On Disaster Recovery and my SQL Rally 2011 Presentation

Jun 17, 2011 / By Edwin Sarmiento

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Yesterday, I saw a Twitter post regarding the speaker evaluation results from SQL Rally 2011 in Orlando, FL last May. I was surprised to see that my session was in the top 3 best sessions of the conference. I dug up the Excel spreadsheet containing my session evaluation results and began to read. I found one comment very fascinating (the only evaluation where I got very low scores) as the response pertains to the speaker’s knowledge of the subject. The comment was: “copy and paste coder.” I’ve been doing this specific presentation for almost 5 years now with a few tweaks every once in a while based on feedback from attendees. Yes, I live and breathe disaster recovery as part of my day-to-day job. However, there are several reasons why I do not type nor write code during my presentations. Here are a few of them:

    1. A presentation is a performance: Many will disagree with me on this, especially experts who believe that to demonstrate their expertise, they should be writing code and doing live demos during a presentation. Whenever I go up the stage to deliver a presentation, I always think about the attendee/audience. My goal is not to display my expertise nor to brag about what I can do that the audience could not. I always remember that my presentations are not about me, but about the audience. Which is why I do a lot of preparation prior to delivery – research, writing an appropriate storyline (you got it right – storyline), selecting the right demos, building test environments, writing demo scripts, rehearsing my presentation, etc. Yes, I rehearse my presentations and I say it out loud. I do the best that I can to make sure that the audience will be entertained, engaged, enlightened, educated and encouraged. If I’m doing a presentation on disaster recovery, I even plan out what type of disaster will I be simulating. Doing this will help me make sure that I don’t go beyond the time limit that was alloted for my session while covering all of the items that I intend to. I’d be very happy if the audience will walk out of my presentation with something that they will do when they get back to their regular routine. I keep in mind what Dr. Nick Morgan, one of America’s top communication theorist and coach, always say:”The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.” So, if you’ll be attending a presentation I’m delivering in the future, I’ll assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

  1. Presentation time is limited: I hear presenters and speakers apologize for not covering the full content of their presentation. In some cases, you would see them breeze thru their slides as they get to the summary slide. If the presentation was rehearsed and scripted, they would know how long it will take to cover everything in their slide and add or remove as necessary. Copying and pasting code is my way of saying, “I value your time so much that I would rather copy and paste code so that I can move on to more important stuff than let you suffer from every typographical error I would make while typing.” As I said, many won’t agree with me on this but I need to focus on the more important content of the presentation.
  2. Focus on the important: Same as the previous point. Enough said.

But what about disaster recovery? Yes, this is more than just a blog post about improving your presentation skills. The main reason why I copy and paste code, especially when doing a disaster recovery presentation is to prove a point: You want to accomplish your task with the least amount of time and the least amount of effort. This is because every minute you waste is a minute against your recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO). Imagine having to recover a SQL Server database by applying the latest FULL database backup and a series of LOG backups. The more LOG backups that you need to restore, the longer it will take. Plus, if somebody is behind your back watching every move you make and asking when the database will be back online, you wouldn’t want that to last longer that it possibly can. Remember, in a disaster recovery incident, every second matters. For highly transactional databases that are being used for main line-of-business applications, every minute lost is revenue lost. Having these in mind, you would do everything you can possibly think of to recover the database as fast as you possibly can – even copy and paste code. In fact, I keep a dozen or so scripts in my repository that works as code generators – scripts that generate scripts. One of them is a script that reads thru my backup history stored in the MSDB database and creates a series of RESTORE DATABASE/LOG scripts that end up getting executed so that I don’t have to figure out when the last LOG backup ran and restore the backups in sequence. Would you call this cheating because I copy and paste code? I don’t know about you but I’d call this being creative when the rubber meets the road.

And one more thing, I will be delivering this presentation but a bit more on the non-technical side of things in the upcoming PASS Community Summit 2011 in Seattle, WA on 11-14 October 2011. If you intend to attend, drop by my session so we can talk about it more.

Let me know your thoughts. Do you copy and paste code when recovering a database?

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