How I Got High at SQLSaturday Orange County 2018

[I would like to ask a favor from those who attended my session; If you haven’t already, please go here to evaluate my session. I truly appreciate it!]

One of my goals for 2018 was to finally take the leap and jump into the world of public speaking.

So I went to the PASS website, navigated (myPASS –> mySQLSaturday) to the “Session Submission” section and scrolled through all the cities holding a SQLSaturday event.

For some reason, Orange County immediately popped out. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the ‘Housewives of OC’? (for the record: I do NOT watch that show). I went ahead and submitted to that event and “crossed my fingers.”

In the meantime I started to work on my presentation (probably a good idea right?)  A few weeks later I received an email saying I was accepted to speak. I felt both nervous and excited. Excited because this event would be my very first time speaking in public, and nervous because it would be my very first time speaking in public.

My session was under the “professional development” track, which you can view here. (By the way, if you were one of the wonderful people who attended my session, please rate it here)

I probably rehearsed between 15-20 times.

Then it came time to fly out.

Speaker Dinner

The speaker dinner is held on Fridays. It isn’t “mandatory” to attend but since this was my first time speaking I wanted to check it out. I’m glad I went! I met some awesome people like Andrew Nakamura (t),  Amy Herold (t), Chris Hyde (t), John Wells (t), Rie Irish (thanks for your support!), as well as the event organizer Ted Stathakis (t).

Ted handed out speaker gift bags, which included our speaker lanyards, and a pretty cool customized contraption.

I left the dinner a little early so I could go back to the hotel, rehearse one more time then get some sleep. Sleep is a MUST!

The Day Of…

After a night of tossing and turning, I finally got up around 5 am and did a final rehearsal. Funny enough, I wasn’t as nervous as I was the night before.

My session was on the 8:30 am slot. I had requested that time slot so that I could “be done with it” as soon as possible. I got to the venue around 7:45 am and started to walk to Room 208 of the Humanities building. The setup was fairly straight-forward. Plugged my laptop to the projector and boom! My PowerPoint was big and center of the room.

The first attendee walked in around 8:30. A few more people trickled in after that. It was 8:35 when a few more came in. I told the room that I’ll wait a few more minute because people were still registering outside. The minutes went by and more people came in.

It was 8:40 when I started.

Among the attendees were a few #sqlfamily like Chris Hyde, Amy Herold and John Wells. They all took pictures and shared it on Twitter.

Speaker High

Time went by quickly. Next thing I knew it was close to 9:30 and time for Q&A. Some great questions were asked! At the end, about half the room came up to shake hands, congratulate me on my first time speaking and take a business card. After it was all over, I went to the speaker room and felt extremely calm, hungry and elated.

I was high as hell. Speaker high! :)

Thank You

A BIG congratulations goes out to the first time speakers (including John Wells)!

A BIG thank you to all the volunteers and sponsors!

Also, a BIG thank you to the person who took this speaker group pic!

See you in Albuquerque!

SQL Server 2016 STIG Overview

To make it easier for people in charge of “STIG’ing” their SQL Server 2016 environment, this blog is aimed to go over the newest MS SQL Server 2016 STIG Overview document (Version 1, Release 1) that was released on 09 March 2018. If you want to read through the whole document you can download it here. Otherwise, below is my summation of the relevant sections.

This overview document was developed by both Microsoft and DISA for the Department of Defense.

The entire overview document is 9 pages (including title page, etc.)

INTRODUCTION

Section 1.1 – Executive Summary

It just states the basic information that the MS SQL Server 2016 STIG is published as two documents. One for the database, and one for the instance.

Section 1.2 – Authority

This section describes what DoD Instruction (DoDI) 8500.01 requires. It pretty much says that all IT that receives/transmits/stores/displays DoD information will have to be configured in accordance to DoD cyber security policies. You can read the entire 59 page document here, or just skip to page 4 and read section “h.(1) Information Technology”

Note: This document is only for DoDI 8500.01. IF your systems security requirements need to meet NIST SP 800-53, you will have to look up CNSSI 1253. Or just click here :)

Section 1.3 – Vulnerability Severity Category Code Definitions

Severity Category Code (referred to as CAT) measure the severity in which a vulnerability can cause harm and needs to be remedied. Each vulnerability is given one of the following based on severity, CAT I, CAT II, CAT III.

Below is a snapshot of what each one means:

Section 1.4 – STIG Distribution

All latest copies of STIG can be found on the Information Assurance Support Environment (IASE) website here.

Section 1.7 – Other Considerations

This is just the “CYA” portion of the document. “DISA accepts no liability for the consequences…” etc. etc.

Section 1.8 – Product Approval Disclaimer

This is important to note; Just because you have a STIG does not mean you have DoD approval for the use of the product. The STIGs just provide security guidance for products being used by the DoD. In addition to the environment being STIG’d, it is important to have proper security documentation. A DoD Authorizing Official (AOs) may ask for this information.

