Ask A Prospective SQL Server DBA This One Question About Backups

Are You Hiring A DBA?

No, not because I’m looking. It’s just that a lot of companies, if they’re hiring their first DBA, or if they need a new one, don’t know how to start when screening candidates.

You can ask all sorts of “easy” questions.

  • What port does SQL Server use?
  • What does DMV mean?
  • What’s the difference between clustered and nonclustered indexes?

But none of those really make people think, and none of them really let you know if the candidate is listening to you.

They have autopilot answers, and you can judge how right or wrong they are pretty simply.

What’s MAXDOP Divided By Cost Threshold?

Tell them you’re setting up a brand new server, and you don’t wanna lose more than 5 minutes of data.

Ask them how they’d set up backups for that server.

If the shortest backup interval is more than five minutes apart, they’re likely not a good fit if:

  • It’s a senior position
  • They’ll be the only DBA
  • You expect them to be autonomous

This question has an autopilot answer, too. Everyone says they’ll set up log backups 15 minutes apart.

That doesn’t make sense when you can’t afford more than 5 minutes of data loss, because you can lose 3x that amount, or worse.

If Logging Is Without You

Aside from their answer, the questions they ask you when you tell them what you want are a good barometer of seniority.

  • What recovery model are the databases in?
  • How many databases are on the server?
  • How large are the databases and log files?

Questions like these let you know that they’ve had to set up some tricky backups in the past. But more than that, they let you know they’re listening to you.

Thanks for reading!

Going Further

If this is the kind of SQL Server stuff you love learning about, you’ll love my training. I’m offering a 75% discount on to my blog readers if you click from here. I’m also available for consulting if you just don’t have time for that and need to solve performance problems quickly.