Tips on How to Become a SQL Server Database Administrator

The increased focus that organizations are placing on their data resources has put a premium on their use of database technology. Making productive use of databases and the information they store requires employing individuals with the right skillset as database administrators (DBAs). These facts can greatly influence anyone considering a career in the Information Technology (IT) sector of the economy. It appears that pursuing a role as a DBA may be a good choice for today and the foreseeable future.

Many DBAs come to the position after performing other roles, such as system administration or developer. Over time, they may become interested in the management and administration of the enterprise’s databases. Making the shift either internally or with a new organization requires a skillset refresh that may need to occur in conjunction with the fulfillment of other work duties. In this post, we are going to look at some specific steps you can take to gain the skills necessary to become a SQL Server DBA.

Why Be An SQL Server DBA?

Many different database platforms are in use throughout the IT world. If you are interested in obtaining a job as a DBA, it can make a lot of sense to concentrate on a single platform when obtaining the necessary skills that will translate to gainful employment. Understanding the intricacies of a platform will give you an advantage over candidates who only have a general knowledge of database administration. After you acquire expertise in a particular platform you may want to branch out and learn how to administer other databases.

SQL Server is one of the industry’s most popular database solutions. As such, it makes an attractive object of study for prospective DBAs. Before embarking on the journey, one should understand what the role of a production DBA entails. You need to be comfortable with these activities:

  • Diagnosing and addressing performance issues with database applications;
  • Applying tested modifications to database objects during change windows that are usually during off-hours or weekends;
  • Backing up and restoring databases;
  • Reviewing failed jobs and finding resolutions to the problems;
  • Creating and maintaining user ids related to a database.

These are just a sampling of the tasks a DBA may be required to perform on a daily or more infrequent basis. One of the allures of this job is its variety. DBAs in busy shops will never precisely know what they will face from day-to-day. This can be just what you are looking for to escape the drudgery of your current job.

Developing Your DBA Skills

Some basic skills are especially important for beginning DBAs. Thorough knowledge of these building blocks will allow you to function and grow as a database administrator. The following are several of the specific skills and bits of information you need to get started.

  • Installing SQL Server and applying service packs;
  • Setting up jobs and email notifications;
  • Understanding how to use permissions to control access to database objects;
  • Creating and managing logins, users, and database roles;
  • Scheduling database backups and restores.

After deciding that you want to gain the skills to become a SQL Server DBA, there are many avenues through which you can gain the requisite knowledge and experience. You can take professional training classes that may set you back a few thousand dollars. Many websites offer free training resources and support from the collected experience of the SQL Server DBA community.

A great resource for the aspiring SQL Server DBA is an IDERA whitepaper that goes into much more detail concerning the best path to follow. It covers subjects such as gaining experience, the value of industry certifications, and how to handle yourself in the first few weeks of your new job as a SQL Server DBA. There are numerous links to knowledge bases, user groups, and sites where you can get hands-on experience with SQL Server databases. If you are serious about becoming a DBA for SQL Servers, you should download this whitepaper as soon as possible.

Tools of the Trade

One of the types of activities that DBAs are called upon to address immediately is performance issues that affect the users of a database application. Problems with slow response time are not the kinds of things you can take care of at your leisure. Helpdesk tickets, phone calls, and the inevitable visit from infrequently seen supervisory figures will accompany performance problems that are not quickly resolved.

A comprehensive monitoring tool like IDERA’s SQL Diagnostic Manager for SQL Server is a valuable resource for the DBAs responsible for maintaining the SQL Server environment. It supports SQL Server implementations in on-premises data centers or hosted by cloud providers. This application provides insight into what’s going on inside your SQL Servers and provides the functionality to create informative alerts to help avoid performance degradation.

The tool comes with over 100 predefined alerts that follow industry best practices and can be customized for your environment. Historical trends can be displayed so lessons are learned and appropriate changes made to eliminate recurring problems. Having the ability to use a tool like SQL Diagnostic Manager for SQL Server to keep your systems running smoothly is another example of the skills you need to be an effective DBA.

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