ASSESSMENT CONSIDERATIONS

Section 2.1 – Security Assessment Information

Just a warning that this document is only one aspect of the entire defense-in-depth solution. The SQL Server 2016 STIG will only be successful if the Windows and Network STIGs are also applied.

How I Studied For, and Passed, Exam: 70-764 Administering a Microsoft SQL Database Infrastructure

Two Sides of the Coin

I know there is a stigma about certifications. Pros and Cons.

Cons

  • Certifications are too costly
  • Easy to cheat
  • Does not mean much without real world experience
  • Does not reflect what really happens in the real production environments

Pros

  • It’s great to get your foot in the door (for someone starting out)
  • Validates what you already know (hopefully)
  • Can create advancement opportunities (imagine an MCSE vs someone who doesn’t have a cert)

I actually agree with both sides. It all comes down to your intentions. If you are okay with lying/cheating to get a certification, then that’s your prerogative. If you want to get a certification to move up in your career or just prove to yourself that you can get a certification…that’s cool.

My Goal

This year, I decided to pursue my MCSE 2016 : Data Platform and Analytics. I blogged about here.

A couple weeks ago I passed the first exam towards that goal, Exam: 70-764 Administering a Microsoft SQL Database Infrastructure.

How I Studied and Passed Exam: 70-764 Administering a Microsoft SQL Database Infrastructure

First, I read through this book by Victor Isakov (b | t)

(Note: If you read the Amazon (purchase the book) reviews on this book, they mention syntax errors, etc. I do agree. The book does have some errors in code examples, etc. but remember this: you should know a lot of these concepts before getting this book. This book isn’t intended to TEACH you. It’s intended to give you a “low-down” on what could possibly be on the exam. So regardless of the errors in the book, I thought it helped a lot.)

Second, I purchased the practice exam questions offered by Mindhub here. This gave me a 30 day access period to the exam questions. It provides 150 questions spread over 4 different tracks. You can do a single track at a time if you want. So if you want to focus on HA/DR then you pick those questions, then go over them. See below:

  • Configure data access and auditing – (30 questions)
  • Manage backup and restore of databases – (28 questions)
  • Manage and monitor SQL Server instances – (61 questions)
  • Manage high availability and disaster recovery – (31 questions)

One thing I will say is you need to understand the concepts and have working knowledge of the technologies listed in the simulation exam. You cannot just memorize the questions/answers.

The simulation exam has two options to choose from: practice or exam. The practice can be timed, not timed, choose 1 of 4 tracks, limit the questions it asks, see the answers before you submit, etc. The “exam” mode is timed just like you’re taking the real cert exam. The only difference is you need to pass with an 80% from 50 questions.

The real Microsoft exam is 50 questions with a passing score of 700.

The way Microsoft asks exam questions is different now. Their multiple choice questions have 8-10 options. They have mix/match/rearrange scenarios that have like 5-8 options. Not all the questions are like that, BUT, if you don’t know your stuff…you can fail this exam miserably. I understand why Microsoft is doing this: to prevent cheating.

Regardless, the exam simulation actually helped me a LOT. It helped getting my mind right and not to expect any surprises. See, the last certification exam I took was back in 2012 (MCITP 2008). Back then, Microsoft had fairly simple questions/answers. If I didn’t know that before taking the exam, I probably would have “freaked out” and failed out of nervousness.

Third, I schedule the exam 3 weeks out the same day I purchased the simulation exam. That gave me 3 weeks to study the questions, technologies, etc.

Exam Day

Test day is always nerve racking. I got to the testing center 15 minutes early. The exam questions were just like the simulation practice exam. None of the 150 questions in the practice exam were in the real exam. Like I said before, you need to know the material. There were 50 questions, and the passing score is 700. There were all types of questions with many multiple choice options, scenarios and a fair share of “regular” multiple choice questions.

I passed. :) Now I’m studying for Exam: 70-765 Provisioning SQL Databases.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think I would have passed if it wasn’t for the combination of reading the book AND practicing the simulation exam questions. I highly recommend doing both if you want to give yourself a better shot at passing the exam.

I hope this helps you! Feel free to let share techniques you used to pass cert exams in the comments below.

Good luck!

Free SQL Server Perfmon Counter Poster

[NO! This is NOT an April Fools joke]

On a recent episode of Office Hours (by Brent Ozar Unlimited) I couldn’t stop laughing at a comment Brent made. The team was talking about “DBA porn” and Brent said (paraphrasing), “going to DBA cubes and seeing the perfmon counter poster.” (Subscribe to Office Hours on iTunes)

I had to tweet it!

The funny thing is…I started to ask myself, “Is there a perfmon counter poster out there??” :)

Free SQL Server Perfmon Counter Poster

Apparently, Quest Software put together a poster and it’s totally free!

You can download it here.

Note: Guess who is one of the writers of the poster? Download and find out for yourself ;)

Enjoy!