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'Just Google It'

By Bas de Zwart,

With the arrival of search websites such as Altavista, Yahoo and then later Google, I have seen many cases where colleagues were solving issues by using search results from these engines. 'Just Google It' has become a saying that I hear daily. And, there's nothing wrong with that, in theory.

But what about some of the more questionable things you can find while searching for specific issues? I have a few examples (the actual text has been changed for privacy reasons).

Q: 'Our log files are growing bigger and bigger and we cannot seem to shrink them'
A: 'Make sure you are making regular Log backups of your database'

Seems like a straightforward enough question and answer... or does it? In this case, the person asking the question turned out to be speaking about the Job History Log table, and not about the transaction logs of his database. It took another 20+ posts before the posters finally figured out what they were talking about, causing frustration on both sides and a waste of time.

Q: 'I am new to SQL Server. I have tried several different ways to install SQL without success. The last time I attempted to install as a local service and I unchecked hide advance configuration. But it will not run, what am I doing wrong?'

A: I recommend that you to uninstall the SQL Server using the command line via prompt:
Start /wait D:\SQLDEV_CTP4\...etc..

Now, in this example it's more obvious what's wrong--or rather--it's obvious that the poster answering him is not trying to find the main issue before trying to answer the question. Because of the lack of information, he chose the 'atom bomb' approach: de-install everything, try again. After several other posts it turned out that all the original poster had to do was change the start-up service account. What a waste of time!

These examples might seem obvious to an experienced DBA, but many DBAs are new to SQL Server. In their enthusiasm they are often ignorant of the pitfalls of using search engines, and blindly using whatever results are found.

I have spent countless hours trying to figure out issues with help from search engines. During those years and searches I learned to understand why it is that people write 500+ page books about using search engines. It's just like querying a database, and is often more complicated than you initially anticipated!

Now I see the less experienced DBA's in my company making the same mistakes as I did (and sometimes still make). I sometimes get emails saying 'We have this/that issue, but I've Googled the solution here: <link> and have asked our Engineering department to implement these fixes on the server'.

After reading the errors and links I had to jump in and explain that the solution was wrong, and instruct the engineering department to roll back any changes they had made.

Is using a search engines really that bad? No!

I can come up with countless of examples in my career where search engines have saved us a lot of time, so the moral of the story is this: 'Just Google it', works. But only so far... You have to always keep your 'head' and whenever possible verify all aspects and compare them to your situation. More often than not things that might seem relevant are completely irrelevant to your situation.

Bas de Zwart

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