Celebrate! Second Anniversary Giveaway (is now over)

Edit: The giveaway is now over. If you didn’t make it in time, you should still get a 30 day trial of Minion Enterprise, which will cover ALL your instances, and the free modules Minion Backup, Minion Reindex, and Minion CheckDB.

We’re holding a webinar to introduce folks to Minion Enterprise. Here’s an Outlook appointment, and here are the details:

ME Giveaway Webinar 
Thu, Jul 27, 2017 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM CDT

Join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/394874005 

You can also dial in using your phone:
United States: +1 (571) 317-3112
Access Code: 394-874-005 

First GoToMeeting? Try a test session: https://care.citrixonline.com/g2m/getready

The Giveaway…

Two years ago, we officially became MinionWare and launched the absolutely masterful SQL Server management solution, Minion Enterprise. We have talked to literally hundreds of people at dozens of database events, meetings, webinars, conferences – you name it!  Even better, clients are raving about the software.

Our business model is still: Give away as much as you can.  Our world-class maintenance tools – Minion Backup and Minion Reindex – are still free, and this year we added Minion CheckDB!

Last year, we gave away Minion Enterprise. This year, I thought we’d do something different. We talked about it at length…then decided that the world needs more free Minion Enterprise.

Have Some Free Enterprise-Level Software

From now until 5:00pm (Central Time), on July 20, 2017, anyone who enters, receives three free Minion Enterprise licenses. 

We’ve been thrilled with the reception and feedback we’ve gotten this year. So, let’s do this one more time. Maybe next year we’ll write thank you cards, instead.

Giveaway Rules

Of course there are just a couple caveats so see the restrictions below:

  1. Sign up before 5:00pm Central Time on July 20.  It’s a good idea to just do it now, because after July 20, the offer is over.
  2. Current version only.  Free licenses are eligible for patches and service releases of the current version, but not upgrades.
  3. Includes 3 months of support. Afterward that, a support contract will need to be purchased, if you want continued support.
  4. Additional licenses are available for purchase.
  5. Licenses are not transferable to any other companies.
  6. Sorry, no repeat giveaways! If you or your company have won free licenses from us before, you can’t do it again.

Enter Here

Fill out this form for your free software!

Databases need more than performance monitoring

Image: performance monitoring pressure gauge

You’re gonna need more info

When you read a job spec for “database administrator”, it does not simply say:

  • Performance Monitoring

It says something like:

  • Database Performance Tuning
  • Database Security
  • Promoting Process Improvement
  • Problem Solving
  • Presenting Technical Information
  • Database Management
  • Data Maintenance
  • Operating Systems

(List taken in part from Hiring.Monster.com.)

So why are the most popular DBA tools, performance monitoring tools? Those are great, sure, but they don’t even begin to cover the vast majority of DBA responsibilities. What we need is environment monitoring.

Environment Monitoring

I don’t have a website I can link to, to give you a definition of SQL environment monitoring. That’s because we’ve been defining it ourselves, for the past nine years.

An environment monitor is a system that allows administrators to examine the overall and specific health of database instances.

An environment monitor should touch on performance, yes. It should also:

  • Manage and monitor security
  • Speed audits
  • Make a majority of common DBA tasks effortless
  • Collect and present as much system information as possible, including service packs, disk space, errors, and more
  • And more
  • And also, lots more

Minion Enterprise is far more than glorified maintenance

This is exactly what we built Minion Enterprise for: to monitor and manage the environment. To take away the Server-By-Agonizing-Server aspect of administration by introducing the “set based enterprise” approach. To automate everything that can be automated, and to make data available to the DBA on everything else.

Get a trial and a demo, and you’ll see exactly what we mean. Monitor your environment, not just your performance.

DBA Rants

Your brain will explode with the proof of how right you are.

Microsoft Certified Master Sean McCown has spent the last five or ten years blogging and ranting at MidnightDBA.com. We’ve compiled some of the best – worst? – rants in the FREE eBook “DBA Rants from a Microsoft Certified Master” for your amusement and perusal.

  • 40 pages of pure DBA rage!
  • Wisdom from actual decades of handling computers and coworkers!
  • Readers’ brains become 10% smarterer!
  • And as a bonus, you’ll get our best articles on SQL backup and maintenance.




 

Build Dynamic Backup Locations with Minion Backup

Minion BackupWhen you back up your database with a third-party party backup utility, you’re almost always stuck with their hard coded path structure and file names.  But Minion Backup – our free SQL Server backup tool –  gives you fully dynamic paths and file names. You can even programmatically change them based on any criteria.  We call this our Inline Tokens, and it’s incredibly powerful.

The Basics

In Minion Backup, the file and path info is stored in the Minion.BackupSettingsPath table, and it looks like this:

These are just a few columns from the table.  You’ll notice right away that BackupPath and FileName include SQL Server wildcards.  These are built-in parameters you can use to build your own strings.

Let’s look at a couple examples with FileName.

Default Backup File Names

It’s very easy to stripe your backup files with Minion Backup; when you stripe, it’s an excellent idea to number your files in the FileName itself. For example, “1Of3masterFull”, “2Of3masterFull”, and so on.

In Minion.BackupSettingsPath above, the FileName string looks like this:

%Ordinal%Of%NumFiles%%DBName%%BackupType%

Each of these wildcards stands for something:

  • %Ordinal% – The ordinal number of the current file in the stripe.
  • %NumFiles% – The total number of files in the stripe.
  • %DBName% – The name of the DB being backed up.
  • %BackupType% – Full, Diff, or Log.

