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The Best Database Administrators Automate Everything

By John Sansom, (first published: 2012/04/06)

Do you understand the value of your time? I mean really understand it. Time is your absolute number one most valuable asset. Once it's gone, that's it, gone forever.

As a Database Administrator (DBA) your skills, services, expertise and ultimately your time will always be in demand. You can only ever deliver on a finite amount of time, that's just the way it is, so it's incredibly important that you maximize the use of the time you have available. I guarantee you that this is a philosophy that all Outstanding DBA's believe.

The Importance Of Automation

"Is time slipping away from you..."

All too often I see Database Administrator's operating continuously in what I like to call Fire Fighting Mode. That is to say that they are struggling with their forever growing work load and are consistently operating in a reactive fashion, just  moving from the most important task to the next, without taking stock of the bigger picture. DBA's that operate in environments like this will often find that the environment is suffering from what is known as Technical Debt. Coding Horror(Jeff Atwood) discusses the importance of Paying Down Your Technical Debt on his Blog. Let me tell you now that working like this is just not sustainable and either the system or the DBA will eventually break down, more often than not it's the later that gives way first. Don't try and be a DBA Hero and throw yourself at the problem harder, you will just burn out quicker. What you need to do is to work smarter not harder.

Understanding the value of your time and acknowledging it's importance to the success of outstanding DBA's is the first step towards leveraging it's power. As a DBA you want to take steps to maximize the amount of time you have available to you, in order to permit you to focus on tasks that add value to your business and to give you that all important capacity to operate in a Proactive Mode. Put simply, you have to make the time for yourself in order to be effective as Database Administrator.

Herein lies the secret of automation and it's compounding interest that it pays to the DBA.  The more tasks, systems and processes that you can automate, the more time you have available to Proactively reinvest in tasks that add value to your business and to you.

Automate Everything

That's right, I said everything. Just sit back and take the time to consider this point for a moment. Let it wander around your mind whilst you consider the processes and tasks that you could look to potentially automate. Now eliminate the word potentially from your vocabulary and evaluate how you could automate e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g that you do.

Even if you believe that there is only a remote possibility that you will need to repeat a given task, just go ahead and automate it anyway! Chances are that when the need to repeat the process comes around again, you will either be under pressure to get it done, or even better have more important Proactive Mode tasks/projects to be getting on with, like furthering your professional development by studying for your MCM Certification and watching the freely available MCM Readiness Videos (and would you believe it, also available in automated fashion using PowerShell :-) courtesy of @anonythemouse ).

At the very least, always create a walk-through of your steps and save your scripts so that you can re-use any work you produce.

The possibilities for how you can go about automating are so vast, ranging from the obvious choices such as SQL Server Integration Services(SSIS) and PowerShell to any Coding/Scripting language of your choice. I have even been known to develop the odd little Java Application (a leftover effect of a former life as a Developer, just don't tell the Devs) in order to automate administrative tasks. The key thing with automation contrary to typical DBA practices is to not necessarily use the most appropriate tool or technology for the job but to use whatever tool that you can to get the job automated and done.

I'm willing to bet that you have implemented some really creative automated solutions to your tasks and problems. Share your thoughts, tips and ideas on automation in the comments section.

Take Charge of Your Time Now

Automating your tasks will enable you to maximize the availability of your most valuable asset, time, giving you the power to focus your energy and efforts on activities that add value to your business. Start automating EVERYTHING today!

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"I hope you enjoyed this article. You can find even more SQL content on my blog SQL Server DBA in the UK where I post each week about working with SQL Server and Professional Development for the DBA. Thanks for reading!"

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