Real World DBA Episode 20 – Help! I’m a new DBA (part two)

This week:

In the news, The SQL Server site has been redesigned.

In this week’s feature, I’ll give you the final part of a fast introduction to being a DBA.

The web link is on RAID levels,

and the tip this week is on replication.


In the News:

In the news, SQL Server 2008 Cumulative Update number three is now available – CU’s work differently than Service Packs. Navigate to the SQL Server support site, read the README to see if you are affected by any of the issues the CU addresses, and then click the link to request a download. You’ll get an e-mail with further instructions. 



This is a continuation of the last episode, number 19. You may have been given a database system to manage, or perhaps you have an assignment that requires you to take on a system. Perhaps you’re brand-new to database systems in general. In any case, this podcast series will give you a crash course in what you need to know if you don’t know anything about SQL Server. If you’re already a DBA, this might be a great podcast to pass along to someone that is brand new to the job.


Before we begin, I want to make sure you understand that this quick podcast won’t make you an expert. SQL Server is a huge platform, and requires a long time to learn well. That being said, there are some things that you can learn quickly, and I’ll give you lots of links that might be helpful along the way.


We finished the last podcast with a discussion of what SQL Server is, how it works, the parts involved and how to check the backups. I also explained how you can take a backup of a system to disk. This week, we’ll finish up our discussion with a look at the standard reports for SQL Server, a quick discussion about daily tasks, and then I’ll explain some resources that you need to be familiar with to learn more.


Once you’ve connected to your system as I described in the last podcast, you’ll want to learn a little about how that Instance (or server) is set up. You’ll also want to know about the number of databases on that Instance, the amount of space it is using, and how many users are defined. You can find out all about these using the Standard Reports that are built right in to SQL Server Management Studio.


To see one of the reports, just right-click an object you see in the left hand pane (called the Object Explorer), such as the server or database name, and then select “Reports” and then “Standard Reports” from the menu that appears. You can start with the very first object, the Instance name itself, and work all the way down this way.


As you read the reports, you’ll most certainly come across some terms that you’re not familiar with. I’ve documented these reports on my blog (at this location: and in each of those I have links to what the fields mean.


Now that you’ve evaluated your system and ensured that you have current backups, there are a few daily tasks you should educate yourself on. First, you should always have a current backup. Normally, there is an automated process for this that you can use called the “Maintenance Plan”. I’ll walk through the maintenance plan in a future podcast, but for now you should open SQL Server Management Studio and navigate down to the “Management” node in the Object Explorer on the left hand pane. Click the “plus” sign on that and you’ll see a node called “Maintenance Plans”. If there are no “children” below that, you don’t have any maintenance plans defined yet. That doesn’t mean you don’t have any maintenance that runs on the system, so if you inherited a system from someone else, you need to do a little more digging to find out if there is maintenance running in some other fashion. Those standard reports in Management Studio can help you with that.


If you are sure there is no other maintenance, and there are no maintenance plans defined, you should right-click that “Maintenance Plan” node and select the “Maintenance Plan Wizard”. The wizard will guide you through creating a plan to back up and tune your databases. Although there are several choices to consider, you’re fine if you select the defaults for everything, scheduling the backups at a point in time of the day where you know there is very little activity on the system.


While that process works for the short-term, it’s important to educate yourself about SQL Server further. There are lots of resources to do that, and the best place to start is with the SQL Server site at Microsoft. There you can find the overviews and technical documentation links, as well as other resources like courses, books and other places to help you learn. And of course you always have this podcast!


Web Link:

Have you ever wanted to learn which RAID level is best for your environment? Check out this link from   


Tip of the Week:

Did you know that the operating system you use has a lot to do with how fast replication works for SQL Server? Windows Server 2008 has a new auto-adjusting TCPIP window that can significantly increase the performance of data transfer during replication. Find out more at   

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