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The On-call Demands


The On-call Demands

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andy.taylor 44187
andy.taylor 44187
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I'm one of a pair of DBAs - between us we look after 50 SQL Servers and 35 Oracle Databases. We are on call 24/7, alternating one week on one week off.
In the year I've held this post, I've received just one out of hours call for a broken SQL Server, and at least 5 for Oracle!
Bill Brightman
Bill Brightman
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That's a great record! In my experience, it's usually the DBAs who a) don't know what they're doing or b) get lazy and take shortcuts that find themselves getting lots of calls during the off-hours. There are exceptions, but as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
jeff.stanlick
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At my organization I am the only fulltime DBA, responsible for over 50 instances and 700+ SQL Server databases. Thus, I'm on call 24x7x365 (that includes vacations). Prior to being the DBA, I was one of the developers and we had no DBA. Since I was fixing most of the database issues when they happened anyway, I asked to be the fulltime DBA. I used to get calls and pages after hours 4-5 times a week. After 4 years of being the DBA, I get actual phone calls about database issues 1-2 times a year, and pages from automated monitoring I setup 4-5 times a month.

The biggest reason for the downturn is getting the developers to use source code control and automating development environment refreshes for them so they're coding in an environment that matches the production environment they're going to deploy to. They catch a lot more of their errors before the code gets to production and they write a lot better code now. Most of my pages now are warnings about impending disk space issues.
chrisfradenburg
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Our other DBA and I alternate who is on call. The DBA "on call" handles incoming issues during the day and watching monitoring. For off-hours issues they're the first one called but since it's not an official on call (ie not paid for it and don't carry pager) we're not required to respond. If whomever is on call doesn't respond then the other person gets called (which rarely happens). It works well since we're both dedicated and respond if we can. For any time spend working a page we get time off to compensate and our boss is very flexible with that.

Since it's rare to get paged (every few weeks if that) what we have works. My only concern is that at some point either both of us won't be available or something will happen off hours that our monitoring utility catches but since we're not officially on call we won't get paged for and result in downtime only because it's not handled before users come in. However, both my boss and his boss are aware of the concern and say it's acceptable, mostly because every department in our hospital has downtime procedures that allow them to operate in the event of any system failure. Which means if anything does happen I won't need to worry as much about defending the fact that it didn't get caught.
TravisDBA
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For off-hours issues they're the first one called but since it's not an official on call (ie not paid for it and don't carry pager) we're not required to respond. If whomever is on call doesn't respond then the other person gets called (which rarely happens). It works well since we're both dedicated and respond if we can


I had this exact same situation at Citrix where my partner was a 21 year old kid that slept so hard a hand grenade could not wake him up and I got called as his backup all the time so I was doing on-call constantly. Citrix was very political and the boss liked the kid and made every excuse for him like for example "Well Travis he takes prescription medication at night". Well I immediately said "Well boohoo, I have a couple of beers at night does that let me off the hook when I am on call and fall asleep?" Citrix managment is some of the worst I have ever seen in over 28 years in this industry. It's almost fast-food (Burger King) oriented managment, Just terrible. :-D

"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"
Lynn Pettis
Lynn Pettis
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TravisDBA (4/10/2012)
For off-hours issues they're the first one called but since it's not an official on call (ie not paid for it and don't carry pager) we're not required to respond. If whomever is on call doesn't respond then the other person gets called (which rarely happens). It works well since we're both dedicated and respond if we can


I had this exact same situation at Citrix where my partner was a 21 year old kid that slept so hard a hand grenade could not wake him up and I got called as his backup all the time so I was doing on-call constantly. Citrix was very political and the boss liked the kid and made every excuse for him like for example "Well Travis he takes prescription medication at night". Well I immediately said "Well boohoo, I have a couple of beers at night does that let me off the hook when I am on call and fall asleep?" Citrix managment is some of the worst I have ever seen in over 28 years in this industry. It's almost fast-food (Burger King) oriented managment, Just terrible. :-D


At a previous employer we had an on-call rotation as well. At one point we had 4 developers, so on-call went three levels deep giving one person a week off from any any on-call responsibility. The only problem we had was one developer. If you followed this person in the rotation you were guaranteed to get the call as this person never answered their phone at night. Oh, and this person never got in trouble for not responding.

Cool
Lynn Pettis

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PhilipC
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Felt like digging this thread. I'm 1 of 2 DBAs and we're on call on an every other month basis. We haven't had an out-of-hours call now in months that has been an SQL problem.

Our issue is, constant application upgrades/patches. We're supporting over 100+ applications across 30 odd Prod instances, and there's at least 12 of these upgrades needing to be done each month.

And now the boss in IT is trying to suck up to the business by saying all upgrades will be done after 9:30pm at night, rather than previously we could start upgrades at 6pm. Everything we script from the db side to pass through the various environments so its pretty fast to deploy but its a real pain as some take 3/4 hours for the apps guys to do the various app side upgrade and they need us on stand-by the whole time if they need a rollback done.
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