Your data is mission critical. So how are you ensuring that your databases are secure, efficient, and reliable?
Too many businesses are leaving these important assets in the hands of people who aren’t trained for it. In some cases, SQL Server is managed by team members who have a lot of other tasks on their plate and may not have a lot of SQL Server experience. In other cases, the business has a single database administrator (DBA), but no plan for what to do when that person goes on vacation or leaves the company.
If that sounds familiar, it’s time to outsource to a SQL Server managed services provider. The right consulting team can offer:
- SQL Server installation and configuration
- Database backup monitoring & validation
- SQL Server infrastructure consolidation
- High availability clustering and disaster recovery
- System performance issue root cause analysis
- Migration to Microsoft Azure SQL
- Patching and upgrades
- Database development
- Query performance tuning and optimization
- Missing index analysis and maintenance
- Stored procedure development
- ETL development and maintenance
- Data warehousing
- Report development in Power BI or other platforms
But not all DBA managed services providers can provide everything above. Before you entrust your precious data to a service provider, read on to find out how to choose the best one.
What is a SQL Server DBA service?
The term "SQL Server DBA services" can encompass anything from monitoring databases for critical issues to ETL development and BI reporting. In other words, a SQL Server database administrator is responsible for a wide variety of tasks that improve the performance, availability, and security of Microsoft SQL Server databases.
It’s rare to find an individual DBA with all the necessary skills, but the right managed services team of experts has you covered.
When you research managed services providers, you’ll find that a lot offer “SQL Server DBA services.” But don’t be fooled — in many cases, these companies don’t have any real SQL Server expertise and will only be able to help with basic system administrator tasks.
To ensure that your databases are in good hands, look for these five things.
The top 5 qualities to look for in a SQL Server managed services provider
1. True SQL Server specialists
You’re counting on your managed services provider to have a deep understanding of SQL and SQL Server. Unfortunately, many companies treat them as an afterthought.
Some may offer monitoring and notify you if the server goes down but struggle to help when performance issues arise. Other service providers may be reporting wizards but lack the skill set to tackle large scale data integration projects.
Look for a company that has SQL Server as a core competency. For example, at Emergent Software, we hire a team of people who specialize in SQL Server and we hold the Data & AI Solutions Partner designation with Microsoft. Our SQL consultants don’t just do SQL work as part of their job – it’s their entire job. Our team of Senior Developers and DBAs can handle everything from performance emergencies to database backup management.
Whether you are looking for someone to help with your SQL development work or someone to make sure there are no nasty surprises hiding in your databases, your SQL Server managed services team should have the experience and expertise to get the job done.
2. Access to a team, not just an individual
Many heads are better than one. A great benefit of working with a SQL Server managed services provider is the access you get to a whole team of experts.
If you work with Emergent Software, you’ll be assigned a primary DBA. But that person isn’t the only one whose expertise can be leveraged. The entire team gets onboarded and is given an overview of your environment so that we’re always ready to provide assistance – even if your main point of contact is unavailable.
When you’re choosing a DBA service, look for one that grants you access to a group of experts with decades of collective experience and 365 day/year coverage.
3. Monitoring the monitor
At Emergent, we set up Redgate SQL Monitor in your environment to watch your SQL Servers and alert us when issues arise. But our monitoring doesn’t stop there. We want to make sure we know when something happens that prevents the monitoring system from functioning as expected, so we run daily tests to ensure that communication between Redgate SQL Monitor and our alert system is up and running. That way we don’t miss any critical alert.
Whatever monitoring platform is used, trust a company who sets up heartbeat checks to make sure their monitoring is working.
4. A dedicated lifeline
We get it – SQL Server is complex. No monitoring system can catch every single emergency that may arise. If anything goes wrong, you should be able to quickly get in touch with your DBA service. You shouldn’t have to contact a general number and you shouldn’t have to worry about which team member to email.
That’s why we provide an email address specific for your company that you can use to reach us whenever an emergency comes up. It will buzz our phones the moment you send a message – even waking us up if needed. (If you opted not to have 24/7 support, the message will delay until the start of your service window). During business hours, the alert will go to your primary DBA or their backup if they are out of the office. For any after-hours issue, it will automatically route to the DBA on-call and escalate to others as necessary.
When an emergency arises, you have enough pressure and stress without worrying about how to contact your SQL Server managed services team. Talk to potential DBA services about how you’ll reach out in an urgent situation. It should be quick and easy and their process should be robustly designed. They should also be able to provide stats on how quickly they respond.
5. Regular comprehensive health checks
As important as it is to have a good emergency response plan, it’s even better to prevent issues from happening in the first place. That’s why regular health checks are an essential part of a good DBA service.
As part of our intake process, we perform a health check so that we can address the more critical issues quickly and ensure that we minimize the risk of data loss from day one. After that, we perform quarterly assessments to make sure that you and your team are aware of any changes to your machine that have arisen or any new best practice recommendations we may have. As part of this, we check your version of SQL Server and notify you if there is an update available. This ensures your environment up to date on the most recent bug fixes and security patches.
As you evaluate SQL Server managed services providers, find out how they proactively assess the health of your system.
Work with us
Partnering with a DBA managed service company like Emergent Software gives you the ability to use an economy of scale and pay for just a portion of an expert-level DBA to watch and care for your SQL Server estate. We can help you determine the best equipment to ensure your data is kept secure and available, and then our DBAs will check in daily to ensure the system is running well, and that you remain well-equipped as the needs for critical data evolve with your business.
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