Do You Have a SQL Server Estate?

At Redgate, we do a lot of research. Maybe not as much as Microsoft Research, but we are always trying to investigate more about customer problems and challenges before we build or change software.

Take our survey on SQL Server Configuration Management and you could win prizes. Or a prize.

I’ve never thought about managing an estate, but not that I live on a horse ranch, that has a little more meaning. In the past, I’ve managed hundreds of instances and thousands of databases. That’s certainly an estate, but even when I had 5 servers, that is something of a small estate of things to keep me busy.

At Redgate, we know there are lots of challenges in managing SQL Servers. We constantly have a team of people working on SQL Monitor, and they are releasing changes every week or two. In fact, we just released v9.0 this year, full of enhancements customers have asked for.

In addition to the tactical team that’s building and fixing things day to day, we are doing future research into where to take our monitoring and tuning software. That’s some of what this survey is about. Let us know about which things might help you smooth the process of managing systems.

Give us a few minutes and a little information and take our survey. You might find that a future version of SQL Monitor contains something you thought would be useful.

Take the Survey today.

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Don’t Leave the Database Behind…Or Win If You Do

If you’ve had struggles with database development and had a real world disaster, you could win in a new Redgate contest. We’re looking for the places where old style, waterfall, traditional database development has been a problem. Especially when application software developers have been adopting DevOps, small, rapid release strategies.

Enter before Mar 20 and give us your story.  Don’t worry, we’ll anonymize your name and company details. You can enter as many times as you like, but can only win once.

My Struggles

I started working with a small startup company that had 8-10 application developers. We tried to work in a rapid format, releasing a new version of our website every 2-3 weeks. This was going OK, but not great. Often we’d release and developers would go to test their new feature, only to realize that they’d forgotten a database component.

They would roll forward, finding code and deploying a database change during the release process, usually getting the feature working in 10 or 15 minutes.

Until they broke something else because they hadn’t really tested the database component complete. Or they realized they needed yet another database change. Or they had forgotten to code for some edge case that another developer tried during the release smoke test.

When I started, we all gathered in the office on a Sunday night and spent an hour or two releasing code. Not one of my favorite times.

The app developers were using source control, and trying to test, but they often sent code to QA and then fixed things in QA, forgetting that they needed to ensure those changes were deployed again to production.

Across a few months, we implemented what people would not call a DevOps process, reducing our release time to a few minutes, with myself and another developer on the phone, releasing automated changes from a CLI.

Database DevOps makes everyone happier.

Share your story before Mar 20 and good luck.

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You Need Offline Backups

If you hadn’t heard about it, VFEMail may be dead. At least, that’s what the founder was thinking in this article. A malicious hacking incident took place last week, and though they’re back up and running, who knows if customers will stick by them, or maybe sue them out of existence. I wouldn’t be surprised as a large number of their infrastructure servers were wiped out by reformatting servers. These included mail servers, backup servers, and SQL Servers.

That’s quite an attack, and whether this was directed at the company or some individuals, a large number of people might have lost their mailboxes and previously stored mail that was in IMAP storage. This is the type of issue that is most likely an annoyance for individuals, but it would be potentially catastrophic for businesses. Imagine your small business hosted with them and all your mailboxes were lost with customer communications and who knows what else. Perhaps you could recover data or keep the business going, but it might be an issue.

Could this happen with a cloud provider like Azure O365, Google Apps or AWS? Possibly, and while I’m sure they have backups, I’m not sure how reliable those might be for the average individual or small business. This makes me worry slightly as I depend on GMail and wouldn’t even try to backup to few 100GBs of mail I have. I’m not even sure how to do it, though I don’t really keep anything in there that’s really important. In any case, I’d suspect that connecting and somehow wiping out Gmail servers, along with backups, would be very difficult.

This does make me think about a few customers I know that use online storage for backups. They assume that they will always have either a primary server or the online backup server/share/bucket/container and can download data. The problem is that online systems that connect to the primary can be accessed. If an attacker were to access one, they potentially could access the second.

The world seems to be moving towards more online storage, or in the case of cloud vendors, a reliance on snapshots. That might be good enough for cloud vendors, but it’s certainly not for any on-premise system. It’s likely that an attacker, possibly with insider help, would wipe out backups first, then primary systems. I’d always want some sort of disconnected offline backup of data, especially database servers. I have seen Murphy’s Law strike two systems at once, so an air gap between copies of data just feels prudent.

Steve Jones

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A Supercomputer in My Pocket

I work with data on a regular basis, and I really depend on my cell phone to help me with both work and life. I regularly make notes and get ideas for articles and editorials from things that happen when I’m on the go. Without a smartphone, I’d be juggling a notebook and pen, perhaps pulling over and making notes that I’d transcribe later. Since I’m in different cars and vehicles with different bags, I’m not sure how well I’d be able to keep track of notes on paper.

In the last decade, as I’ve purchased and upgraded mobile devices, it’s been amazing to me that I can use many services to help me. I can log into something like Instapaper to save an interesting article I might write about later, or capture a few thoughts in Evernote. Or even send myself an email with an idea for a Question of the Day. I’ve done all of those things while in various points when inspiration has struck.

In the last few years, I’ve started to use some audio notes for tracking when I’m driving. I might hear something on the radio, or from a podcast, and need to make a note. The power of dictation apps, which have improved tremendously since the early Dragon Speech Recognition days on 486 computers. While I still don’t completely trust audio recognition, what I’ve learned to appreciate is the ability to just record sound with an audio app that I can play back later. There are audio recording apps, though I often just use Evernote.

I use a lot of data transfer and storage on my mobile device. So much so that when I switched a couple years ago to the Google Fi, I was disappointed with only having 32GB of storage. It was amazing for a kid that grew up with 300kb floppy disks to think that 32GB wasn’t enough, but it wasn’t. I was constantly juggling space and deleting things. I recently upgraded to a phone with 192GB, and I’m hoping that will satisfy my need for pictures, video, and notes.

It’s amazing to see just how far computing has expanded, giving us incredible capabilities on the go that were science fiction a quarter century ago. Many appreciate the ability to review a document or spreadsheet, or even view a Power BI Report from any device. While I don’t often have the need, it is nice to know that I can catch SQL Monitor alerts and view data on my phone, or even restart a VM from a cloud shell from my car if I have the need.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 3.6MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and Libsyn.

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