Do you know when to ask for help?

By Lori Brown

After doing cleanup on systems over the years, I started thinking about why some servers seem to be so poorly configured. Usually it seems that systems are poorly architected out of inexperience and sometimes out of sheer ego. I always wonder why the system architect didn’t look things up or ask for help since so much information is available at our fingertips through a decent search engine. However, humans being what we are, none of us like to admit to shortcomings, but we all at times need help.

Know when to ask for help

We all know that we need help sometimes, but it is difficult and sometimes embarrassing to admit it. When I was a staff DBA I did have times when I needed to bring in outside consultants for help. For instance, if a project required skills that I did not have (C# programming for one) or required more time than I was able to commit to, then consulting was a good option. And, as a Mid-level DBA, I did seek out help and mentoring from more experienced DBA’s. So, I have raised my hand for help but always grew when I did. I was fortunate to have found people who could mentor me and grow my skills. Eh….who am I kidding….my skills are always having to grow, even now!! It takes time and lots of work to keep current on SQL Server, let alone know all of the coding and hardware pitfalls that are out there. Now that I have been a consultant for quite a while, I have found that the smartest DBA’s or IT people in general are the ones who know when to ask for help.

The vendor trap 
helping hands

Many times we are called to assist with systems that were not installed or configured by anyone on a company’s staff. Instead the company listened to a software vendor who seemed to know what they were doing and allowed the vendor to handle all provisioning and configuration of their server. Unfortunately many software vendors will give hardware recommendations and programming advice based on a small testing database that they used to do small load tests with. Usually a customer over time will grow their data to exceed what a software vendor has tested with or will add customizations and will be faced with hardware that is not able to handle the work it is presented with and code that runs very slowly. The software vendor, when approached for help, often does not have the expertise to assist with anything complex and companies are left high and dry with a frustrating situation and the feeling that money invested might have been wasted. IT managers are then faced with the prospect of incurring consulting costs and may be reluctant to do so.

We can assess both SQL and hardware performance to expose areas of weakness quickly. Sometimes solutions can be as simple as adding a little more memory or as complex as a complete index overhaul of a database. The important thing is that we can find a problem when your software vendor is not super cooperative out of fear that poor coding may be revealed. We often provide performance data to software vendors and will work with them directly to get a system back on its feet.

Hitting the knowledge wall
hitting the wall_lg

There seems to be two types of personalities that hit the knowledge wall at bad times. There is the “I am really good at what I do and would never ask for help!” person, as well as the “Everyone will do what I say!” person. Tell me those things again when a project goes south, and in the aftermath you are having to explain to your boss what happened, or even worse, are having to look for a job. I have been doing this for a while and have seen systems that are very poorly architected that were generally that way because someone was too proud to ask for advice or input. If you feel like you are in over your head on a SQL related project, raise your hand and we will be there to help you out. We are the type of consultants that are not looking to make a staff IT person look or feel bad about their work. We actually try to point out ways to improve things and are ultimately hoping to make the IT staff look good when their system performs well and the boss is not calling them on the carpet for anything.

Hitting the budget wall

Sadly, I also run into a lot of people who want to get help but don’t think they can justify the budget for it. At least think about reaching out to a consulting firm to see if they can work within your budget. There are some cost effective ways to get expert help if you look for them.   Some places think they do not have the budget or the amount of work to justify having a full-time DBA available for their SQL Server(s); however, many times mission critical information is being hosted in a SQL database that is not performing all that well. We offer a fractional DBA service (RemoteDBA) that costs 1/3rd of what it would cost to have a Mid-level DBA on staff. We are Senior-level DBA’s who can help at a very reasonable cost. We can work side-by-side with an overworked staff DBA or can fully administrate and monitor SQL instances for shops that do not have a DBA on staff.

If you have project work or performance problems that are overwhelming you, look into asking about short term monthly consulting or mentoring. We provide those types of services as well. We often do short term contracting with shops that just need root causes of issues identified and then they go away to do the actual work. And, we always try to educate our customers on how to do things better.

Watch all about it!

ISI (or SQLRX as our division is known) has been in the consulting business since 1985. SQLRx is our division which specializes in RemoteDBA services and SQL Server performance tuning. Not too long ago, we started compiling video testimonials from some of our clients who have volunteered to tell the world about their experiences with us. The videos are not long, and to me, are better than reading some dry case study as you normally see from most IT consultants. ISI specializes in Business Intelligence and Application Development including mobile development for all platforms. We also founded and manage the DFW (Dallas – Fort Worth area) Business Intelligence Community and host monthly meetings featuring various BI experts and/or products, as well as case studies and user testimonials.

Visit our You Tube channel for testimonials on how we have helped our clients.  

Who knows…..maybe it’s time for you to raise your hand and get some help. Originally posted on the SQLRx blog.