Database Administrators can sometimes have one of the most stressful jobs in the company. If you have been a DBA for long, you know the scenario. You have just sat in your chair with your cup of coffee, and your phone starts ringing off the hook. The voice on the other end states that they can't pull up their data or they are getting timeouts, or the system is running slow. Okay, time to dig in; it's going to be one of those days! Is it Friday yet?
In this article, I will present ways to minimize those stressful days by having a pre-defined DBA morning checklist. A morning DBA checklist is a document of pre-defined administrative checks that are performed every morning to ensure that your server is at optimal performance. By having a standard list of items to check, you are more likely to catch and fix issues before there is a real problem.
The end result of the morning DBA checklist should have three sections. Section one contains the list of items that need checked. Section one should include checks from the following categories: performance, job failures, disk space, backups, connectivity, and anything specific to your environment, such as replication, mirroring, clustering, etc. Section two contains a place to write down issues and how they were resolved. The third section is a confirmation section where it is signed and dated. The third section is very important. Without this section, it is difficult to enforce and guarantee that these checks were performed.
The first step to create an effective morning checklist is to meet with all the DBAs and ask them these questions:
1. What do you check in the morning?
2. How do you check it?
3. What do you do when there is a problem?
4. Is there anyone you notify in the event of a failure?
In my experience, every DBA has his own mental checklist and different ways that he / she fix issues. It is important to get a list of the items written down in a document. By combining the ideas of every DBA, you will come up with a more thorough checklist, a standardized way to fix issues, and problems are less likely to fall through the cracks.
After the DBA morning checklist is created, completed checklists should be archived in a notebook to ensure that each check was performed every day. This also serves as a history of fixes for past issues, and an audit trail for the DBA.
Since every database environment is different, and every IS shop has its own tools, every DBA's checklist will be different. The end goal is to create a checklist that is customized to your environment, in which issues can be found and fixed quickly, so that you can avoid having one of those difficult days.
With this in mind, listed below is a sample checklist. Your checklist should be unique to your environment and should help find and fix issues as quickly as possible.
Section 1: DBA Morning Checklist
- Verify that the Network Backups are good by checking the backup emails. If a backup did not complete, contact _____ in the networking group, and send an email to the DBA group.
- Check the SQL Server backups. If a backup failed, research the cause of the failure and ensure that it is scheduled to run tonight.
- Check the database backup run duration of all production servers. Verify that the average time is within the normal range. Any significant increases in backup duration times need to be emailed to the networking group, requesting an explanation. The reason for this is that networking starts placing databases backups to tape at certain times, and if they put it to tape before the DBAs are done backing up, the tape copy will be bad.
- Verify that all databases were backed up. If any new databases were not backed up, create a backup maintenance plan for them and check the current schedule to determine a backup time.
- Verify the free space on each drive of the servers. If there is significant variance in free space from the day before, research the cause of the free space fluctuation and resolve if necessary. Often times, log files will grow because of monthly jobs.
- Check for failed jobs, by connecting to each SQL Server, selecting "job activity" and filtering on failed jobs. If a job failed, resolve the issue by contacting the owner of the job if necessary.
- Check SQL logs on each server. In the event of a critical error, notify the DBA group and come to an agreement on how to resolve the problem.
- Check Application log on each server. In the event of a critical or unusual error, notify the DBA group and the networking group to determine what needs to be done to fix the error.
- Check Performance statistics for All Servers using the monitoring tool and research and resolve any issues.
- Check Performance Monitor on ALL production servers and verify that all counters are within the normal range.
- Log into the Customer application and verify that it can connect to the database and pull up data. Verify that it is performing at an acceptable speed. In the event of a failure, email the Customer Support Group, DBA group, and the DBA manager, before proceeding to resolve the issue.
- Log into the Billing application and verify that it can connect to the database and pull up data. Verify that it is performing at an acceptable speed. In the event of a failure, email the Billing Support Group, DBA group, and the DBA manager, before proceeding to resolve the issue.
- Check replication on each server by checking each publication to make sure the distributor is running for each subscription.
- When replication is stopped, or changes to replication are made, send an email to the DBA group. For example, if the DBA stops the distributor, let the other DBAs know when it is stopped and then when it is restarted again.
- Check for any emails for the SQL Jobs that monitor row counts on major tables on the publisher and subscriber. If a wide variance occurs, send an email message to the DBAs and any appropriate IS personnel.
Section 2: Write down any issues and how they were resolved
This space is reserved for writing down issues and how they were fixed.
Section 3 - Confirmation
Completed By __________________________ Date: ___________________
Creating a morning DBA checklist has helped me many times in the past. Often times, I found CPU usage up near 100%, broken replication, connectivity problems, and space issues that I have been able to resolve before the majority of the work force was present and the issue could escalate. By having a standard DBA checklist document, it ensures that nothing is forgotten, which could result in a problem. It also minimizes down time of a company or department, provides a archive of past issues and how they were fixed, and helps ensure that the DBA will have a less stressful day!