Friday, December 4, 2009

Book Review: Apress Pro SQL Server 2008 Administration

Several months ago I received a copy of the Apress book, Pro SQL Server 2008 Administration (Amazon) by Ken Simmons (@kensimmons), a friend of mine, and Sylvester Carstarphen (this is my disclaimer that I didn’t buy the book).  Well, I finally finished the book and can post my thoughts.

General Impression

This was a good book, but my first thought was that I expected more from a “Pro” level book.  I’m not sure if this is because my expectations were too high, or because I underestimated my own knowledge.  What the book does cover it covers well and the writing is excellent, but I didn’t think that a “Pro” level book would include doing an install or upgrade from the GUI, which this book includes and I thought that there were a lot of pages on what I would consider basic level tasks (security, indexing, backup & restore).  

The Book

I liked how the book starts with a three chapter section, Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2008, covering new features, pre-installation, and high-availability options. 

Part 2 – Getting Started

Three chapters on Installing, Upgrading, and Post-Installation. The end of chapter 5, Upgrading to Microsoft SQL Server 2008, where the authors covered post-upgrade tasks like changing compatibility levels, updating statistics, page-verify settings, etc.. was excellent as these are often forgotten or overlooked tasks. 

Part 3 – Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2008

The meat of the book with seven chapters on Multi-server Administration, Managing Security, Administering Database Level Objects, Indexing, Backups, Restore Strategies, and Automating Routine Maintenance. 
Chapter 7 which covers Multi-server Administration, including Policy Based Management and Central Management Servers was excellent, although I think more time could have been spent on these features, especially if less time was spent on the GUI install and upgrade. 
Chapters 8-11 did a good job explaining the mechanics and the how-to’s of security, managing objects, indexing, and backups, but I assumed this would have been covered in a beginner or intermediate level book and a pro book would have spent more on the strategies and why’s of these topics. 
Chapter 12 on Restore and Recovery Strategies does spend more time on the reason for the different restore options and did a better job hitting higher-level topics like Page restores, piecemeal restores, and online-restore options which is why this is one of my favorite chapters. 
Chapter 13 – Automating Routine Maintenance, was one I was a bit disappointed in.  It does a good job of covering Database Mail, SQL Server Agent, and Maintenance plans, but I thought that there would be more on writing and using scripts like Ola Hallengren’s Maintenance scripts or Michelle Ufford’s (@sqlfool) index maintenance script to show how the author’s or others automate and plan for maintenance.

Part 4 – Troubleshooting and Tuning

Three chapters on monitoring, auditing, and managing query performance.
Chapter 14 covers monitoring and does a good job explaining the tools available (Perfmon, DMV’s, DBCC, Profiler/Trace), including the counters and events to watch.  I especially liked how the authors showed how to get performance counter information both from PerfMon and the DMV’s.  Baselining is discussed but one thing is missing, and I haven’t found it anywhere yet, is how/where to store your baseline data for comparison later.  I know I could figure something out, but I want that one to be given to me.
Chapter 15 covers auditing.  Actually it covers the new enterprise edition only SQL Server Audit.  It’s a good chapter and covers it well, I guess, but since I don’t run enterprise edition, I didn’t really play with it all.  I still wish the book had covered some other ways like SQL Trace, the Default Trace, and Common Criteria auditing which are still available even at the non-enterprise level.
Chapter 16 was on managing query performance and included hints on using Profiler and PerfMon together, using the standard performance reports in SSMS, DMV’s, query hints, plan guides, and Resource Governor.  All in all a very informative chapter on performance monitoring/tuning for an administration book.  The chapter does mention another Apress book, SQL Server 2008 Query Performance Tuning Distilled (Amazon), as a more detailed resource for this information (I have it and it is, a review will be coming).

Part 5 - Conclusion

Two chapters covering Secrets to Excelling as a Professional DBA and What’s Next which were excellent as they talk about knowing your limitations, communicating, being a leader, and taking charge of your own professional development.  These are all areas where I can see myself needing growth.

My Conclusion

I recommend the book as I think people at all but the extremely low or extremely high levels will get something from it, but people moving from SQL Server 2000 to 2008 and junior DBA’s will get a lot from it.

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