There's an interesting challenge in the SQL Server that I encounter time and again, one which Microsoft, in an unintended way, is the author. Because SQL Server is perceived to be easier to use than many of its rivals like Oracle or DB2, the SQL databases often don’t have full-time DBAs. Instead, they become the domain of the network Windows people or the development teams.
Don’t get me wrong, these individuals are usually quite able to install SQL Server, get it up and running, apply security at a base level and set up backups, and run wizards for maintenance tasks (usually by running the Maintenance Wizard that Microsoft helpfully supplies). However, that tends to be the end of it unless something goes catastrophically wrong. Because they are not DBAs, and their day job is mainly to keep servers working, that's often all they do. Whereas an Oracle database may have full-time senior DBAs spending their entire days tuning, tweaking and managing their database, the SQL server often doesn't get the same level of attention (or any at all).
And that's unfortunate because SQL Servers, particularly the newer versions 2014 and beyond, are truly modern databases. Two things tend to happen when an SQL server is not properly monitored: first, the databases tend to run sub-optimally and indexes are not maintained (or even implemented). Also, many new features such as memory storage or the new Query store in SQL Server 2016 are not implemented. Patch management tends to lag and backups are rarely tested.
Over time, this leads to performance issues and errors that could and should have been caught before they become bigger issues. Just like a car that is neglected, the SQL Servers that are not well maintained are eventually going to break down and become unreliable. Worse still, many of the companies we deal with have masked underlying performance issues by throwing more physical resources at them: more memory, more processors. This resulted in increased and often unnecessary capital costs that didn’t fix the underlying problems but instead kicked them further down the road.
Identifying the Need
I’ve spent the past 17 years dealing with data platforms and working with clients to get their platforms more manageable and modern. In doing this, I recognized the need for a service that could better help our clients, so we created a program to address this.
We realize that many organizations don't have the budget for full-time SQL DBAs, but that doesn't mean there isn't a need. We are proposing a managed support service, where we give our customers the benefit of decades of experience from among our team of senior and intermediate DBAs, who can supplement the IT shops of our customers with domain-specific resources. That gives the best of both worlds to our customers: they get the expertise they need without picking up the payroll of a senior DBA.
All About the Service
What we propose is much different than the traditional break-fix. Some issues are only visible over time. Our managed service allows us to become a long-term part of your IT team. Over a period of a year, we get to know every server and every application. We watch trends and identify potential issues before they become serious. We bring to your IT organization the collective tools, processes and policies we’ve built up over decades of combined experience.
Over time, we will also help you get more out of your SQL Server investment. The term I often use is database maturity. Maturity models are not new, and as a marketing term, they are often overused. I think, in this instance, maturity does match with our process. No organization can rebuild all their servers “greenfield” with the newest technology and all best practices in place. However, we can work on a process of continuous improvement to mitigate risk and improve security and performance. We also work with your development teams to make sure new projects are implemented correctly the first time.
Our clients get the added benefit of dealing with immediate problems and having someone who knows what the long-term goals are — that way, we don’t make short-term changes that break long-term goals.
This new service offering allows our clients to:
- Increase performance of their data platform
- Reduce security risk
- Build a road map to a more modern data platform
- Access experts that have 10+ years of experience
- Reduce your resourcing costs and save money
- Database Assessment Services
- Database Support and Troubleshooting
- SQL Server Tuning
- Server Licensing Management
- Ongoing SQL Server Support
- High Availability and Disaster Recovery planning and execution
We provide our clients with:
- Full and up-to-date document library of your data platform
- Quarterly server health report
- All policy and procedural documents co-created with your team
- Annual test restores of key database backups and test fail-over of High Availability systems (limit of 2 databases)
- Annual, detailed report on SQL Server operations
- Annual license review
- Monthly activity report
You choose the number of hours per month you require us to manage and maintain your environment.
Does this sound interesting? I’d love to schedule some time to have a more in-depth conversation about this new service offering. Reach out to me when you have a moment: firstname.lastname@example.org.