How To Improve Your SQL Server Skills: 5 Tips

Taking the reins of an SQL server can be challenging, and so it is important to work on your skills so that you can take care of your administrative duties as efficiently as possible.

There are lots of skills to develop and a number of ways to go about enhancing them, so here are just a few tips that should help you to gain traction without feeling overwhelmed in the process.

Purple head with brain.

Learn to appreciate the core principles before progressing

One mistake that a lot of people make is to overlook the importance of understanding what it is that a database of this kind is supposed to do, before diving deeper into the inner workings.

Getting to grips with the fundamentals gives you the context you need to appreciate not just how an SQL server works, but more importantly why it is preferable compared to the range of alternatives out there.

Part of this involves establishing the differences between dealing with structured data and unstructured data, since while SQL is ideal for the former, the latter is better handled by a different type of database entirely.

Consider the benefits of monitoring and performance tuning

Another of the skills which you should aim to improve is your ability to monitor the moment to moment operational status of an SQL server instance and use the findings you extrapolate from this to inform any tuning and tweaks you carry out.

Thankfully performance tuning in SQL is a process which can be catalyzed and enhanced through the use of monitoring tools, the best examples of which are able to automate certain aspects of this and alert administrators to issues as well as suggesting potential fixes and improvements as necessary.

That is not to say that you can entirely offload your monitoring and maintenance responsibilities to software, but rather that your skills and abilities can be improved based on the tools you choose, as this is a mutually beneficial relationship.

Look to the future to inform decisions today

While managing an SQL database is definitely an involved process that requires you to focus on the minutiae of server performance in real time and use this information to work out what action to take, this is just half the story. A good administrator also needs to be forward-thinking, and consider how the state of play further down the line will influence what steps they take right now.

There are a few ways to do this, and it is mostly the consideration of how your server’s hardware resources are being used which will play a part in helping you make predictions about the future.

For example, server storage usage is a crucial aspect that determines both moment to moment performance, as well as the long-term viability of the database. If this becomes a bottleneck, and you are unprepared for this eventuality, then it could be a mad scramble to deal with the fallout.

Conversely, if you study how storage and other hardware resources, such as CPU and memory, are being used right now and weigh this against usage in the past, you can accurately project how requirements will grow and alter going forward. This should then be used to plot a roadmap for any server upgrades, or give you a deadline by which you will need to make certain decisions relating to the shape of the infrastructure and your choice of hosting solution for the database.

Developing skills in this area does not need to come down to guesswork, but rather you can make informed decisions with the right tools that should shore up the stability and viability of an SQL server deployment for months and years to come.

Explore other SQL server solutions

The language of SQL is used as the foundation of a number of different database platforms, with both commercial and open-source examples in use around the world today.

If you are only experienced in one type of solution, whether that be Microsoft's SQL Server or Oracle’s MySQL, then you may be limiting your skill set somewhat. Conversely if you already have a solid grounding in SQL itself, it can be straightforward to pick up a new platform and explore its perks and pitfalls without being too intimidated by this prospect.

This will not only give you a deeper understanding of what SQL can be used to achieve, but could also be good for your business, since you may be able to bring something new to the table and might even suggest a change to your existing server setup based on your findings. Likewise if you do decide to change roles or look for a new job elsewhere in the future, being able to boast of having experience of multiple SQL-based solutions will help you to stand out from the crowd.

Work with someone more experienced

Everyone makes mistakes, and while this can be a useful learning process in its own right, it is not necessarily something which anyone responsible for an SQL server will want to put themselves through purely in the name of improving their skills, especially when there are other options available.

Shadowing someone who has more experience than you when it comes to keeping a database up and running is a good example of this, as it means that you can pick their brains about the approaches they take to common conundrums, and also find out about any pitfalls that they have identified in their career so that you do not also fall victim to them yourself.

There are lots of ways to go about actually creating a scenario in which you can work alongside a database expert, whether you hire a new team member to fulfill this role or you get in a consultant on a temporary basis to provide advice and guidance.

Ultimately you need to see your SQL skills as an ever-evolving beast and be willing to keep aiming to improve them over time, rather than simply resting on your laurels once you reach a particular level of experience.

About the Author

Cristina Par is a content specialist with a passion for writing articles that bridge the gap between brands and their audiences. She believes that high-quality content plus the right link building strategies can turn the tables for businesses small and large.