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SQL Server Reference Guide

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SQL Server Help

Last updated Mar 28, 2003.

In case you're having some real trouble with SQL Server, you're in the right place—if you're not in trouble, start at the Table of Contents.

Here you will find help on various topics for SQL Server. This section gets better as you ask more questions; so make sure you're vocal about the topics!

These questions range from the simple to the complex—so make sure that you search the entire knowledge base to find what you're looking for.

Keep in mind that this section isn't a tutorial—you'll just be told the answer to a specific question. This isn't always the wisest course of action—it's a little like a physician giving out advice over the phone. That can sometimes backfire because not all solutions fit all problems. If you're in big trouble, though, sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Where possible, I'll try to make sure that there's an "interactions" description with warnings about what the fix could affect.

Question: I've just taken over a SQL Server and I don't know anything about it—where do I start?

Answer: First, don't panic. If the server is on and people are using it, you've got nothing to worry about...yet. I'll point you to some really valuable information in a minute, but first, you've got to locate at least two things:

  • The security account to get into the server

  • The backup information

You'll need security permissions to access the server. There's more information on this web site here about security, but the gist of it all revolves around whether you use a standard Windows account or an account that's been created in SQL Server.

Normally, the master account created in SQL is called sa and the password would have been set by the person who installed the server. If you have that info, great! As long as the server has been set to allow SQL Server authentication, you're in. I'll show you how to access the server in a moment.

If your SQL Server has been set to allow Windows authentication, then you can normally just use a Windows account that has administrator privileges on the server to access SQL Server. If this setting has been changed, though, there may be a more drastic step to take. I'll cover that in another SQL Server Help article later on.

Now that you have access credentials, let's connect to the database server. Go to the server, and log on as an administrator. Open the start menu and find where the SQL Tools are installed—the one you're looking for is called Enterprise Manager. Once you've found that, open it up. You'll get something similar to the following figure.

Figure 3Figure Enterprise Manager.

I cover the Enterprise Manager in greater depth here, but for now, let's just check when the last backup was taken. Double-click the name of the server; then double-click the word Databases. Now, double-click the name of each database (one at a time) and then right-click the name of the database and click View, Taskpad. You'll get a picture similar to the following figure.

The Taskpad view.

While you're here, write down how big the database is. The part you're really interested in is the Last database backup bit. If that was yesterday or last night, you're in good shape. If it was longer than that, check the two lines below it. If either operation was last night or later, you're still in good shape.

If either of those is not true, the first thing you need to do is take a backup. Move to the Wizards tab in this view and click the Backup a Database item under Manage SQL Server. Follow the screens, and for now just back it up to a file location. Make sure that the location has enough room to back up the database. Yes, you can use a share location, but it may take a while, depending on the size of the database.

Now that you're over the initial shock, let's look at next steps. First, learn how this server is used—is it a mission-critical application, is it accessed through the web, etc.? That information will determine how much effort you need to put into going further. Write that down, preferably in a binder that you keep near the server (so this doesn't happen to the next person!).

Next, I suggest that you peruse this Guide. First, check out the Microsoft SQL Server Defined section. If you're going to be the database administrator (DBA) for your company, check out the Microsoft SQL Server Administration section. If you're a programmer and you're going to be using SQL Server, the section marked (appropriately enough) Microsoft SQL Server Programming is for you.

Keep calm, document, and make sure that you know what to do before you change anything (including your back-out strategy), and you'll be able to save the day.

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