Hints on choosing a remote database support service

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Databases today are the heart of any business. Holding literally tons of information they indirectly are responsible for managing personnel, workflow, finances, supply and delivery of goods, inventory balance and other crucial data. No wonder, businesses are totally dependent on fluent operation of databases, which is impossible without timely maintenance and servicing.

 

But what is remote database support? Why a company should prefer this way of servicing its SQL Server databases to an in-house solution? Despite what many remote DBA agents would say, there is no a universal answer to this question. Some companies prefer hiring a fulltime in-house DBA, while others tend to order remote database support services instead. Generally, it all depends on profitability and expenses of a company as well as on its business needs. Nevertheless, remote DBA services tend to gain more and more popularity these days, mostly because of lower costs compared to alternative options. So, this article tries to conduct a basic survey on choosing a proper remote database support service for maintaining SQL Server, Oracle or other business databases.

What are remote DB support services?

Technically, it looks as follows. A company delegates support of one or more its databases to a third-party. That agent manages, maintains and fixes these databases providing their normal operation in everyday environment, at peak loads and in emergency conditions. The trick? The agent often does this faster, better and more efficiently than any hired in-house specialist would do. Yes, and cheaper too. Why? Because of huge experience and narrow focus. Nevertheless, not all of remote database support companies are equal. You should pay attention when selecting one, as failing to do this right will immediately result in compromised business efficiency if not worse. So what are the criteria to choose a company to perform remote database maintenance?

Remote database service selection criteria

How to choose a trusted and legitimate company providing remote database support services for MS SQL Server and other databases? Here are several criteria to consider when you making your choices.

 

Price

The most obvious and the hardest to predict part of the selection process. While picking the best price is important, you shouldn’t rely only on that. Always inspect what actual services this DBA company offers for the price (see below). A low price may be just a catch, while the actual costs of remote support will wind up as soon as you place an order.

 

Expertise

Undoubtedly, the second important criteria when choosing a remote database support contractor. Surely, you don’t want to deal with novices in the database management field, so take a look at the case history the DBA displays on its website. If available, read articles, studies and other materials published by the company that could confirm its expertise in the DBA field. See if the company website has a testimonials page, and thoroughly read reviews published there. These are all signs of high expertise of the company. Also, take a look at remote DBA’s range of services. Are they focused purely on database support or do they offer something irrelevant too? Jacks-of-all-trades rarely succeed at anything.

 

Reputation

Nothing can beat a strong and trusted reputation. They say, first you work for your reputation, then it works for you. Look for satisfied customers’ reviews all over the Web. Check independent websites for testimonials. They will tell you much more about company’s reputation that its website. However, you should take into account that people are usually more willing to share they negative impressions, than the positive experience they had. So the lack of positive reviews doesn’t actually mean the remote database support company in question is not worth attention. On the opposite, critically written negative testimonials should definitely warn you.

What a remote database support service company should do

Selecting a contractor for your remote database support needs must consider the actual number of services you will receive for the price. Basically, a reliable remote DBA must provide the entire scope of database support services starting from installing say SQL Server to migrating from one server or database solution to another.

 

Below is a brief list of what a decent remote database support service should include.

 

Monitoring of the database server

The performance of the database directly depends on availability of the server – whether it is powered by SQL Server or another solution. You don’t want your workflow go idle just because the server is down for some reason. In-house database administrators can’t work 24/7 – this is too costly. But third-party remote database support specialists can and should monitor availability of your servers by installing special monitoring software. If the database server is monitored hourly – that the best option. And of course, monitoring must be 24/7, 365 days a year.

 

Analyzing the server for future problems

Sometimes the server isn’t technically down, but the load to it is so high that it just can’t handle requests properly. The performance drops down, and the entire workflow slows down as well. If timeouts are too high, the entire system halts. To prevent such issues, specialists of a remote database support should periodically analyze performance of the server to be aware of any possible bottle-necks that can arrive beforehand. Measures to reduce the possibility of server overload include entire system performance analysis, SQL Server configuration, updating of server software, rebalancing loads, advising to add more servers to process user queries, changing or optimizing SQL queries, modifying the structure of tables of the database (making them comply with normal forms) and so on.

 

Everyday and emergency support

Remote database maintenance isn’t a one-time service. If a remote DBA contractor doesn’t offer 24/7 support, it is time to ask yourself, whether you really want to work with them. Whenever a database outage happens, every minute counts. Ideally, it is remote DBA contractor who must warn you about the SQL server being down, not the opposite. The DBA should offer database recovery services, database health check and detect possible reasons that led to the force-majeure situation. But even aside from emergency, a straightforward and easily available support is a great helper to maintain fluent operation of your database. After all, that’s what remote database support means.

 

Scaling and migration services

Of course, supporting a database remotely doesn’t directly imply more than that. But reputable remote database support companies often provide supplemental services as well. Migrating data or reports from one server and/or product to another, checking for scalability of the database and providing means to make it scalable, database analysis and such. The more quality services you get for the price, the better. And even if you don’t plant to migrate now, who knows whether you will need such services in the future.

Conclusion

Keeping your database healthy and operating can be costly, especially if you prefer in-house DBA. However, you can save a lot by delegating remote database support to a reputable online service. Spend some time and find the most promising variants, then contact each one to see if they have a decent customer support. Check for the things mentioned in this article and finally settle with some remote DB support service.

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