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Where Do You Go for Authoritative SQL Server Best Practices?

Reprinted from my editorial in Database Weekly.

In early 2000, I started a new DBA job with a large organization, as their first full-time SQL Server DBA. My first job was to clean up the mess left by several accidental DBAs who had gone before me, and who had implemented several SQL Server instances without really knowing what they were doing.

I was still a relative novice myself at the time, so I began researching a set of recommended best practices that could be adopted on all of the SQL Server instances that I managed. The problem I ran into was the scarcity of online SQL Server resources; I compiled my SQL Server Best Practices document almost exclusively from Books Online, a few published books, the occasional conference presentation, and what I learned from my own experience. I made the rather naïve assumption that everything I read was essentially "correct". Of course, I soon learned the hard way that this is not always the case.

Now jump ahead to 2011. There is now a vast amount of SQL Server information and ‘best practice’ advice available on the Internet, in the form of innumerable blogs, community sites and forums. Finding an answer to your question is much easier now than it was in 2000, but finding the right (or best) answer is harder than ever. Not only is there a huge amount of information to sift through, but the quality of that information ranges from top notch all the way down to very bad.

For novice DBAs, this is a tremendous problem. Even experienced DBAs still need to rely on the advice of others, in areas outside their realm of expertise. So, how do we separate the wheat from the chaff? I am fortunate in that I’ve been involved with the SQL Server community for a long time, and I’ve built up a strong network of people, blogs, and websites that I trust and to which I turn first when I need help. Even given this, however, I am smart enough now to know that not every best practice fits every situation, so I always test the advice, even of those I trust, just to be sure that it works well in my environment.

So my questions to you are these: where do you go to find best practice advice? What books, websites, blogs, and other sources do you trust the most, and why? Do you ever take this advice at face value, or do you always test it to ensure that it works well in your environment? Share with us you experiences so that we can all learn from it.

Comments

Posted by tnk7200 on 27 June 2011

Hi,

Thanks for sharing your insight. Well, I'm very new to the SQL Server world. I do agree with you that bet practices depend on the environment. With vast amount of information, sometime it's difficult who to believe. I tend to look for tips on http://sqlserverpedia.com/

and Brent Ozar's blog http://www.brentozar.com/

Rod Colledge has a book about best practices for SQL Server 2008. I don't totally agree with everything in the book, but it does provide newcomers like me a good foundation.

I often do apply the advice on the test environment first. Even experts can be wrong sometime. : )

Posted by Matt on 30 June 2011

Wow! Your story basically fits my situation :) (probably nearly every DBA out there) except I started a year or two ago.  I am still novice enough I don't really contribute much but read a lot of online material.

Probably the most used for general awareness is SQL Server Central newsletters :).  I have to say I have a stack of books on my desk at all times, sitting on top of my stack of work that needs to be completed so the papers don't blow away :).  Several Reporting Services books, SAMS 2005 unleashed, Wrox 05 Integration Services, course manuals, ... the list goes on.  I look forward to seeing additional suggested books to cruise through.  I haven’t found a book I would say is better than any other, but I am not a hard core read a book front to back reader and mostly skim sections and look back when I have an issue or question how something works.  And of course, searching and searching with google or any other service and reading several articles on whatever topic making sure to read from different people before actually testing anything.  

Defiantly test, Sorry!, is not always the best approach :).  There are some changes that are hard to know what the impact really is or even have different behavior from test to production.  When in doubt ask on forums (technet, …) for assistance, maybe it’s a question of how do I know if this will help or how do I get my SQL Server to travel in time (install flux capacitor between CPU and MEM :)).

Either way, the information is there, keep searching, keep asking questions, and test test test.

Thanks,

Matt

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