How you approach someone, and their issues, has a lot to do how you are perceived as well. If you are the type of person that is more likely to place blame on others, then you should expect to see a fair share of blame placed in your direction as well.

Like the saying “what goes around, comes around”, this is very true in how you handle yourself, handle issues, and handle the people around you.