2016 – That was a Year :-)

Its the time of year for reflection and I have had the most amazing 2016, I am blessed that I love what I do so much. I thoroughly enjoy writing and talking and sharing and commenting and supporting and cherishing all the SQL and PowerShell things. I wrote about using Power Bi to display my checkins. I only started this in June and this is where I have been 🙂


I learnt about Pester and ended the year incorporating it into dbatools and dbareports. I also started using GitHub It is quite surprising to me how much time I now spend using both. I also had to start learning DSC for the client I was working with because as ‘the PowerShell guy’ I was the one who could the easiest. I learnt things and then forgot them causing me to find this Pester post via google later in the year!! (That’s a big reason for blogging by the way)

Early in the year we organised with SQL Saturday Exeter

Helping to organise a SQL Saturday is a lot of fun, especially when you do it with good friends, but choosing sessions is by far the most challenging part of it for me. I could have chosen at least 60 of these sessions and I know people were disappointed not to have been chosen. I was also the first person many saw at SQL Bits in Liverpool manning the front of house and getting asked the best question ever

The Beard says

When you go to an event –  Say thank you to the organisers and volunteers

and a TERRIBLE thing happened – I broke my DBA Team mug


Luckily the fine folk at redgate sorted me out with a replacement from deep in the stores somewhere and gave it to me at SQL Saturday Exeter 🙂 Thank you.

I spoke at the PowerShell Conference Europe and met and made some great friends which lead to me speaking at the PowerShell Monday in Munich and the Dutch PowerShell Usergroup. SQL Saturday Dublin was a blast, its a wonderful city, Manchester had a whole PowerShell Track 🙂 and Cambridge was memorable for the appalling journey as well as the chance to share a stage with Chrissy. PowerShell Conference Asia in the sovereign city-state of Singapore was such a good event and place. Lastly of course was Slovenia with its fantastic Christmas lights and awesome event organisation. I visited some user groups too. Southampton run by my good friends John Martin and Steph Middleton Congratulations to John on his first MVP award yesterday, Cardiff for the Return of the Battle of the Beards with Terry McCann and Tobiasz Koprowski where the projector threw its toys out of the pram and Birmingham in the school hall which was slightly chilly (theres a joke there for some people)

Amazing things happened

We created https://sqlps.io/vote and https://sqlps.io/ssms and https://sqlps.io/powerbi to enable anyone to influence Microsoft and help to improve the PowerShell SQL experience

and lo and behold there was a new sqlserver module 🙂

I was also invited by Aaron and Chrissy to become an officer for the PASS PowerShell Virtual Chapter oh and we made https://sqlps.io/slack to enable people to talk about all things Data Platform – Another addition to my life that I didn’t have at the beginning of the year. I spend a lot of time in there in the #dbatools and #dbareports channels and have made some fantastic friends. Chrissy and I created the SQL Community Collaborative GitHub team and added dbatools and dbareports and even more friendships were born

And that’s the biggest and bestest thing about this year. Some amazing new friends and spending time with all my other friends. I started writing out a list but was terrified I would have missed someone out, so to all my friends

THANK YOU for a brilliant 2016 and 2017 shall be just as good 🙂

Here are a few of my pics from the year with a lot of my friends


Remove-SQLDatabaseSafely My First Contribution to DBATools

What is DBA Tools?

A collection of modules for SQL Server DBAs. It initially started out as ‘sqlmigration’, but has now grown into a collection of various commands that help automate DBA tasks and encourage best practices.

You can read more about here and it is freely available for download on GitHub I thoroughly recommend that you watch this quick video to see just how easy it is to migrate an entire SQL instance in one command (Longer session here )

Installing it is as easy as

which will get you over 80 commands . Visit https://dbatools.io/functions/ to find out more information about them


The journey to Remove-SQLDatabaseSafely started with William Durkin b | t who presented to the SQL South West User Group  (You can get his slides here)

Following that session  I wrote a Powershell Script to gather information about the last used date for databases which I blogged about here and then a T-SQL script to take a final backup and create a SQL Agent Job to restore from that back up which I blogged about here The team have used this solution (updated to load the DBA Database and a report instead of using Excel) ever since and it proved invaluable when a read-only database was dropped and could quickly and easily be restored with no fuss.

