Book Review: Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Administration Cookbook

Disclosure: The publisher of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 contacted me and offered a free/review copy of this book in hopes that I might review it and blog about it on one of my other blogs. That might seem like a potential conflict of interest. However, anyone that knows me (unlike the publisher) understands that I’d have no problem tearing this book apart in public or warning people away from it if it were a train-wreck or simply not worth the money.

I read lots of books on SQL Server. In fact, I’m probably the Imelda Marcos of SQL Server books in some ways – as I’m constantly collecting and reading them. To that end, there are a LOT of books that I could comfortably review in this blog – and which I might just do in the future.

However, I’m choosing to review Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Administration Cookbook here because I think it’s a great fit for anyone following this blog – which tries to focus on practical tips and guidance for SQL Server users.

And, the reason that I think this book is such a great fit is because of how well it’s organized and written. As Brad McGehee (blog|twitter) outlines in the forward for this book, it’s very hard to write technical books. Because when it comes down to it, technical books typically only take one of two common paths. Either they commonly focus upon concepts, techniques, and guidance – to the point where they’re a great first/second read that helps people learn the basics, or they aspire to be the end-all-be-all reference for a given technology to the point where they strangely end up bloated and vapid (or free from the kinds of guidance, background, and insights that readers typically crave about a given technology when they’re buying a ‘definitive’ reference on the subject).

The Best of Both Worlds: A SQL Server Cookbook

Accordingly, what’s great about Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Administration Cookbook is the way that the author, Satya Shyam K Jayanty, struck a solid balance between reference and guidance/concepts – by means of creating a cookbook.

And what I love about Satya’s Cookbook approach is that this book contains a large set of carefully defined recipes covering a wide variety of administrative topics. Each recipe, in turn, has a ‘getting ready’ section (that’s a stroke of genius in terms of helping set the stage for pre-requisites), a set of complex step-by-step instructions (that doesn’t skimp on screenshots), and concludes a fantastic section called ‘How it works’ that describes what you just did and why – along with additional resources, guidance, and considerations as needed per topic or recipe.

As such, this SQL Server Cookbook strikes a fantastic balance between being a reference book – with its step-by-step recipes, and teaching basic concepts and best practices by means of describing what’s going on and what to watch for or look into afterwards after each recipe.

Put quite simply, the organization of this book is pure genius – and I hope that this approach will be mirrored and copied by other authors as well as this book really does provide tremendous value by virtue of the organization that went into sharing these great recipes.

Some Minor Limitations

Of course, no book is without some kind of drawback or limitation. Happily though, this book is really free from any glaring omissions, problems, inaccuracies or ‘scariness’ that I’ve been able to encounter after reading and skimming through many of the recipes so far.

Instead there are really two drawbacks or limitations that I think really hinge upon the authors chose audience and due, probably, to his own experiences and background. Again, these aren’t ‘crimes’ in my opinion – but are something to call out for anyone interested in this book.

So, for starters, this is NOT a book for beginners. Instead it’s a book that targets DBAs and SysAdmins that already have a decent handle on SQL Server basics. If you’re just getting started with SQL Server this book CAN help you learn things a bit better – but you might also choke on a few of the recipes in this book because it definitely assumes a basic familiarity and proficiency with core SQL Server concepts and techniques.

Similarly, many of the recipes in this book seem to take it for granted that you’re using SQL Server Enterprise Edition. Granted, that’s going to be the case for many readers – but there are also gobs of DBAs out there working for small-to-medium businesses who will find this book very helpful and valuable. I just worry that many of those DBAs might occasionally run afoul of getting excited about a particular solution only to find out that it won’t work in their environment because it’s treating a feature that only works on Enterprise Edition.

Finally, I do have one petty complaint – which is that as a cookbook (or reference book) the table of contents (TOC) for this book is ‘buried’ a bit too far into the book (it starts on/around page 16). This isn’t a crime or anything and is likely due to a simple oversight, but I can’t help but think that this book would be THAT much better of a reference if there were an abbreviated TOC on the front jacket cover with a full list of recipes closer to the front of the book. But, like I said, this really is a borderline petty comment or complaint about an otherwise excellent book. 

Short Story

Yes, this is a bit off a lengthy review – but that’s because this really is a great book. It was written by an experienced author who knows SQL Server well and it outlines some very practical ‘recipes’ that SQL Server admins can actually use in the real world. Furthermore, because of this book’s step-by-step approach to addressing problems it will be a great reference for common/repeated tasks. But, because it also provides an overview of the basic concepts and techniques being addressed, it will serve as more than a mere set of rote instructions – making it an even more valuable reference or guide.

So, if you’re looking for practical ways to learning about SQL Server and addressing common administrative problems, then this book is a great resource that is WELL worth the price as it’s a resource that you’ll find yourself using over and over again in a number of different circumstances.

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Practical advice, insight, and help for core SQL Server considerations.

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Michael K. Campbell

Michael K. Campbell is a contributing editor for SQL Server Pro and Dev Pro and is an ASPInsider. Michael is the president of OverAchiever Productions, a consultancy dedicated to technical evangelism...
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