Taking Advantage of SQL Server Tools

Reprinted from my editorial in Database Weekly.

An important question I think you should be asking yourself, when it comes to your professional development, is "Are You Taking Full Advantage of the SQL Server Tools Available to You?" I think it’s important enough that, when I make presentations at conferences or user groups, I often add this quote to one of my slides:

"One of the differences between an average DBA and an exceptional DBA is that the exceptional DBA thoroughly understands how to use the available tools to their fullest potential."

I started adding this quote after I discovered just how many DBAs don’t seem to be fully familiar with how SQL Server tools can help them perform their jobs better. How did I find this out? I asked. During many of my presentations, I ask for a show of hands of who feels they are experts at using these tools, and I am always surprised to see how few hands are raised. While clearly not perfect, SQL Server does come with a wide variety of tools which I think all DBAs need to take the time to master, even if the learning curve for mastering some of them is high. Specifically, I recommend DBAs become skilled with the following tools:

  • SQL Server Management Studio (Sure it seems obvious, but there’s a lot of hidden power included in SSMS that many DBAs aren’t familiar with)
  • SSMS Query Editor (especially for analyzing execution plans)
  • Profiler
  • Performance Monitor
  • SQL Server Configuration Manager
  • Database Engine Tuning Advisor
  • DMVs/DMFs
  • Dedicated Administrator Connection (DAC)
  • SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio

Some of the above tools are easy to learn, while others are tough to master; equally, some of these tools will be used on a daily basis, while others might only be used occasionally. In any case, I challenge all DBAs to master these tools if they want to become as successful as they possibly can be.

Do you agree that DBAs should master all of the tools I’ve mentioned, or am I asking too much? And which tools have I left out?