Tips & Tricks

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The Problem:

SharePoint is, of course, a monster of an application platform with many configuration quirks.  As a DBA supporting a content database utilized by a SharePoint environment, I ran across a problem:  After installing SharePoint, there is no way for the application administrator to tell the DBA the real database name. 

The Reason: 

During installation, an alias is created for the database.  Unless you write that name down or name the alias something that reflects the database name, there is no clear way to determine the name of the database, either in the application or in the configuration files.

The Solution:

Since the solution was not particularly obvious, I’d like to share it, so that another DBA does not have to solve the issue at the worst possible time:  an outage.

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Your DBA is receiving complaints about a slow server at random periods throughout the week.  How do you assess the environment and troubleshoot performance issues at different periods?

Using a series of PowerShell scripts, you can easily gather key statistics across your entire environment, and run the process several times a day to capture those statistics during different time periods and activity levels.  The data is stored in a series of tables, which can then be used for alerting and trend reporting.

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Recently, after assessing a client’s backup statistics, we discovered that over 20% of a client’s database instances had not been backed up.  Before configuring backups for so many instances, we wanted to discover just how many databases were actually actively in use.

After investigating options, we developed the following query to detect database inactivity.  The query uses the command sys.dm_db_index_usage_stats.   The query returns the last accessed time for all indexes (including heap). Based on this, we are able to determine the last accessed time for each database.  Any databases with a last access data beyond an agreed upon threshold (e.g. older than 1 week) can be flagged for follow up.

One Drawback:  If the SQL Server service is restarted, last accessed stats are reset. So, this query is not useful for detecting database activity for servers that are frequently restarted. However, the query also returns the server restart date, which you can use to help you flag those restarts for further analysis.

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Are you wondering how long before you run out of disk space?  As a database services provider, we are frequently asked to monitor disk space usage across large multi-platform environments.  Seeking to provide a proactive method to detect and predict disk space usage before overages occur, we developed a PowerShell script to automatically gather those disk space usage statistics across an entire environment. The data is then available for alerting, reporting, and historical trending, so that you can forecast, plan, and add disk space before issues occur.

The PowerShell script is called by a Windows batch script, scheduled to run on a nightly basis.  The PowerShell script reads through a prepared table of server names and issues a series of commands to:

– Detect (valid) disks attached to each server

– Pull back total space and open space from each disk, and compute used space. 

The script then calls a stored procedure to store the data for alerting and reporting.


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Telephone interviews have become a standard first step in interviewing candidates.  The phone interview is a time saver:  a quick way to glean whether a promising candidate on paper has the technical and communication skills that make them worth engaging in a more time and resource intensive in house interview.

Here are some tips for the interviewer to help focus the discussion, and truly gain those time and effort savings.

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Telephone interviews are an easy, time saving way to screen candidates.  Developing a script or template for interviewing will make conducting telephone screens even more efficient, especially if your organization has more than one person screening candidates for the same job.  An interview script will help to focus the discussion, make your organization sound more professional, and give you the tools to quickly rate a candidate and compare against other candidates, in order to truly gain the time savings that phone interviews are supposed to result in.

Remember, you want your interview to be brief (no more than 30 minutes) and relatively casual, so preparing a common repeatable script can take any bumbling or stress out the experience.  On the flip side, you don’t want to over-engineer the script.  Just remember you don’t want to come off sounding ridiculously rigid or serious; your goal is to be professional and friendly.

Here are some tips for building a repeatable and reliable script.