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Is enough ever enough?

When should you give up on an employee and give them their walking papers?
Submitted by Sean McCown on Wed, 03/07/12 - 8:43pm.

It can be really hard dealing with different people in the office.  I mean, there are so many different types of people that there's no way it can always go smoothly.  And then when you throw everyone's agenda into the mix then it becomes even worse.  So the question I'm going to explore today is, when is it to the point when it's too much?  Because the problem is that managing these personal relationships is fine, but when it starts to take up the bulk of your time and you're spending more time on that than you are on your job then it's time for someone to call it quits

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Microsoft MCM prep guide

Here's some advice on becoming a Master based on my recent experience with the exam process.
Submitted by Sean McCown on Wed, 02/01/12 - 10:09am.

I've recently been awarded the Microsoft Certified Master for SQL Server 2008.  And as a result I thought I'd give you my MCM prep guide.  Now, I'm going to be purposefully vague because we're not allowed to reveal any details about the exams.

Written:

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The hidden cost of falling behind

Sure, it's expensive to upgrade but there's an even bigger cost to not upgrading.
Submitted by Sean McCown on Wed, 12/28/11 - 3:06pm.

Companies have long since gotten out of writing their own software.  Most think it's well worth the money to buy a package and either customize it or live with its shortcomings.  Now, whether they're right or not is a topic for another post, but it certainly makes sense for some.  Some things it makes sense to buy off the shelf.  For instance, you don't want to try to write your own database, or your own OS, or email server.  Those things are better off left in the hands of the pros.  However, when it comes to your ordering system, or your change control proces

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PASS Summit 2012 Day 3 Keynote

Today's keynote starts with a little song
Submitted by Sean McCown on Fri, 10/14/11 - 12:01pm.

Today's keynote started with a lovely little song by Buck Woddy and Rob Farley.  It was a song of woe and a slow query.  I would sing it for you but I wouldn't do it justice. 

Then a tribute to Wayne Snyder who ended his speech with:
"As you slide down the staircase of success, may the splinters of success stick into your career."

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Rock the kilt

Day 2 of PASS 2011
Submitted by Sean McCown on Thu, 10/13/11 - 12:07pm.

Here we are on day 2 of PASS 2011, and it's without a doubt the best day of the Summit. Not only is it the day after the event we, the MidnightDBAs sponsor, but it's also officially kilt day. A few years ago some people started wearink kilts on day 2 and it just caught on so now there are many of us who do. I remember the first time I heard about this, I honestly thought they were just trying to see if they could get me to show up in a skirt. So I was really nervous that first time, but there were lots of others in kilts so it definitely wasn't a joke.

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PASS 2011 Begins

The PASS Summit has started with a bang.
Submitted by Sean McCown on Wed, 10/12/11 - 11:46am.

I'm sitting here at the blogger table at the PASS Summit 2011. I got here Sunday, and it's already been an action-packed week. We spent the first 2 days on MS campus in MVP sessions and I'm already tired.

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How long is your downtime?

How much padding should you put into your downtime estimates?
Submitted by Sean McCown on Fri, 09/09/11 - 2:07pm.

It's always a fine line to walk how much you need to pad your downtime estimates.  The business doesn't want to be down forever, but at the same time they get upset when you run over for whatever reason.  I always pad my tasks because you really never know what's going to happen.  I've had stupid things go wrong with the simplest ops and they took me a long time to get worked out.  What are the things that can go wrong?  Well, let's take a simple file move.  You're moving the DB files from one drive to another.  I've had them come up corrupt before. 

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Forget innovation, get the basics down

Stop trying to be fancy and get the everyday stuff out of the way first.
Submitted by Sean McCown on Tue, 08/23/11 - 3:27pm.

As a technologist I'm always thrilled to be able to work with a computer whenever I go someplace.  However, it usually ends in despair because while everyone's trying too hard to make tons of money off of every click, nobody's covering the basics.  And not nearly enough people are asking the questions they should and then demanding answers. 

What questions should we all be asking?  Let's try these on for starters.

Why do I still have to tell my grocery cashier that my card is debit?  The devices are 2ft apart, surely they can talk to each other.

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A case against third-party management tools

3rd party tools don't do much for me, how about you?
Submitted by Sean McCown on Mon, 08/22/11 - 10:01am.

One of the biggest businesses in IT is 3rd party tools.  And the DB market has almost more than I can even count.  We've got tools for everything from backups to security and defrag.  It's amazing how many of those things there are.  And one of the questions I'm asked the most when I get mobbed by users at conferences is which tools do I use in my shop.  What do I use for backup?  What do I use for monitoring?  What do I use for maintenance?  And much more.

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What does community mean to you?

Should vendors support your community?
Submitted by Sean McCown on Thu, 08/18/11 - 4:09pm.

