SQLBits: The new standard

Normally I don’t write blog posts about events I visit. But last week I attended my first SQLBits, and to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. It’s just another conference I thought, with a lot of interesting sessions, nothing fancy. Well, I couldn’t be more wrong than that! SQLBits isn’t just a conference, it’s a cool event where you get to meet new people, see famous speakers talk, interact with them, and they organized an AWESOME party!

 
Location
SQLBits was held in Telford, UK, close to Birmingham. By train it took about an hour away from the airport in Birmingham to Telford. The conference center was a beautiful location, with hotels close by. So you didn’t have to travel in the morning to go to the conference center. You just needed to cross the parking lot to get to the location.

 
Pre-cons
On Thursday they organized pre-cons, which are full day instructor led training sessions. You need to pay for these pre-cons, but they’re definitely worth the money. You could choose a session from a list of 11, and I attended a pre-con led by Brent Ozar (Blog | @BrentO) about Virtualization, SANs, and Hardware for SQL Server.

Brent talked about how RPO and RTO are the starting points of any SQL Server architecture. He advises that the business needs to fill out a form about RPO (Recovery Point Objective) and RTO (Recovery Time Objective), so they start thinking about what they ask IT people. After that, he discussed backup strategies, HA (High Availability) and DR (Disaster Recovery) designs, SAN’s and SQL Server hardware. And even though I was familiar with some of the subjects he talked about, it was definitely a good way to look at certain things again from another perspective.

 
Sessions
Both Friday and Saturday were filled with good sessions . It started with a keynote from Nigel Ellis (Blog | @chillidemon) about Azure. It was a really interesting talk, and a good start of the day.

After that I saw some very interesting sessions about various subjects. The rooms were good, and all on 1 floor. So no huge groups that want to change floors, which I’ve seen at other conferences. This meant that rooms were easily accessible, and you could switch rooms between sessions very quick.

 
The party
On Friday night there was a party, organized by the SQLBits team. And while I’m writing this, I’m still impressed when I look back at the party. They had it all sorted out: great food, great people, great theme! Just perfect! The theme of the party was steampunk. They arranged for a carousel, huge slide (the Helter Skelter), and various carnival booths with games and entertainment. You can find pictures of the party on Twitter.

Looking back at the party, it was the best post-conference party I’ve ever seen so far. EVER!

 
Food and drinks
Just a small thing, but this really shows that the SQLBits crew really had it sorted out: the food could be found on several locations, and there were people that carried trays with food on it. They served the food in small, square bowls which were pretty handy to hold. Also, they served a number of different dishes, so you could pick whatever you liked.

The drinks were available throughout the conference center. So if you walked from one session to another, you could grab a coffee, tea, water or juice. It was really nice that they choose this setup, instead of 1 or 2 locations, which would’ve resulted in an endless line of people.

 
Feedback
If you attended SQLBits, one of the ways to let the organizers know how you think, is by filling out the feedback forms. Even if you have any negative feedback, please let them know. You can fill in the form in the links below:

If you attended any of the days at SQLBits please can you all fill out the following survey:
http://www.sqlbits.com/SQLBitsXII

If you attended the Thursday Training Day then please fill out the following survey:
http://www.sqlbits.com/SQLBitsXIIThursday

If you attended the Friday Deep Dives Day then please fill out the following survey:
http://www.sqlbits.com/SQLBitsXIIFriday

If you attended the Saturday Community Day then please fill out the following survey:
http://www.sqlbits.com/SQLBitsXIISaturday

You’ll help the organizers with your feedback, so they can make the next SQLBits even better (if that’s possible), and you get a chance to win a £100 Amazon voucher!

 
Thanks!
The last thing I wanted to do is give a HUGE compliment to the organizers of SQLBits, the volunteers and all attendees that made this an awesome event! I’m already looking forward to next year!

Friends of Red Gate Project

A few weeks ago I received the official confirmation that I’ll be a part of the Friends of Red Gate 2014 program. This program allows the participants to directly communicate with the product teams, provide feedback to teams, and try out beta-builds of tools.

 


 
The Red Gate tools are easy to use, and give you the upper hand on administering servers and databases. So together with other Friends of Red Gate, we decided to write a series of blog posts about the tools. The first one will be posted tomorrow. In these blog posts, we will try to show you why you should use their tools, and what problems they can solve for you.