I was chatting with Chrissy LeMaire who founded DBATools b | t about this process and when she asked for contributions in the SQL Server Community Slack I offered my help and she suggested I write this command. I have learnt so much. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend working on projects collaboratively to improve your skills. It is amazing to work with such incredible professional PowerShell people.

I went back to the basics and thought about what was required and watched one of my favourite videos again. Grant Fritcheys Backup Rant

I decided that the process should be as follows

  1. Performs a DBCC CHECKDB
  2. Database is backed up WITH CHECKSUM
  3. Database is restored with VERIFY ONLY on the source
  4. An Agent Job is created to easily restore from that backup
  5. The database is dropped
  6. The Agent Job restores the database
  7. performs a DBCC CHECKDB and drops the database for a final time

This (hopefully) passes all of Grants checks. This is how I created the command

I check that the SQL Agent is running otherwise we wont be able to run the job. I use a while loop with a timeout like this

There are a lot more checks and logic than I will describe here to make sure that the process is as robust as possible. For example, the script can exit after errors are found using DBCC CHECKDB or continue and label the database backup file and restore job appropriately. Unless the force option is used it will exit if the job name already exists. We have tried to think of everything but if something has been missed or you have suggestions let us know (details at end of post)

The only thing I didn’t add was a LARGE RED POP UP SAYING ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DROP THIS DATABASE but I considered it!!


Running DBCC CHECKDB with Powershell is as easy as this

you can read more on MSDN

Database is backed up WITH CHECKSUM

Stuart Moore is my go to for doing backups and restores with SMO

I ensured that the backup was performed with checksum like this

Database is restored with VERIFY ONLY on the source

I used SMO all the way through this command and performed the restore verify only like this

An Agent Job is created to easily restore from that backup

First I created a category for the Agent Job

and then generated the TSQL for the restore step by using the script method on the Restore SMO object

This is how to create an Agent Job

and then to add a job step to run the restore command


The database is dropped

We try 3 different methods to drop the database

The Agent Job restores the database

To run the Agent Job I call the start method of the Job SMO Object
Then we drop the database for the final time with the confidence that we have a safe backup and an easy one click method to restore it from that backup (as long as the backup is in the same location)
There are further details on the functions page on dbatools
Some videos of it in action are on YouTube http://dbatools.io/video
You can take a look at the code on GitHub here

You can install it with

You can provide feedback via the Trello Board or discuss it in the #dbatools channel in the Sqlserver Community Slack
You too can also become a contributor https://dbatools.io/join-us/ Come and write a command to make it easy for DBAs to (this bit is up to your imagination).

Using the new SQLServer Powershell module to get SQL Agent Job Information

So with the July Release of SSMS everything changed for using PowerShell with SQL. You can read the details here As I mentioned in my previous post the name of the module has changed to sqlserver

This means that if you have a PowerShell script doing Import-Module SQLPS, it will need to be changed to be Import-Module SqlServer in order to take advantage of the new provider functionality and new CMDLETs. The new module will be installed to “%Program Files\WindowsPowerShell\Modules\SqlServer” and hence no update to $env:PSModulePath is required.

You can download the latest SSMS release here Once you have installed and rebooted you can start to look at the new Powershell CMDlets

Take a look at cmdlets

Today I want to look at agent jobs

getcomand sqlagent

So I decided to see how to gather the information I gather for the DBADatabase as described here

This is the query I use to insert the data for the server level agent job information.

So Get-SQLAgentJob looks like the one I need. Lets take a look at the help. This should be the starting point whenever you use a new cmdlet

Which states

Returns a SQL Agent Job object for each job that is present in the target instance of SQL Agent.

