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Review of Review of SQL Server 2000 Administrators' Companion

By Frank Kalis,

The Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Administrator's Companion by Garcia, Reding, Whalen and DeLuca is published by Microsoft Press. It comes along with a CD containing the ebook version and several white papers on SQL Server.

The content is split into six parts:

  • Part I: Introduction to Microsoft SQL Server
  • Part II: Installation and Setup
  • Part III: Using Microsoft SQL Server
  • Part IV: Built-In Server Features
  • Part V: Management, Tuning, Maintenance and Troubleshooting
  • Part VI: Appendixes

Part I: Introduction to Microsoft SQL Server
This part focuses on the fundamentals of SQL Server 2000 and explains the new features of this version. It then gives an overview of the different Windows platforms and the interdependencies between SQL Server and Windows. The first part finishes with an introduction to roles and responsibilities of an SQL Server DBA.

Part II: Installation and Setup
The second part concentrates on more than 200 pages on installation and setup of SQL Server. It describes the necessary steps from designing a SQL Server system to I/O subsystem and capacity planning. You will also find an introduction to the SQL Server Enterprise Manager and how to use this tool to create databases and tables. Finally the authors explain how to use SQL Server with Clustering Services.

Part III: Using Microsoft SQL Server
This part is some 300 pages long. It gives an introduction on T-SQL and explains how to use the Query Analyzer. Followed by a roundtrip to defaults, constraints and rules. After this it explains indexes, views, transactions and locking. Lastly in this part the authors introduce stored procedures and triggers.

Part IV: Built-In Server Features
On more than 200 pages the authors explain features like Component Services, Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator, Replication and Analysis Services.

Part V: Management, Tuning, Maintenance and Troubleshooting
On again more than 200 pages you find informations on how to accomplish a DBAs everydays tasks and how to automate them. How to keep your databases alive and healthy and what to do when they are not.

Part VI: Appendixes
Gives a summary of SQL Server's configuration parameters, shows ways to monitor SQL Server and finishes with a list of common DBCC commands.

Summary

On almost 1,100 pages the authors have tried to cover every aspect of SQL Server 2000. With mixed success.
While the book is easy to read in a nice, non-academical language, the authors seldomly go that much into detail as I expect an everyday's companion book to be. This seems to be an almost natural conflict between the wish to write a comprehensive, one-volume approach and the fact that you cannot write a multi thousand pages book and expect to sell it at a reasonable price.
I feel tempted to ask: "Where's the beef?". There must be more information in this book than I can get out of the free SQL Server Books Online (BOL). Looking at the back cover of the book shows that it is aimed at "IT Implementer" user level. To me it seems that the authors are not sure what audience to focus on. For IT implementers there should be more details on planning, implementation and maintenance of SQL Server systems, rather than writing chapters on T-SQL. I would say it is more for beginners who are uncertain with SQL Server. For this group of user this book will surely be useful as it provides a lot of examples with a lot of screenshots that take you step by step through the wizards of the SQL Server Enterprise Manager. Seasoned SQL Server User will not have much fun with the book as they won't find the answers to their questions here and for their everydays bread and butter work they (hopefully) won't need a book at all anymore.
What I think is somewhat sad, is the fact, that the book seems to be not optimal technically edited. For example, stating that you cannot explicitely insert values into a column having an identity property defined on it, is wrong. See SET IDENTITY_INSERT ON/OFF in BOL for details on how to do this. The fact that such an unnecessary error appears in a chapter named "Understanding Advanced T-SQL" (Chapter 20, p.493) is definitely contraproductive for beginners on T-SQL, who need to rely on the knowledge and competence of authors and their technical editors.

Conclusion

No easy conclusion here. What I like about the book is that there are a lot of screenshots which make it very easy to follow the narrative of the authors. I also like the chapters on replication as this is an area I do not normally deal with. I don't like the chapters on T-SQL as they are too lengthy without providing information that goes beyond basic skills. These chapters should have been tightened in favor for more information on other aspects like using profiler, disaster recovery or clustering. I would definitely recommend not to buy this book without having a really close look at it in a bookstore to see if it is suited for your needs. Especially given the fact that it is at a price of $60.

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