New releases get two thumbs up

Until recently, the number of books on Microsoft's SQL Server was small. One of several new volumes filling this void is the Microsoft SQL Server DBA Survival Guide. Authors Orryn Sledge and Mark Spenik approach SQL Server from the database administrator's (DBA's) point of view. This book is not about writing SQL code or developing applications, but it's for anyone who has to install, configure, and maintain a SQL Server database in a production environment. The authors draw on their experience to produce a true survival guide. The book emphasizes what to do and how to get it done and gives users what they need. The theory can wait for another time and another book.

For anyone contemplating the Microsoft class or certification exam on SQL Server Database Administration, this book is a great resource. It covers a lot of the course material, but with a different emphasis and more real-world examples, hints, and tips.

The DBA's role changed with the introduction of client/server computing, and the authors explain what a DBA does in this new computing environment. In the past, a DBA often maintained the database and restricted access to it. Now a DBA works with developers to make the data accessible to users and can even be part of the development team.

The DBA's new role includes establishing and implementing a plan to keep the database running day in and day out. The authors offer suggestions for automating some routine tasks. The book also covers where and how SQL Server fits in today's corporate computing paradigm.

Sledge and Spenik include a section on planning and implementing a SQL Server installation. The book emphasizes determining the users' needs and designing hardware and software to meet those needs. With your plans in hand, you can complete the installation efficiently and avoid future problems. After installation, you have to configure SQL Server by defining devices and databases and adding users. The book clearly explains all these operations, so that even someone new to SQL Server will have few problems with the configuration. The authors explain the Enterprise Manager, the types of devices and how to create them, and how to implement fault tolerance for your critical devices. Then Sledge and Spenik discuss databases, transaction logs, and how to optimize and adjust the size of the databases.

User management and security are closely related topics, and the book covers them in back-to-back chapters. The authors explain how SQL Server security is integrated with, and builds on, the Windows NT security model. Then they move into the daily operations of the database, including replication, backups and recovery, importing and exporting data, and troubleshooting.

A DBA is likely to spend some time optimizing and tuning the database, and Sledge and Spenik offer plenty of suggestions for monitoring and optimizing database performance. They also describe several SQL Server parameters for tuning your database.

The authors go on to explain database design, which has more impact on performance than anything else. This book is not for developers. The treatment of normalization and denormalization is no more than a good introduction to the topic, but it suffices to give a new DBA an appreciation of what's happening inside the database. The same point applies to the section on indexing. For more information on these topics, you need a book that focuses on performance and tuning.

With an understanding of the internal workings of SQL Server, a DBA can step in to assist a theory-oriented developer in query optimization. The authors drop hints about updating the statistical information the query optimizer uses, an important task in a dynamic, changing database.

The appendixes are a useful reference source and include a list of SQL Server's built-in stored procedures, a function reference for building stored procedures, and a list of SQL system tables. The CD-ROM that comes with the book contains the SQL Server DBA Assistant, which lets you quickly estimate memory requirements, calculate space usage, update statistics, and more.

Microsoft SQL Server DBA Survival Guide fills a need for the DBA on the job and anyone pursuing certification in SQL Server administration. Developers who have to install, maintain, back up, and tune database applications in the development process will also benefit. The book scores a direct hit on its target readership--strongly recommended.

Microsoft SQL Server DBA Survival Guide
Authors: Orryn Sledge and Mark Spenik
Publisher: SAMS Publishing, Indianapolis, 1996
ISBN 0-672-30797-9
Price: $49.99 (CD-ROM), 696 pages