Interview with DBA Brian Kelley


Brian Kelley will be speaking at the track at SQL Server Connections, March 27-30, in Orlando, FL.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m currently working as a SQL Server DBA and architect for a financial institution. Previously, I’ve been an infrastructure and security architect. I’ve also been writing on SQL Server related topics for about 10 years now. When I am not focusing on SQL Server, I am on the ministry staff as a junior high youth pastor at Spears Creek Baptist Church.

What have you had published?

Some of the books I have co-authored include:

How to Cheat at Securing SQL Server 2005:

Professional Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Administration:

Introduction to SQL Server: 

Where do you blog?

I have three different blogs. My first blog is at, where I focus on SQL Server, security, and infrastructure.

My second blog is my personal goal keeping blog, which is at I use it to share what I am up to, what I’m reading, and what I’m trying to get better at.

My third blog is called Be Encouraged Devotionals, which is at, where my daily e-mail devotionals are posted.

What advice can you give to DBAs about writing?

Get started. Try to write something every day, even if you don’t post it. Have folks who make a living dealing with the language critique you in areas where you can improve. For instance, my mother-in-law is a middle school language arts teacher. She reads a lot of what I write, even if she doesn’t understand all of it. However, she can spot the grammar mistakes and catch weak (passive) sentences and the like. She’s been a big help.

Tell us a little about your speaking experience?

I started giving presentation my sophomore year at The Citadel for drug/alcohol prevention. I spent about 1/3 of my class time in the public schools giving these presentations. Now I teach a youth group, so I “speak” at least 3 times a week, albeit for church-related activities. I’ve been actively speaking for about 5 years on SQL Server and IT matters.

What advice do you have for DBAs who want to begin making public presentations?

Find a topic which you are passionate about and develop a presentation on that topic. Practice it privately to some folks you can trust to give you solid feedback (no fluff). Polish it. Re-give it. Then write the abstract and submit to user groups. If you’re still struggling, consider joining a group like Toastmasters.

How do you keep up with your SQL Server continuing education?

I read constantly. It’s part of my nature. Blogs, articles, forums, it doesn’t matter. If there’s a specific topic that I’m concerned about, I’ll drill through and focus on that.

What is your favorite SQL Server book?

Kevvie Fowler’s SQL Server Forensics Analysis. It combines SQL Server, OS, and security. Need I say more?

Why should DBAs consider taking part in the SQL Server community?

The community is extremely good about helping one another. There will be times when you can’t solve the problem alone. The community is there to help. By participating in the community, you get to know who knows what. You also build relationships where you can ask for help. Finally, as you provide help to others, you learn more and you feel a sense of accomplishment because you’ve been able to pass on what you know.

What are some of the key characteristics that you feel differentiate between “good” and “exceptional” DBAs?

Knowing what’s critical and what’s merely important. This isn’t just for technical matters, but also when working within an organization. In addition, being able to keep a cool head and think through issues is important, as panic only makes things worse. Keep your troubleshooting skills high, as you will want to be able to catch and fix small problems before they become big problems.

What are some of the biggest challenges for DBAs in the immediate future?

Dealing with data going to the cloud.

What advice would you give to a person who is considering becoming a DBA?

Be diligent. Learn how to automate. Be willing to admit you what don’t know. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but don’t forget to research the topic first, as you don’t want ask questions about topics that are readily available from Books Online or other free resources.

What do you consider one of the most useful, but underrated features of SQL Server?

SQL Server Agent. It’s a full-fledged scheduling engine that can be used for a lot of things outside of SQL Server.

What feature do you think is missing from SQL Server and you would like to see in a future version?

Proper source control integration! I know Red Gate Software has a tool for this, but why do developers have it in VSTS and we don’t have it in SSMS unless we go purchase a 3rd party product?

What you are not working, what do you do for fun?

Chess, soccer, studying theology, writing poems.

If you were not a DBA, and could choose the perfect job, what would it be?

Full-time student pastor (children & youth) at a Christian church. I serve part time in this capacity now for junior high youth and I work a lot with the children’s ministry. I was formerly a children’s pastor as well. I’ve always loved working with children and youth, especially within the context of the Church.

Describe the two sessions that you will be presenting at the track at SQL Server Connections in Orlando this March.

From the Ramparts: Knowi
ng What to Look for in SQL Server Security
: Drawing on my security background as an infrastructure and security architect, we’ll talk about how to protect SQL Server properly. Part of this is understanding an attacker’s point of view, something I’ve witness from a number of pen tests, and learning how to stop them or make it difficult for them in the early stages.

Windows Operating System Internals for Database Pros: Also drawing from my background as an infrastructure architect, we’ll look at how Windows internals can affect SQL Server performance.