When To Hire a DBA

How busy should someone be before you hire a DBA?

One of the things that I often see on SQLServerCentral’s forumsis a developer struggling with an administration issue or a complex query. It’s natural and even expected since many developers are not as familiar with SQL Server as they are with their development platform. It’s great to see them trying to get help and work through issues and there are many generous volunteers that give their time and knowledge to help.

Recently I found a post where a developer was struggling with a variety of problems: design, backups, and more. It was obvious this person was overwhelmed and when someone suggested hiring a consultant, this person noted their boss didn’t want a DBA consultant, and wasn’t willing to hire a DBA. Management didn’t feel like there was enough work to justify a full-time employee.

That’s an issue that I think many companies face. When do they hire a DBA and when is it beneficial for them? I’ve had this conversation before with employers, and while I’ve seen small companies benefit from having me as a DBA, I also know that I’ve contributed in ways other than just with helping with the database platform. I have helped administer systems, develop applications and more.

I think part of this is the fault of the database professional, who has a stereotype of being difficult, stubborn, and resistant to change. It’s also hard for many database professionals to quantify exactly what they do and show explicit value for their services. They don’t build new features into applications, often don’t interact with customers, and regularly answer question with “it depends.”

The ROI for a DBA is something that can be hard to explain to management, but it’s something that I think needs attention from all SQL Server professionals. If we can better explain our jobs, develop standard tasks and benefits that DBAs show, we can help ensure that more companies see the benefits and value from employing a DBA. If you have any ideas, please add them to the discussion for this editorial.

There’s also a nice opportunity here for hybrid DBAs, the kind that come to conferences like SQL Server Connections. Doing a little developer alongside your DBA work might get you some jobs in smaller, more flexible, and more fun companies.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcasts

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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