Experience matters, especially when administering database systems. The lessons we learn early in our careers, particularly the painful ones, stick with us a long time. This is mostly a good thing, but sometimes we apply the wrong lesson to the task in front of us. In database administration, it’s easy to head in the wrong direction, especially when we’re trying to balance the need for both efficiency and performance.
New lesson, different day
Most database administrators did not begin their careers as DBAs. Most of us started in development or system administration and eventually specialized in database systems. Unfortunately, some of the lessons learned along the way in those other fields are the exact wrong ones for a database system.
For example, system admins have to manage storage as efficiently as possible. Many central storage systems are sold to reduce storage use through consolidation. System and storage virtualization also seek to efficiently use technical resources by assigning the minimum resources possible to a particular workload.
DBAs also have to manage storage resources. The problem comes when DBAs manage storage the same way they did as general IT system administrators.
As DBAs, our primary goal is to make data usable for the business. While we don’t want to waste our platform resources, we also don’t want to cause problems through false efficiency.
Managing for best resource efficiency often leads to performance problems. This is especially true when trying to minimize the storage footprint of a Microsoft SQL Server database system.
5 Database Practices That Are Hurting Your Performance
Several common practices actually trade performance for space efficiency:
- Using Auto-Grow to manage free space
- Shrinking databases
- Shrinking logs
- Not rebuilding or reorganizing indexes
- Shuffling backup files to offline storage
The last practice in the list is particularly frustrating. All businesses should have adequate backup storage to meet their recovery targets. Saving a small amount on the cheapest resource available (second- and third-tier storage) while wasting the most expensive resource available (skilled DBA time) is mismanagement at its worst.
Business management emphasizes cost savings, mainly because that is easily measured. But what business executives and users really want is a zero-problem IT infrastructure, including a database platform that performs quickly and consistently. Saving a few hundred dollars worth of storage space probably won’t even get you an “attaboy” from your boss. A slow database system or a missing critical backup will get noticed — just not the way you want.
When you are looking at your database management practices and processes, ask yourself, “What goal does this process enable?” Are you managing for performance or managing for space?
Consult the experts at SIOS to discuss solutions for your particular environment. Experienced technicians at SIOS can provide helpful insight to customers who are implementing high-performance, highly available SQL Server systems.