Best Practices – Alerts

As a DBA inevitably processes fail from time to time. I have used the 6W’s concept to ensure that enough information is provided to the message recipient to be effective in their job.

Use the Six W’s (Five W’s one H) in the Alert message. While the use of the 6 W’s seems to be verbose, it provides your team members enough context to understand how they need to respond to an incident or alert.

  • Why
  • Why was the job scheduled?
  • What
  • What are the inputs of the job?
  • What does the job do?
  • What are the outputs of the job?
  • What are the warnings / errors encountered?
  • How
  • How is the job implemented
  • How does one validate the inputs for the job?
  • How does one validate the outputs for the job?
  • Where
  • Where is the job scheduled?
  • Who
  • Who requested the Job?
  • Who is the user account / proxy account which is used by the job?
  • When
  • When should the job be executed and what is the logic used for scheduling?
  • Task Chain / Dependency
  • Should this process be implemented before or after another process?
  • Specific Time

Another method of validating that your alerts contains enough information is to consider Horstman’s Law of Project Management.
If the alert is assumed to provide one with information which is actionable, we can use the following as a guide to determine how what happened differed from client expectations.

Provide a succinct summary of the client expectations in the terms of:
Detail the Client Expectations

  • Who is responsible for completing a task (Person / User Account / Server) ?
  • What is this task item?
  • When is the task item to be completed? (SLA)

Detail how expectations were not met and what to do next

  • Who attempted to perform a task (Person / User Account / Server) ?
  • What errors/ events happened when attempting to complete task?
  • What needs to be done based on the errors/events which occured?
  • When was the task attempted?
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