Documentation – The ‘Hit-by-a-Bus’ Handbook

A huge part of success in fishing is preparation. Without careful preparation fishing will be slow, you can lose or break equipment, and you can even put yourself in danger. Several of my previous posts have detailed how preparing by looking at weather, depths, fishing reports, etc. can improve your fishing “luck”. Another part of preparation is inspecting your fishing equipment before use. I can remember at least three times where I’ve casted my lure right off the end of my line. It’s great to see a bomb cast really sail out there, but it’s not so great the moment you realize it’s no longer attached to the end of your line. Lastly, let’s not forget the thought of unhooking that deep hookset on a northern pike when you neglected to make sure your pliers was in your tackle box.
I was considering preparation this week after I read this great post by Monica Rathbun on how to survive as a Lone DBA. One of the great tips she has is to create a ‘Hit-by-the-Bus’ handbook. This would have all the information you need to pass on to the next DBA if you were to suddenly leave the job. With this documentation, the next DBA should be able to step right in without missing a beat. As I deeply considered my current environment, it became clear to me that, were I to suddenly leave my position, the next DBA would have a lot of questions that he or she would have to do some deep and time consuming investigation to answer. As such, I’ve decided to make a major commitment to improving my documentation. From a DBA perspective, this will include detailed documentation on:

  • Daily/Weekly/Monthly/Ad-Hoc tasks. How to do them and why they are done.
  • SQL Agent Jobs. What are they doing and how to troubleshoot if they break. How urgently do they need to be fixed?
  • SSIS packages. What are they doing at a quick glance? Stepping through an SSIS package to figure out what it is doing can be all kinds of frusterating.
  • Backups. What is our strategy? Where are backups going and how would I address various restore situations?

I believe this documentation will bring value both for myself (because my memory is not great) and for my successor, whenever that day may come.