 
The group that will write posts just like me consists of 3 other people:

 
Mickey Stuewe (Blog | @SQLMickey) from Orange County, USA
Chris Yates (Blog | @YatesSQL) from Kentucky, USA
Julie Koesmarno (Blog | @MsSQLGirl) from Canberra, Australia

 
So when you’re interested in reading about the tools from Red Gate, or you want to see how people use the same tools in different jobs, you should definitely check out this series!

2013 – a summary

Now that 2013 is almost over, everybody is starting to create lists. I’m not going to bother you with endless lists to sum up this year. You can find the most important things for this year below.

 
Blog posts
Last year I set myself a goal: write more blog posts in 2013 then in 2012. In 2012 I wrote 29 posts, which is about 2.5 per month. In 2013 I managed to write 33 blog posts (about 2.75 per month). It’s still not the amount I hoped, but at least it’s better. So that makes a 25% increase compared to last year.

 
Traffic
One of the advantages of writing more, is the increase in website traffic. Compared to last year, I’m at about 4x more traffic. This is something I’m particularly proud of, because that’s a way to give something back to the community. It’s awesome to help people solve a problem, and I owe it to all of you that helped me in the past and now.

 
SQL Saturday
The first SQL Saturday I attended: SQLSaturday #221 – Holland 2013. It was a wonderful event, where I’ve seen a lot of good sessions by some great speakers, and met a lot of people in person. Hopefully the next SQL Saturday will be as great as this one!

 
Consulting
One of the things that was on the list was working on a job as a consultant. A couple of friends gave me the opportunity to try that, and I liked it very much! Hopefully 2014 will be the year that I can expand this, and work on more projects as a consultant.

 
Great people
But the greatest thing this year was meeting a lot of wonderful people from the SQL community. I met some of them online, and some of them in person. Thank you, especially the ones I now consider friends. You know I’m talking about you when you read this.

 
2014
Looking at 2014 there are a lot of cool things coming. Hopefully this is going to be a busy year, and year that I can give back more to the community as a speaker and author. At this moment I can’t talk about these big plans, but when I can I’ll post it here.

I wish you all a healthy, happy and productive 2014!

Draw.io – Free Modelling Tool

One of the many tasks of a DBA, is to create documentation or designing your (new) environment. Last week, I started this journey myself. Normally I would use Microsoft Office Visio, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get myself a license for that, and I didn’t want to use a trial version. So what other options do you have then?

In my quest to find a free to use modelling tool, I found draw.io. It’s a free online modelling tool, with an amazing amount of options!

If you open the link, the web application will load. Once it’s loaded, you see a blank drawing. In this blank drawing, you can add your shapes, texts, etc.

You can click on General in the left column to collapse it, and then right-click on General. Now a menu will pop up that allows you to add more shapes to the menu:

 

 
For example, if you add the Rack shapes to the menu, you’re able to add all kinds of server rack images to your diagram. For example the racks from Dell:

 

 
So as you can see, there are a lot of possibilities when you use draw.io. And if you ask me, it’s a good alternative if you need to draw up a diagram quickly, and don’t have Visio installed.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Last week I told you that I’m about to change jobs. Because the contract wasn’t signed yet, I could tell you what my next challenge was going to be. But now I’m glad I can tell you where I’m going to end up next: I’m going to become a DBA!

I’m so glad I can finally tell you the good news! I’m so excited to start my next challenge! From next week, I’ll be a Microsoft SQL Server DBA. And if all things work out in the first few months, the planning is that my job will also include Oracle, MySQL, and MongoDB later on.

But for now, my challenge is to become a DBA with expert knowledge of Microsoft SQL Server, and all the features that ship with it. As far as I know now, my planning for the upcoming year is to build a test environment for the SQL Server environment they have now, and a migration of the system to SQL Server 2012. That sounds like a hard work for my first year, but I’m really excited!

Until now, I only worked as a SQL Server developer with a few DBA tasks. The last years I started thinking about my future, and what I really wanted. The only thing I wanted to try out but never had the chance to, was becoming a DBA. And now I get a chance to prove myself as a fulltime DBA. This might end up getting my head blown off the first few months, but I’m excited to test my knowledge and skills, and to expand them.

Thinking about next week makes me both nervous and happy. Feeling happy because I can prove myself (and others) that I can actually do the things people told me I would never accomplish, and nervous because I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. But I’m totally convinced I get all the help that I need to succeed from my new colleagues, and my SQL Family.

