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Luckily, this isn't a current issue for me, as in my current workplace we're pretty well supplied with DBA knowledge in the team. However, in small development teams, it's not uncommon in my experience for one of the team to be nominated as the de-facto DBA. For a small team there's rarely enough work for a full-time DBA (and/or there are DBAs, but the production DBAs don't want to get involved with supporting the dev/test environments), so a tester or programmer will be expected to pick up that role, and I've seen people getting suddenly landed with "hey, Joe's leaving, so you're now our new DBA. No, we have no training budget, you'll have to teach yourself. Have fun!"

What resources can you recommend for someone who finds themselves suddenly in the position of having to get up to speed with a development DBA role? What basic tasks should they aim to tackle first, just to keep things ticking over?

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I'd like to think that this forum will be that resource :) –  Gary Jan 10 '11 at 5:07
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For Postgres in particular, my answer on another question lists tips and resources for learning. –  Basil Bourque Nov 25 at 17:04

5 Answers 5

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If you are in this situation the first thing you should do is make sure you know where the documentation for the database product is and start reading it. Initially the focus should be on backup and recovery because if you don't get that right the other responsibilities of a DBA don't matter.

If the database is Oracle for example, find the appropriate documentation site for the release you are on from http://tahiti.oracle.com/. A good place to start would be the Conepts guide and then perhaps the 2 Day DBA guide followed by the Administrator's Guide.

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If your going to be "The DBA" (part or full time) you should learn as much as you can before the former DBA leaves. I think people in this situation should talk to anyone who knows about the database (the data flow, the design choices, common task, etc.), it is very hard to try to learn the db even if documentation exists.

Also, the person should have something like a dba profile, If you don't like it you would be doing something that brings no excitement and you will have no satisfaction from your work.

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IMHO it's wrong for Production DBAs to overlook the Dev environment. This is for two reasons. Firstly, if Dev is down the the developers, testers etc can't work - this is costing the company money, maybe not as much as the cost of Prod being down, but it all counts, especially these days.

Secondly, they are making a rod for their own backs if poor practices in Dev make it through to Prod - for example use of dynamic literal SQL instead of bind variables. The time to catch this is early as possible in the development process, fixing a problem becomes exponentially more difficult and expensive the closer you get to Prod.

So my answer to your question, the ideal learning resource for a part-time/Dev DBA is the full-time Prod DBAs in your organization - you just need to show them that any training they give you is a win-win situation for you, them and the organization as a whole. If they still refuse, then escalate it to your manager. Remember that EVERYONE is on the same team when it comes to getting paid.

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I'll suggest the book http://dbasurvivor.com/ by Thomas LaRock. A great resource on becoming a DBA and what's most important.

I would also suggest http://sqlpass.org/ Find your local chapter and participate. They also have great learning resources available such as video presentations from the PASS Summit as well as 24 Hours of PASS (#24hop).

There are also many SQL Saturdays ( http://sqlsaturday.com/) going on around the country and world, pretty much every weekend. Find one close enough to go. They're either free or at most $10 which gets you lunch.

Twitter is another good source. Check out the #sqlhelp tag, but don't abuse it with spam. There are many people there willing to help.

So many resources are out there. Just look, and you'll find.

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Here's a good article about beginner DBAs and what they should start learning. It's a little dated, but the concepts are still there.

http://www.sql-server-performance.com/articles/dba/self_taught_dba_p1.aspx

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