Managing SQL Server can be exhausting, so more and more companies today choose either to delegate this task to some database administration company or hire an SQL consulting firm. In this article we will try to give our view on choosing the best SQL consulting firms based on particular criteria and signs.
Across the web you can stumble at various ratings and top lists like “10 best SQL Server consulting firms”. We could also compose such a list without false modesty putting ourselves on the top of it, but instead we prefer to just provide you with information and let you decide. So, here are our 10 best advices to select an SQL consulting company.
1. SQL consulting is cost effective
While hiring an SQL DBA for full-time can be more efficient and time-saving, you don’t have to stick with this solution all the time. In some cases, asking for consultancy may turn out even more efficient, not to mention lower prices. Let’s say your company already has a staff of database administrators, but their skills are simply not enough to perform the task you need. Experience is everything, so running a complex migration task without the skills needed for that can ruin your business easily. You have two options here: educate your employees or hire a consulting firm. It is hard to say which one is cheaper (this depends on a situation), but definitely, running a full-scale SQL training for your DBAs is a long-term process, while consultancy is available here and now.
2. Knowledge you gain from SQL consulting are not lost
This one resonates with the above advice a lot. By hiring an SQL consulting firm, not only do you receive a solution to your particular task, but also a vision of how to solve a similar problem in the future. From that point, selecting a consultant firm that doesn’t mind you learning from it is a must as long as you have your own DBA and you want them to improve their skills. Interestingly enough, the best consulting firms even offer custom training services in addition to SQL consultancy.
3. See what they offer
The most crucial criterion the whole mess start from is services a given SQL consulting firm is offering. Typical SQL consulting services include: SQL Server management, installation, upgrade and migration; health management and performance supervising; 24/7 SQL database administration; database business analysis. Each service has its own specifics, so don’t rely on mere citation of the SQL services. The best SQL consulting firms always explain what’s included in each particular service.
4. Skills are important
Above of services are skills. In fact, skills and actual experience are way more important than any words you can read on an SQL consulting firm’s website. Of course, you cannot measure skills directly with some “SQL Server skillsometer”. So you have to look at indirect signs. Some of them include testimonials from real clients (see if testimonials have contacts or URLs in them), real-world case studies, articles and tutorials, interviews with well known personalities in the industry and so on. So more “clues” signify high DBA skills of the consulting firm, the better. And don’t forget – you can make a call and ask any question you have (and you should have questions!) and make sure the chosen firm is professional and competent indeed.
5. Look for people, not skills
Skills are important, but even more important are people. There’s nothing wrong in hiring a small beginner SQL consulting firm – the result may prove to be even better. Small companies strive to do better and faster than their huge competitors. And importantly they often DO better. Due to their small size, such companies can act and react faster; they are mobile and dynamic and can instantly readjust to your varying requirements – a luxury many bigger companies often cannot afford.
6. Check if the SQL consulting firm is certified
There are numerous signs of professional skills and quality of DBA services. As long as the firm works with SQL server it should be recognized as Microsoft Certified Partner, Microsoft Certified Database Administrator Systems Engineer or Microsoft Most Valuable Specialist. There are others. Of course, relying just on these awards is not necessary, but once you see them you receive an additional factor to weigh when choosing the best SQL consulting firm. The logic is simple: the firm has certified its activity, so they are probably serious about SQL administration and consulting.
7. Does the firm provide guarantees?
Is the company sure in what it does? Does it provide any guarantees? How does it handle non-typical cases (like upgrading from SQL Server 2000 to SQL Server 2014)? Not all SQL consulting firms have guarantee statements on their websites. Probably you will have to call them to clarify this matter, but the game is worth the candles: you will know for sure what outcome you can count on.
8. Are they social?
Today, a large part of conversations with current and future clients goes in social networks. Neglecting this fact is denying the obvious: Twitter and Facebook are of the same importance today as traditional telephones, if not more. And here comes the opportunity for you: check their Facebook page and look for comments from other people. Read what they ask. See what the company representative answer. Spending just a few minutes on reading the social profile of the SQL consulting firm can tell you a lot: how they treat new and existing customers; are they willing to answer questions or tend to motivate to pay them for services first; what are their technical skills; how many SQL DBAs are in their staff and much more.
9. See, if they have a plan
Planning is extremely important in remote SQL Server management, but it is also crucial in SQL consulting. You should check if the chosen SQL consulting company has a plan for typical cases. Of course, there are no universal solutions that conform to any given business situation. But if you are looking for the best SQL consulting firm, you should ask them for steps they will undertake if you hire them.
10. Don’t rush into hiring anyone
Finally, the advice we always give: don’t hurry. Weigh all factors carefully, read the SQL consultant’s website through, make comparisons. Yes, SQL consulting costs are lower, but that’s still money, so why waste them? The more you know about the SQL consulting firm you are about to hire, the safer you business is. You better don’t blindly rely on “10 best SQL consulting companies” kind of lists. Check all the above points and make an informed decision.