How important is community involvement? 

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The new IT guys

So when did we go from pimply computer guys to polished businessmen?
Submitted by Sean McCown on Wed, 07/27/11 - 1:40pm.

Here I am on the tail-end of my first large company talk ever.  Sure, I've addressed business units, small groups, etc in meetings, but never before have I ever been called on to give a presentation to 100+ people in a company.  And this brings up something I've been meaning to talk about  for quite some time.  The new age IT guy vs the old age IT guy.

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Trust nobody

Stop making assumptions about your servers, and don't take anybody's word for it either. Do your own discoveries.
Submitted by Sean McCown on Thu, 07/14/11 - 4:29pm.

I really can't stress the importance of doing your own legwork when it comes to doing server discovery.  And in this case I'm not talking about discovering the servers themselves, but discovering the setup of the resources of the server. 

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How important are unit tests?

Are you taking full advantage of your unit testing?
Submitted by Sean McCown on Mon, 06/13/11 - 11:24am.

A lot of the unit testing that gets done doesn't get done right.  Now, what I mean by that isn't that devs don't know how to test their own functionality (though that's really the subject of another post), it's that they don't know how to perform the test itself properly.  I'm gonna qualify that with a question.  What happens to your unit test code once the tests are done?  And while we're at it let me as you another question real quick.  How many unit tests do you perform on a given scenario?

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The hubris of years: IT prowess can't be measured only by time on the job

Nobody cares how long you've been a DBA, only how good you are.
Submitted by Sean McCown on Fri, 05/27/11 - 1:07pm.

I've been doing quite a bit of interviewing lately (again) and there's one thing that really smacks me in the face whenever I do this.  And that is how much everyone seems to prize how long they've been doing something over how well they do it. 

And in fact, when I'm giving my tech screenings, the number of times I ask someone a fairly easy question that they can't answer is staggering.  Now, I'm talking really about guys who have been doing this like 10-15yrs.  And they don't even know the basics. 

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Opening the door doesn’t mean giving away the keys

There's a difference between letting users know what's happening in the database, and letting them get in and look for themselves.
Submitted by Sean McCown on Mon, 05/16/11 - 8:36pm.

This is one of those topics that everyone has an opinion about.  To state the thesis directly, everyone wants DBAs to have an open-door policy when it comes to their processes.  Of course to them, having an open-door means giving them the keys so they can look around for themselves.  And I understand their need to know what's going on with their app.

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Take control of your servers

As a DBA you have to control the situation when production issues arise.
Submitted by Sean McCown on Tue, 05/10/11 - 1:55pm.

Today I'd like to talk about gathering evidence.  As a DBA you have to gather evidence for all kinds of things all the time.  Sometimes you're chasing a rogue query through the system, sometimes you're trying to find out which user is doing something, sometimes you're trying to find which process is deadlocking or blocking, etc.  Ferreting evidence is a large part of our job.  And I use the word evidence for a reason; because that's what we're looking for.  And we wouldn't be doing a very good job if all we did was take the first thing we saw and say that was the ca

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Should your DBAs be certified?

If you require your DBAs to get certified, then you should be prepared to go all the way.
Submitted by Sean McCown on Wed, 04/27/11 - 2:26pm.

Should you require your people to get certs?  This is a topic that's been a near holy war for years now... esp with the Microsoft exams.  The problem is that it's really hard to protect an exam from cheaters.  So there are plenty of cheat sites out there where you can just buy the answers to the exams and after just a couple days of memorizing, you can pass a test with flying colors and be a real DBA... or a real Windows admin...

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The staged approach to troubleshooting database issues

If you've got database issues, you don't have to put the entire business on hold while you troubleshoot.
Submitted by Sean McCown on Thu, 04/07/11 - 10:29pm.

I've had a bit of a time lately troubleshooting some database issues and I finally got them worked out so I thought I'd talk about my layered approach to pinning down issues on a busy box.

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The problem with numbers

It may look good on paper to fire your most experienced people, but deep down you know it won't really save you money.
Submitted by Sean McCown on Fri, 03/18/11 - 2:24pm.

IT has a horrible track record for keeping people.  You may remember a while back I wrote a post about mentoring and how companies will just throw you away when it suites them.  This is kind of a follow-up post in that it's on the same general topic of companies showing no loyalty to their people, but it's from the angle of the numbers.

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The reverse application pyramid

Instead of adding more applications you should be taking some away to reduce your costs and support efforts.
Submitted by Sean McCown on Wed, 03/09/11 - 1:34pm.

No matter what field you're in you have the same problem as any other field:  application sprawl.  It seems like there's almost no way to control the number of apps hitting your environment.  And while some of it is justified, I would venture to say that the lion's share of it is done out of ridiculous posturing and ignorance.  Ok, harsh words, but is it true?

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