Last year I experienced the commitment and dedication to help one another in the SQL Server community. That’s why they call it the SQL Family. Because it’s a hardworking community, that’s always willing to help you if you need them. They helped me out on several occasions, and I try to help them as much as I can. And with them on my side, the upcoming period is going to be a success! :)

Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing…

The last few days flew by for me. After 2.5 years of working for my previous employer, I decided it was time for a new challenge. In the past period I’ve learned a lot, and had the opportunity to learn and research a lot of new things and techniques.

In 2010 I started working for the company, and began as a Data Warehouse (DWH) developer. Before my first day on the job, I had pretty much no experience with a DWH. That was quite a challenge, especially because there was no documentation at all. So I needed to find out everything myself, because there wasn’t a real DWH developer before I started there.

This also gave me a chance to dive into Reporting solutions. The company ran a Reporting Services machine with tons of Management-, Marketing-, Sales- and Development-reports. These reports varied from showing turnover information, to showing the IT department the (partial) morning check.

Eventually I ended up building reports, cubes, and developing and maintaining the DWH. This was my daily job for almost a year, next to helping out my team, consisting of about 10 to 15 .NET developers.

After about a year, management decided to let an external company develop our DWH. That gave me more time to focus on building reports, and doing more development work for our test- and production environments. That year I started with spatial data in SQL Server. This was one of the coolest things I got go do in the 2.5 years I spent there.

The hardest thing to give up wasn’t the company or the job, but it was the team. It was a pretty young team of developers, and most of the guys (and the one gal we had) were pretty awesome. There was always someone who could help you out, and the team members had no problems with working late to help a colleague out. The team was amazing!

But like I said, after more then 2 years, it was time for something new. While reading a blog post by SQLRockstar (Blog | @SQLRockstar), I read a beautiful quote that convinced me I made the right decision:

“Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing”

This is a quote from the movie Fight Club. It tells us that nothing comes without sacrifice. You can’t achieve anything without taking risks, and sticking out your neck. This is what I’m about to do…

I can’t tell you yet what my next challenge will be, but I’m very excited to start my new job. I’m hoping to write a blog post next week, telling you more about that… :)

Building an empire, but how and where?

As you might have read in my previous post, I set myself some goals this year. One of these goals is to move my blog to a more permanent location. I started out on Geekswithblogs.net, but after a few months I’ve moved to this location. But now I want to move to a more permanent location, including my own domain name(s).

All I really need at this moment is a WordPress host. No need for extra storage (I use Dropbox and SkyDrive for file-storage), or any other stuff (as far as I know). I’m only looking for a WordPress host, with 2 or 3 domain names attached. But what are the options?

 
Azure
One of the options is Azure, where you can rent a virtual machine, or just host your website. One of the advantages of having a virtual machine is that you can manage your own machine. You can use your own machine as file storage, and maybe even to host more services in the future.

One of the disadvantages is the cost of a whole package. If you want to rent a small virtual machine and some storage, your looking at a monthly cost of about € 25,- (around $ 33,-). That’s a lot of money. But on the other hand, they’ll move your website and storage on hardware failure. So your website will have an almost guarantied up-time.

 
Web hosting package
Another option is buying a web hosting pack at for example GoDaddy. There you get a WordPress host, unlimited websites, unlimited space and bandwith (a pretty good deal if you ask me), and they also add a free domain name. This looks like the deal I want, except for all the bad stories I heard about GoDaddy…

 
Just domain name(s)
It’s also possible to buy a domain name, and point it to your WordPress.com blog. This can be purchased via WordPress.com. Then your blog is still hosted by WordPress.com, and you still can’t use the full potential of a WordPress.org install. On the other hand, WordPress.com is a big player in the market, and how often will it be offline?

 
That’s where YOU come in!
To be honest, I need your help. I’m not that into hosting plans, hosting providers, etc. So if you can help me out, I would greatly appreciate it! You can leave a comment below, or you can Tweet or mail me.

kthxbye 2012, Whazzup 2013?!

The year is running towards the end, and at that point we start evaluating the past year and thinking about plans for the upcoming one. I’m not the person to think about plans for next year. Usually I don’t participate in this, because I always thought that the good intentions lasted till the end of January. Then normal life would continue without the planning for that year. But after a year like 2012, this might be the best time to start.

