Microsoft SQL Sever 2008- Implementation and Maintenance by Mike Hotek
$69.99 from Microsoft Press
Until recently, I’ve never done much with databases, but since my job now involves dealing with SQL databases I thought it was high time I learned! For this, I used three very different books: The Manga Guide to Databases for a refresher on concepts, Murach’s SQL Server 2008 for the actual SQL queries, and finally, this Microsoft book for the details on administering MS-SQL Server. I’ve also occasionally referred to the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Administrator’s Pocket Consultant, also from Microsoft Press.
The Implementation and Maintenance guide is written specifically for one purpose: preparing you to take the SQL Server Administration exam, MCTS Exam 70-432. As such, don’t expect theoretical descriptions of how databases work or instructions on how to write an efficient SQL query; this book is about administering the database, not using it. The expectation is that those reading the book already have experience working with databases and a working knowledge of how SQL Server 2008 works. Since it’s the official Microsoft book, and my workplace will pay for the people in my study group to take the exam, we decided this would be the best choice for directing our study.
The book itself has its plusses and minuses. The main drawback is the editing, or lack thereof; it’s clear that the book was rushed out with an insufficient amount of time devoted to finding and fixing typos. The worst example of this is the tear-out exam objectives sheet at the front of the book, which lists the objectives and where the corresponding material can be found in the book. However, many of the locations referred to don’t even exist; for example, the section on maintaining SQL server instances tells you to read lessons 2, 3, and 4 of chapter 10…which has only two lessons. There are a number of other typos as well; for example, a table listing the values that various data types can take on somehow lost its formatting, so that what should be -231 became -231 instead. Not too difficult to figure out, but still annoying. O’Reilly, who publishes the Microsoft Press books, has an errata list available, but most of the errors are on the unconfirmed list, as the “official” list apparently hasn’t been updated since July 2010. I’m sure this isn’t the fault of O’Reilly, since their own editing tends to be quite good, but I still find it quite annoying. Aside from outright wrong information, there are also oddities like exam questions that cover material which has not yet been covered in the book, which again should have been caught with proper editing. Additionally, although I suppose this isn’t really the fault of the book, the instructions for installing SQL Server are out of date and we had to throw them out entirely; I would have expected this to be updated by the fourth printing of the book.
On the plus side, I found most of the book to be quite readable. Each chapter opens with a story from the author’s experience that illustrates why a particular concept is important, and the descriptions are quite easy to follow. I found it to be interesting reading up until about the last third of the book, when the writing seemed to bog down; granted, this is also where you get into the most technical detail.
The main attraction of this book, however – certainly, the main reason we chose it – is the test questions. Each section has just a couple of questions at the end of it, but the book comes with a CD containing full practice exams; I haven’t yet taken them as from what I’ve heard, they cover all off the material rather than being divided by chapter and I haven’t quite finished the book. While the reviews on the test questions are mixed, I’ve seen several reviews from people who felt they were useful for studying for the exam. Additionally, the book comes with a coupon code for a 20% discount on additional practice tests, as well as another one for 15% off the cost of a Microsoft exam; taking advantage of those easily covers the cost of the book if you buy it from Amazon.
So do I recommend this book? I think I’d have to say yes, with reservations. First off, if you don’t know SQL, learn the basics of that first or you’ll be fairly lost. Second, expect to spend an hour making corrections from the errata site, unless you’re familiar with with the basic concepts and SQL Server to avoid getting confused when you hit one of the errors. Third, tear out the study guide at the front and throw it away, then look up instructions online for how to get SQL Server up and running if it isn’t already. Once you’ve done that, I think you can get your money’s worth out of this book.