Thomas LaRock (Blog | Twitter) started something fun called “Meme Monday”. This month the topic is “dumb SQL questions”. Normally I would say there isn’t such a thing as a dumb question because it’s all part of the learning process. How will you learn something if you don’t ask? However, there are times when something happens to change my mind. It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened. I know I’ve asked my share of dumb questions but this one someone asked me really stuck out in my mind the most for some reason.
The following dialogue actually happened several years ago. There was actually more to the conversation but it’s not easy recalling a phone conversation from almost 3 years ago verbatim; however, you should get the general idea of what happened.
User: I have to install SQL Server as an operating system, right?
Me: Umm… no, SQL Server is not an operating system. Just because it has “Server” in its name does not automatically make it an operating system. It’s a relational database management system. You install it on a server that already has an operating system on it, such as Windows Server.
Thought to self: Maybe, just maybe, it would actually help if you took a few minutes to oh, I don’t know, read up on what it is you’re trying to install?
don’t ask… don’t ask… don’t ask…
Me: What is it you’re trying to do?
User: I’m going to turn one of my desktop computers into a database server for our department to use.
*sigh* Why me? Wait. Maybe it’s not all that bad.
Me: As a play area or for development?
User: No. It’ll be for some production databases.
Me: Can you please hold for a minute?
A few deep calming breaths later after beating my head on my desk several times…
Me: Yeah, you really shouldn’t try to turn your desktop into a database server for your department to connect to for production stuff. A desktop just isn’t built or configured the same as a production database server. Plus you’ll need not only database backups but you’ll also need to have them backed up to a separate location such as the SAN or possibly to tape. If something goes wrong and you lose your databases, we may not be able to help you. Let’s discuss this with my manager to see how we can help you.
The Conclusion: All in all, it ended up working out. We put the databases on an actual production database server that we managed. I wish I could recall which edition of SQL Server he had or if he even purchased a license. What’s important is that the user learned something valuable that day and I’m actually glad he called before doing anything. That way we avoided what could have turned into a disaster if he took it upon himself to do all this without any involvement from I.T.
The Moral of the Story: If someone asks you a dumb question, there’s a chance it may be a good thing he/she asked. Otherwise, disaster could strike and you may end up having to deal with the aftermath anyway.