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The Voice of the DBA

The Problems with Gods

When I was learning how to work with computers early in life, I ran across various documentation and writings that would liken the root account to being a god on the system. Over the years, I've seen other articles that note will describe "God mode" in various software systems. There have even been science fiction books describing the god-like abilities of a person that obtains a privileged account on a system.

To me, this is one of those places where our industry is immature. Having an account that can perform any task on a system, with no limits, is indeed like a god. This account can do anything, which is a double edged sword. Someone can reconfigure, fix, patch, update anything to ensure the system runs well. Or they can "rm /rf" the system.

Recently Verelox had their entire system wiped out by a former administrator. There are a variety of problems with this story, not the least of which is leaving old credentials active. Mike Walsh wrote about some of the issues from a backup perspective. I would add from a security perspective that this is why an individual's credentials need to be disabled immediately, and any well known, long time passwords need to be changed. We do this in the physical world by changing locks. We need to do this in the digital work as well.

However, I see a overreaching account with unlimited privileges as fundamentally a bad idea. Sure, this makes installing software or reconfiguring our system easier, but perhaps we should be required to use separate accounts for all sorts of options. This is especially true when we build a distributed system across multiple machines. As the number of services and systems increases, the value from having one account able to accomplish every task outweighs the potential issues.

Humans make mistakes. We make inadvertent ones when we're tired or distracted. We make malicious mistakes we regret; we make emotional mistakes by overreacting to a situation. We make mistakes based on incorrect information. If we have all the power over a shared system, then we may easily make mistakes that could cause an extraordinary amount of damage.

Our modern systems should include the ability for a separation of all duties and more default accounts that we configure. At the very least we should separate administration from auditing, and perhaps security as well. A slight inconvenience during setup is worth accidental issues in the future. Having separate accounts for different functions will also help to slow down the potential problems in the future by ensuring no one user account can be used to perform every function on a platform if it's compromised.

Steve Jones from SQLServerCentral.com

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The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 3.7MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and Libsyn. feed

The Voice of the DBA podcast features music by Everyday Jones. No relation, but I stumbled on to them and really like the music.

SQL Source Control

How to track every change to your SQL Server database

See who’s changing your database, alongside affected objects, date, time, and reason for the change with SQL Source Control. Get a full change history in your source control system. Learn more


Using SQL Census to audit SQL Server permissions

Redgate have just released SQL Census, a prototype tool that makes auditing SQL Server user access permissions much easier. In this post, Santiago Arias talks us through the brand new Server View feature, tells us what's up next in the tool's development, and explains how you can download it for free. Try the free prototype

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Azure DWH part 16: BCP to import and export data

Daniel Calbimonte from SQLServerCentral.com

In Azure SQL Data Warehouse we can use BCP to export or import the data. In this article, we will show how to do it. More »


What If Week: What Would You Fix Or Change?

Additional Articles from Brent Ozar Unlimited Blog

Brent Ozar, Erik Darling, and Tara Kizer think about what they would change or fix if they had access to SQL Server’s source code. More »


From the SQLServerCentral Blogs - Power BI Custom Visuals Class (Module 69 – Heatmap)

Devin Knight from SQLServerCentral Blogs

In this module you will learn how to use the Heatmap Custom Visual.  The Heatmap is useful for show data... More »


From the SQLServerCentral Blogs - The Tabular Model Documenter is now a Power BI Template

meaganl from SQLServerCentral Blogs

A while back I created the Tabular Model Documenter Power BI model that can connect to your SSAS Tabular or... More »

Question of the Day

Today's Question (by Steve Jones):

I've got a table of integers only and I want to put one trillion rows in the table for some testing. However, I'm worried about space. Which table should I create to use the minimal space?

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Yesterday's Question of the Day

Yesterday's Question (by Steve Jones):

Which types of query statements can be used with the EXPLAIN operator in Azure SQL Data Warehouse?



All of these types of operations can used:


This will return the execution plan for the query without running the query in an Azure SQL Data Warehouse.

Ref: EXPLAIN - click here

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