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The Rambling DBA: Jonathan Kehayias

The random ramblings and rantings of frazzled SQL Server DBA

Have you got air in your spare tire? (Have you checked your DR/HA plans?)

This morning I was late to work because as I backed out of the driveway I noticed that my wife's car had a flat tire.  This should be a pretty simple thing to fix, but it turns out that the spare tire was also flat.  This too should have been an easy fix because I have a 60 gallon air compressor standing in the corner of my garage that is always charged with air, but as luck would have it since I don't use it to fill tires with air that often (it was used primarily for media blasting my Mustang last year), I couldn't find the correct air chuck I needed to air the tire up.  This resulted in a trip to the local gas station to air the spare tire up and then back to the house to put it on the car.

This story serves as a good reminder to test your DR/HA plans before you actually need to use them.  Most people keep a spare tire in their trunk to cover the occasion that you have a flat on the road, to get you to the nearest tire shop (at least I do).  However, if I had actually been on the road, my spare was quite useless since it was completely flat.  I keep another option in my pocket with AAA, so if I had been on the road, I could have called them to come out.  However, what if it was a true emergency situation where I had to get to the hospital for something?  Do I really want to wait a half an hour or more for support to show up to fix what should have been a simple problem with proper tests/checks ahead of time.

My wife knows how to change a tire, she's done it before, but she's not as good at doing it as I am.  She's kind of like our Jr. DBA, she can do the work, but if I am around it is sometimes faster/easier for me to just take care of things.  If I hadn't been home, she wouldn't have been able to fix the problem anyway, she would have had to call AAA for assistance.  This leads to my second note, you should plan for and know your support options before you are in a problem situation.  One of the documented steps in our run book for when I am unavailable is to call Microsoft Support if a problem seems to complex, or is beyond the available knowledge for troubleshooting.  Certainly this is going to take longer to reach a solution to the problem, but it can be faster than if you try to hack your way to a solution manually (walking to the gas station to put air in the tire would have taken longer than waiting on AAA I am sure). 

So my question to you is, have you checked your DR/HA strategy lately, and when's the last time you checked your spare tire pressure?  If you have, do you know where all of the tools are in case you actually need them?  Thankfully this morning the problem occurred in a controlled environment that allowed me to solve it without to much delay.  I checked the spare in our van, and it too was flat, so I aired it up as well, future crisis averted hopefully.

Published Wednesday, October 21, 2009 11:13 AM by Jonathan Kehayias



Jon Crawford said:

Not sure how this translates to DR/HA strategy, but buy a cheap air compressor that plugs into the cigarette lighter and fits in the emergency kit that you keep in the trunk, or the spare tire space.

October 21, 2009 12:30 PM

Adam Machanic said:

Nice post; the spare tire is a very effective metaphor.

By the way, what is "media blasting"?

October 21, 2009 12:46 PM

Andrew Kelly said:


Media blasting is essentially sand blasting or a way to strip off all the rust, contaminents, paint etc from the car parts.

October 21, 2009 12:51 PM

Jonathan Kehayias said:


Media blasting = sand blasting without sand.  Sand blasting can cause respiratory problems because the silica in the sand gets pulvarized by the high pressure and becomes airborne.  Silicosis of the Lung is a deadly side effect (  Specialized breathing equipment is needed to do actual sand blasting.  I generally use plastic blasting media or crushed walnut shell because it won't damage or warp the steel panels from heat or hardness.  You have to have a larger nozzle to shoot media, and generally speaking more air at higher pressure to motivate it.  I use a pressure pot that forces the media out the bottom by pressurizing the top and mixes it with high pressure air at the outlet hose connection.  Works really good but makes one heck of a mess.

October 21, 2009 1:18 PM

Zack Jones said:

NOTE to self: Check spare tire pressure when you get home :)

DR/HA tested earlier this month when we had to restore all databases on the production server. (developer's had some testing that could only be done in production databases so we did it on the Government holiday).

What year Mustang do you have? Have any posts about it?

October 21, 2009 3:15 PM

Arnie Rowland: Ramblings of a Harried Technogeek said:

Yesterday, Jonathan Kehayias wrote in his blog post " Have you got air in your spare.." about dealing

October 22, 2009 12:36 PM

GSquared said:

Good metaphore.

Place I currently work doesn't have a spare tire.  System is heavily virtualized so that, if a physical server goes down, none of the virtual machines go down.  (That's the theory anyway.)  Guess that's like having 8 tires on the axles, 2 per point instead of 1, so a flat doesn't have as much effect.

However, as we are all too aware, a tonadoe can still blow the car into the next county, regardless of how many tires it has on it.  Just can't get the budget for a backup car (remote data center).

October 26, 2009 9:18 AM

Glenn Berry said:

Good advice, Jonathan. It is always bad when you ask an "accidental DBA", what their backup strategy/schedule is, and they they say "What?"

October 26, 2009 12:17 PM
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