SQL SERVER – Best Practices for DBA Before Taking Vacation

This blog post is written in response to T-SQL Tuesday hosted by Jason Brimhall.

Everybody wants to take a vacation. Who does not love vacation, anyway? However, it seems that it has been getting more and more difficult to take vacation recently. There are two reasons why a person is not able to enjoy his vacation. First is due to company policies (bad boss!), and second is your responsibilities. Well, I cannot guide you much about company policy issues simply because I cannot do something about it. I have a wonderful boss and I have been taking many vacations, doing a few things whenever I’m on vacations.

Do not think about your Job!

This is the most difficult task. A very usual scenario when one goes to vacation is that he continuously thinks about his job even though he is actually on vacation. Here are a few reasons regarding this dilemma:

  • He thinks that without him, the office would not be able to function.
  • He thinks that without him, someone else would do better on the job and so he would lose the title “the Superhero”.
  • He would miss the gossips at work.
  • He is too comfortable in his job, and doing anything else scares him, even taking vacation.

Relax! None of the above would happen. Organizations always function with or without you. It is not about you; in fact, it is never about you. If you take a vacation, stop thinking about work and everything else. Just think of how you would enjoy your vacation.

Handling Job responsibilities

If you are a DBA, you’ll notice that sometimes it is very difficult to go out on vacation because there are so many critical tasks you are handling and you simply cannot leave them for vacation. I have faced this situation many times. I remember that time when I was on vacation; the Jr. Guy who is supposed to take over my job responsibility ended up calling me with issues or problems. In IT, we all know that we are not always able to talk on the phone and solve the problems. In fact, I always have to see the screen when I am advising or talking technical subject.

After working for many years, I have finally figured out how to avoid this kind of situation. Here are things I like to do regarding this problem:

No Super Hero!

I never try to become the only man in the organization who knows everything because it does not work out that well. Job security is good, but overdoing things is not good as well. There are many problems that arise with a certain situation. I always teach the critical task to another person in my organization. I make sure that he knows it very well. In fact, even though I am present in the organization, I often ask him to take care of the situation for me. This way, I make sure there’s a person besides me who knows how to handle the critical task. Now, I do not worry about this at all when I am on vacation.

Automation!

Well, we are working on this actively. There are so many different tasks which can be automated, yet we have ignored all these years. Many times, the argument is very simple. For example, a machine is still a machine so we need to at least take a look before approving final changes. All of these are true but there is something more than that for sure. We do not want to go back to “start”,  as described in the futuristic movies like I, Robot. However, there are a few things we can automate and leave with the machine. When I automate any task which I used to do manually, I make sure that I check the data being passed to or from me. I make sure that the data passed is proper and valid, and there are enough checkpoints in the process. Although I double-check these checkpoints, I do promote automation. We are currently looking into Powershell to automate a few tasks. I will post a detailed article about this subject when we are done with examining it.

Backup and Restore!

This task is very straightforward. Before I go on vacation, I always take one full backup of all the settings, jobs, and database. I keep them in a safe location and inform the next person in-charge the where I placed them. I was once asked to return from vacation earlier because something very bad happened and no one remembered what the original setting of the system was before it went down. This kind of the note can be useful during such cases.

Document, and Document it Again!

Well, let us assume you have explained everything to the next person in-charge and he has understood everything you wanted to explain. Then you went to vacation and something bad really happened, and he forgot what you have explained. Well this happens and, in fact, the guy who claims he has a sharp memory faces this issue the most. I keep it very standard; I always write down all the procedures and send an email to the person in-charge. There is a good probability that he will not remember your instructions, but he will surely remember when he reads your email or document.

Keep the phone on!

I think this can be an issue when one goes for vacation. I have seen many of my friends turning off their phones or pagers when they go on a vacation. Their argument is: “Well, it is vacation and this how it’s supposed to be.” However, I do the absolute opposite. I like to keep my phone on. This way, you will still know what happens when you’re not at work, plus, you would know a bit of what’s happening in your friends’ and relatives’ lives. This is the same thing for me. When I am on vacation, I like to keep things updated with what’s going on at work. I check my work email once a day and keep my phone on in case of emergency. I politely say “No” when I think I do not want to attend something and so far, I have never faced any problem with that. My co-worker and boss is very nice to me and I have never received any interruption in my vacation, unless it is so urgent that someone is dying.

There are many things to do on this subject, but these are what I usually do.

Let me know your idea about going on vacation!

Reference: Pinal Dave (http://blog.SQLAuthority.com)

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25 thoughts on “SQL SERVER – Best Practices for DBA Before Taking Vacation

  1. This is well-documented and well-informed I like the procedures towards the docment and documents which has always been my goals anyway.

    Overall I like the blog. Well-done mate!

  2. Nice writeup Pinal. You brought up some very good points. I like that you take a complete backup of the system prior to taking off. And despite leaving your phone on, you are able to maintain vacation and keep work at bay – that is good.

  3. I like this point :)
    “He is too comfortable in his job, and doing anything else scares him, even taking vacation.”

  4. When I’m covering for colleauges I write up a set of notes on key things that have happenned in their absence, to bring them up to speed. I send it to their email shortly before they are due back in, so its one of the first things they see.

    I get them to do something similar for me when I am away.

    Can be server issues, application issues, outstanding tasks that I want them to have a look at (particularly if they know more about specific applications with an issue than I do).

  5. Keeping informed whilst away for someone that has a busy work life is essential. Vacations are great but the end is normally ruined if you have not kept yourself at least informed about issues at work and are therefore getting your self stressed about what you will face on the first day back in the office. A quick check of emails once a day, answering the most important and letting your out of office handle the rest. Letting some one you know you can trust with the instructions to contact you if anything major happens whilst you are away. Nothing better than walking in to a meeting on the first day back that someone brings up an issue that happened in the first week of your holiday to be completely on the ball and say ‘ yep dealt with that it is not an issue’. It doesn’t need to ruin your holiday in fact in some cases it can make it a lot less stressful. I would love to be one of these people that can completely switch off, but then would i have the position of responsibility I have if I did???

  6. Very good points.

    Real job security is being the one person they want to do it, out of a dozen people they know could do it; especially when its because you’re the one who trained the others and wrote the instructions.

    I’ve seen a few people who chained themselves to the desk for job security, and then the desk got replaced.

  7. You post seems contradictory to me. You say “don’t think about work while on vacation” then you conclude by:

    “When I am on vacation, I like to keep things updated with what’s going on at work. I check my work email once a day and keep my phone on in case of emergency.”

    Vacations ruined.

  8. Pingback: SQLAuthority News – A Monthly Round Up of SQLAuthority Blog Posts – August 2010 Journey to SQL Authority with Pinal Dave

  9. Great article Pinal,

    Its a great blog and i learned a lot from your blog indeed. i totally agrees with your approach. I am also trying to automate the tasks by the help of SSIS and many things are streamlined so far.

    Looking for something on SSRS and SSAS now.

    Regards

  10. Hello Pinal,

    I am just curious to know about the continuation of the article – where would help us the automation with the help of Powershell.

    Request you to let us know if you got a chance to think further about this article.

    Thanks
    Sreekanth

  11. Pingback: SQL SERVER – Weekly Series – Memory Lane – #041 | Journey to SQL Authority with Pinal Dave

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