Can I help you?
There are several levels of support for SQL Server. Putting these levels on paper and knowing which to choose for your own particular problem can be a task in itself at times. I hope the following definitions of four levels of support will help you in deciding where to turn to obtain the quickest solutions.
- Books and BOL
- User groups /Posting questions
- Technical forums
- Twitter – Yes, twitter is a rapidly growing place for expert support
Books and BOL can provide solutions to problems where you have the time to both research and take great care in formulating the exact details of the problem. Books and BOL resources are also preventative solutions to problems that are more common to SQL Server. BOL comprises a vast amount of knowledge so you can get exact details on troubleshooting SQL Server. If you review BOL’s documentation on Troubleshooting Performance Problems in SQL Server 2005, you will get a perfect example. This resource has been posted for each version of SQL Server and is an excellent foundation for knowledge of key areas to check if you have performance issues. There is also a fundamental knowledge base on how SQL Server works internally and externally. If you look hard enough, you will find information on how SQL Server works from the surface to internals of the database server’s inner thought process. This level of support should be ongoing and utilized when time is available to build upon your skills as a DBA or Database Developer. Placing trust in this support level will assist you in future developments and in current and long term tuning and planning.
User groups offer the same as books and BOL but in a direct interaction with experts who often are the authors of those documents. Following and attending local user groups in person and online can help with both active problems and future planning. With User groups, you can ask questions and discuss answers, much like the next level of support, forums. The largest limitation of user group chapters, such as the SQL Server User Groups, is that they are composed professionals living in your area, which can mean that your question may not be reviewed and discussed in a timely manner.
Technical forums are the place to look for an immediate detailed, group conversation on your problem. If the problem you are facing cannot be summed up in a few sentences, as is required by the next level, Twitter, a technical forum is a good place to post a question. Technical communities like our very own, LessThanDot and the MSDN and Technet forums give you access to experts all over the world. These experts range from Microsoft MVPs to others that may have been in the exact situation you are dealing with. The best way to utilize the power of technical forums is to first research them by using their built-in search capabilities. It is important to respect the time professionals take out of their days to go to these areas to help with problems. If you ask questions repeatedly without making an effort to search for similar or exact threads that already have answers, it can wear down the generosity of these individuals. Always remember to thank and show the appreciation for the time taken to assist you. Most of these areas do not pay or reward answerers in any way other than the satisfaction of helping and building their own skills in the process.
Twitter is the new kid on the block. Hash tag #sqlhelp has been embraced by many SQL Server experts around the world and they offer their time to give quick expert responses. The problem with this support level is the, “140 character limit”. Questions and problems composed on Twitter #sqlhelp should be precise and well thought through. Keep in mind that your question must not need a response of 1400 characters to kick off the discussion. A link can often replace a long response but the frustrations of Twitter limits are still there. Most of all, you must never become frustrated with #sqlhelp if the expert that replies to you simply points you to a link. Take the time to read the link before adding to the #sqlhelp tag. We all hate link replies but in the case of a tweet, this can be a powerful and complete answer to the problem.
Embrace the SQL Community as a family like no other, as it is just that. Once you have been assisted with your own situation, try to give back with your own unique skills. SQL Server is a vast area of special skill levels and all of us are learning daily from each other. Never shy away from joining in the mix of sharing and helping each other as we grow with the powerful database server platform.
Remember to place your questions in the levels that best suit them and the situation you are in. It will create cleaner online knowledge bases and allow the experts in your community to better share their knowledge by passing it on through you.