DataBeard Administrator

Dec 08
Why do I need a lab?

A good lab is very important to the learning process. I've had a home lab for many years and I've learned a lot from the process. Having development and testing environments at work are important, but a lab is a whole different thing altogether. A lab is a place you have full control to make mistakes and learn how to fix them. The more you install, configure, break, and fix, the more you're ready when things go down at work and you're put on the spot to fix them. I can't even count how many times I knew how to fix an issue at work because I've previously had to do something similar in my experience with the lab. That's a great feeling when you're standing knee deep in a real world issue with a boss looking at you for a quick answer.

Depending on your profession, the lab can mean several things. As a DBA, you can really get away with having a simple SQL server installation on a laptop, but how much can you really learn from that? A real environment has a lot more involved and so many bigger learning experiences. Besides, what good is a SQL server if you have no databases with real application data to test with?

Here's what I recommend for DBAs looking to start a lab at home:

  1. Setup an active directory domain. After all, this will help when you want to setup Windows authentication. The install here is pretty straight forward, although, for starters, setting up the rest of your network (DNS, clients, etc) can be a bit more complicated. This could be a blog post of its own (and I'm sure better people than me have done so!)
  2. Setup a SQL server. Don't be afraid to play around with this. Make sure you follow all the best practices and good habits. Don't just use sa for all of your work.
  3. Setup your own DBA monitoring database complete with SQL jobs.
  4. Install WSUS (Windows Server Update Services – or centrally controlled Windows Updates). This is a really simple install and can be configured with a SQL database back end. You now have your first application database and, bonus, you have a way of keeping your lab computers up to date.
  5. Add any other applications you may find useful.

With just these, you've probably run into some fun and not so fun learning experiences.

Several years ago, I found myself in a job where I had to do work that I wasn't familiar with and I was given the keys to production. While this wasn't a DBA position, the same problem exists for many DBAs. That's what got me started with the home lab and I can honestly say I'm a lot better off for it. Don't be afraid to experiment with the lab. That's what it's there for!


Great article! I too have f...

Great article! I too have found a tremendous benefit in having a home lab.
 on 12/9/2016 8:42 AM