Let’s just say, 2012 wasn’t my year. A lot of things happened, but the passing of a very close friend (I think of him as a second father) had the biggest impact on me. He was really sick for quite a while (short if you look at time, but it felt a lot longer), and eventually we lost him at the beginning of 2012. I’m not turning into an emotional wreck at this point, but it did put me back into the real world. The loss is still great, and we miss him every day.

But that made me think about my life, and what I wanted to do and achieve. Then I thought about a post I read a long time ago, that was written by Brent Ozar (@BrentO). In the post he talks about setting himself goals and targets, based on the “system” of Nerd Fitness to “level up your life”. This is something I always remembered because of the simplicity and it looks fun!

That’s why I’ll try to set up a similar list for myself for 2013. I’m not setting everything aside for the list, but it’s more like a guideline I set for myself.

Professional:
1) Write more blogposts then in 2012 (which came down to about 2 per month)
2) Write at least 1 printed article for a magazine
3) Become a professional presenter and host a session on (for example) a SQL Saturday
4) Starting the path to become an MCM (starting from rock bottom with 70-461)
5) Meeting at least 10 people IRL from the SQL Server community
6) Working on at least 1 freelancing project, and start my own business
7) Become a professional SQL Server trainer and consultant
8) Be an attendant of SQLBits, Summit 13, or any other great event

Personal:
1) Visit at least 1 world city (Barcelona, Berlin, London, Rome, New York, Los Angeles, etc.)
2) Work on a website to replace this WordPress blog. I’m hoping this will give me more possibilities to expand my blogging

And this is also a shout-out to my community-colleagues. If you could help me with any of my goals, please contact me. I would love to have some support and backup to achieve my goals!

I always thought about the idea of having a mentor who guided you with his expertise and experience. This is exactly what Mickey Stuewe (Blog | @SQLMickey) blogged about in a post, where she asks for a mentor to guide her.

Also, I want to thank Mickey for reviewing this post. She gave me some tips, and pointed me in the right direction. So Mickey, thanks again! :)

So, if you can help me achieve my goals: please contact me. For example, if you need speakers on your local SQL event: contact me! I’d love to be there and start a career as a public speaker! Or if you have experience with setting up a WordPress website, I’d like to use your knowledge and experience. If you have tips or want to help me with any of my goals, don’t be shy and tweet or mail me!

And I hope to see/meet you all in 2013! ;)

Welcome #1000!!!

I never thought that I would get a chance to say this, but I’m proud to announce that on the 31st of May, I could welcome my 1000th visitors on this blog. And only in just a few months!

It all started on the 21st of September 2011, when I finally decided to create an online brain-dump for myself. Posting things I needed to remember, or (possibly) going to use again in the future. The more articles I wrote, the more visitors started reading my articles. This came as a surprise to me!

Then I decided to create a WordPress blog, to get a better layout of my blog, and more functionality in the back-end CMS.

So on the 3rd of November 2011 I copied all my previously written posts to my WordPress blog, and thereby finished my blog-move. From that date, I only posted new articles posts on this blog you’re reading now.

Since that time, a lot has changed. I started to monitor Twitter feeds (#SQLHelp and #SQLServer) for interesting subjects to write on, and try to write about (at least I think so) interesting subjects and problems.

Just last week I published my 25th article. And I hope to double this number in 2012.

From this place I want to thank you for reading and/or following my blog, and I hope I can provide you with more interesting stuff in the future. So if you have any subjects for me, or questions you want answered, please contact me and I’ll try to create a interesting article for you! ;)

First post

As most of you know, only two months ago started blogging. At first I was like: okay, this will be fun for two, max three posts. But then I got the hang of it, and blogging started to be fun. The more reactions I got regarding my blog, the more fun it got!

After working with my previous blog service (GeeksWithBlogs) for 2 months, I started to notice some flaws in that service. Yes there are stats, but only Views are shown. And those statistics are the only ones you get. So I decided to switch blog service.

The main reason I chose WordPress is the extensive dashboard, and the majority of fancy options. And above all, it supports Live Writer. Live Writer is a tool recommended to me by a colleague: Pascal (blog | @pdejonge). He used it before and had no complaints about it. Live Writer was another reason I kept on blogging. Now I could work on a blog, store it locally, do something else, and finish it another day without re-doing al of the HTML work.

In the upcoming weeks I will try to transfer all of my old blog posts to this service. What ever happens to my GeeksWithBlogs account, we will see. Maybe I’ll let it live because it supported my baby steps. Maybe I’ll kill it to undo my youth sins.

So whatever you do, keep an eye on this blog!

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