So, the files for an AdventureWorks full backup look like this:

1Of5AdventureWorksFull.bak
2Of5AdventureWorksFull.bak
3Of5AdventureWorksFull.bak
4Of5AdventureWorksFull.bak
5Of5AdventureWorksFull.bak

Custom Backup File Names

That’s just the default setting, though.  Instead, you can choose a different filename format. For example:

%Ordinal%outOf%NumFiles%_%DBName%_%BackupType% would yield:

1outOf5_AdventureWorks_Full.bak
2outOf5_AdventureWorks_Full.bak
3outOf5_AdventureWorks_Full.bak
4outOf5_AdventureWorks_Full.bak
5outOf5_AdventureWorks_Full.bak

And, %DBName%_%BackupType%_%Ordinal%outOf%NumFiles% would produce files named:

AdventureWorks_Full_1outOf5.bak
AdventureWorks_Full_2outOf5.bak
AdventureWorks_Full_3outOf5.bak
AdventureWorks_Full_4outOf5.bak
AdventureWorks_Full_5outOf5.bak

A Wide Range of Customization

And there are many built-in parameters you can add.  Want to datestamp your files?  That’s easy.

%DBName%_%BackupType%_%Ordinal%outOf%NumFiles%_%Date%%Time% gives you:

AdventureWorks_Full_1outOf5_201703301100.bak
AdventureWorks_Full_2outOf5_201703301100.bak
AdventureWorks_Full_3outOf5_201703301100.bak
AdventureWorks_Full_4outOf5_201703301100.bak
AdventureWorks_Full_5outOf5_201703301100.bak

Minion Backup comes with about 25 built-in variables.  What’s more, you can add your own very easily, so if you’re not happy with one of the defaults, create your own!

Custom Backup Paths

So, there was a set of examples using filenames, but what about paths?  What kind of dynamic paths could you need?

  • Perhaps you want to change where a backup happens based on which datacenter you’re in.  With Minion Backup, you can detect which server you’re on and change the backup location based on that.
  • Or you can easily setup a monthly archive location, so Minion Backup backs up to a different location at the end of the month.
  • Or you can simply add the database name to your backup path – or the Availability Group name, or the AG listener name, or a ServerLabel you’ve assigned, or even put it in a special folder with the name of the month and day.

The sky’s the limit.

Minion Backup frees you from the rigid paths and filenames defined by a vendor.  Use your own naming conventions, and get exactly what you need. Minion Backup is available for free on MinionWare.net along with Minion Reindex and Minion CheckDB.


Enhance Your DBA Brain

Sign up for the MinionWare newsletter to get:

– The eBook “DBA Rants from a Microsoft Certified Master”
– Our best articles on SQL backup and maintenance
– Links to free MinionWare tools
– News, updates, and tips!

 

Distinguish backup file names or pay the price!

Running around a track

SQL instances shouldn’t do this

So far, no one has found exercise to be beneficial to servers. Purposeless repetitive motion may be good for human muscles, but your SQL Server instance experiences no gain for the pain.

Here’s a good example: taking useless backups.

(“Did she say useless backups? I’ve never heard of such a thing!” Yeah, just wait.)

Backup file names are critical

Traditionally, backup files are named after the database and the backup type, and given a timestamp. So you’ll see something like master_FULL_20170101.bak. If you like to stripe your backups, you might name the files something like 1of5MasterFull20170101.bak, and so on.

But I have run across shops that takes backups without bothering to time stamp the file name: master_FULL.bak.  These shops either overwrite each backup file, with each successive backup (using INIT and FORMAT), or add to the backup set (which I find mildly annoying, but to each their own).

The problem with using the same backup file name over and over is if you have a cleanup mechanism that deletes old backup files!

The same-name cleanup issue

Let’s say that in your shop, you have Minion Backup (MB) installed and running with the following options:

  • INIT is enabled
  • FORMAT is enabled
  • Backup file retention (in hours) is 48, so we’ll keep 2 days’ worth of backups
  • Backup name is set to %DBName%%BackupType%.bak, which works out to DB1Full.bak for a full backup of DB1.

Note: For more information on the %DBName% and %BackupType% inline tokens, see “About: Inline Tokens” in our help center.

Here is what happens:

  1. On day 1, MB takes a backup of DB1, to \\NAS1\SQLBackups\DB1Full.BAK.
  2. On day 2, MB takes a backup of DB1, which overwrites the file \\NAS1\SQLBackups\DB1Full.BAK.
  3. On day 3, MB takes a full backup of DB1 (which overwrites the same file). And then the delete procedure sees that it has a file from day 1 (>48 hours ago) that needs deleting. And so it deletes \\NAS1\SQLBackups\DB1Full.BAK. Remember, this is the file that MB has been overwriting again and again.
  4. On day 4, MB takes a backup of DB1, to \\NAS1\SQLBackups\DB1Full.BAK.. Then, it sees that it has a file from day 2 that needs deleting, and so deletes \\NAS1\SQLBackups\DB1Full.BAK.

See? From Day 4 on, we’re creating a backup file just to delete it again!

Fixing the issue if you have MB

One excellent way to figure out if you have this problem is to notice that, hey, you don’t have any backup files. Another indicator in Minion Backup is if you see “Complete: Deleted out-of-process. SPECIFIC ERROR:Cannot find path ‘…’ because it does not exist.” in the Minion.BackupFiles Status column.

But the real smoking gun is if you haven’t time stamped your backup files in Minion.BackupSettingsPath. Here’s how to fix that:

    UPDATE Minion.BackupSettingsPath
    SET FileName='%Ordinal%of%NumFiles%%DBName%%BackupType%%Date%%Hour%%Minute%%Second%';

That will give each file its own name, and eliminate the chance of this ever happening.

And it will prevent your server from performing useless exercise. Me? I’m going to hit the gym.