That sounds like it will meet my needs. Lets take a look


I can get the information I require like this

NOTE – That code is for PowerShell V4 and V5, if you are using earlier versions of PowerShell you would need to use

But to make the code more performant it is better to do this


Using Measure-Command showed that this completed in
TotalSeconds : 0.9889336
Rather than
TotalSeconds : 2.9045701

Note that

Does not work. I had to check the properties using

Which showed me

IsEnabled Property bool IsEnabled {get;set;}

So I tested this against the various SQL versions I had in my lab using this code

Here are the results
job data table

I also had a look at Get-SQLAgentJobHistory Lets take a look at the help


Returns the JobHistory present in the target instance of SQL Agent.

This cmdlet supports the following modes of operation to return the JobHistory:

  1. By specifying the Path of the SQL Agent instance.
  2. By passing the instance of the SQL Agent in the input.
  3. By invoking the cmdlet in a valid context.

So I ran

And got back a whole load of information. Every job history available on the server. Too much to look it immediately to work out what to do

So I looked at just one job

And got back the last months worth of history for that one job as that is the schedule used to purge the job history for this server So then I added -Since Yesterday to only get the last 24 hours history


The Since Parameter is described as

-Since <SinceType>

A convenient abbreviation to avoid using the -StartRunDate parameter.
It can be specified with the -EndRunDate parameter.

Do not specify a -StartRunDate parameter, if you want to use it.

Accepted values are:
– Midnight (gets all the job history information generated after midnight)
– Yesterday (gets all the job history information generated in the last 24 hours)
– LastWeek (gets all the job history information generated in the last week)
– LastMonth (gets all the job history information generated in the last month)

When I run

I get

Count : 3

And if I run

I get

agent job out gridview

Which matches the view I see in SSMS Agent Job History


So Get-SqlAgentJobHistory will enable you to use PowerShell to gather information about the Job history for each step of the Agent Jobs and also the message which I can see being very useful.

Come and join us in the SQL Community Slack to discuss these CMDLets and all things SQL Community https://sqlps.io/slack


Microsoft are engaging with the community to improve the tools we all use in our day to day work. There is are two Trello boards set up for YOU to use to contribute

https://sqlps.io/vote for SQLPS sqlserver PowerShell module

https://sqlps.io/ssms for SSMS

Go and join them and upvote YOUR preferred choice of the next lot of CMDlets


We have also set up a SQL Community Slack for anyone in the community to discuss all things related to SQL including the Trello board items and already it seems a good place for people to get help with 150+ members in a few days. You can get an invite here https://sqlps.io/slack

Come and join us

PowerShell CMDLets added for SQL2016 Always Encrypted

The post on the SQLServer blog at TechNet by the SQL Server Tools Team today made me jump out of my seat.

The July update for SSMS includes the first substantial improvement in SQL PowerShell in many years. We owe a lot of thanks for this effort to the great collaboration with our community. We have several new CMDLETs to share with you

In one release there are twenty-five new CMDLets for the new sqlserver module

This means that if you have a PowerShell script doing Import-Module SQLPS, it will need to be changed to be Import-Module SqlServer in order to take advantage of the new provider functionality and new CMDLETs. The new module will be installed to “%Program Files\WindowsPowerShell\Modules\SqlServer” and hence no update to $env:PSModulePath is required.

So SQLPS will still continue to work but will not be updated and will not contain the new CMDlets or the future new CMDlets.

So what new things do we have?

This month we introduce CMDLETs for the following areas:

  • Always Encrypted
  • SQL Agent
  • SQL Error Logs

Chrissy LeMaire has written about the new SQL Agent cmdlets

Aaron Nelson has written about the new Get-SqlErrorLog cmdlet

Laerte Junior has written about Invoke-SQLCmd

All four of us will be presenting a webinar on the new CMDlets via the PowerShell Virtual Chapter Wed, Jul 06 2016 12:00 Eastern Daylight Time If you cant make it a recording will be made available on YouTube on the VC Channel https://sqlps.io/video

Always Encrypted CMDlets

That leaves the Always Encrypted CMDLets and there are 17 of those!

Add-SqlColumnEncryptionKeyValue Adds a new encrypted value for an existing column encryption key object in the database.
Complete-SqlColumnMasterKeyRotation Completes the rotation of a column master key.
Get-SqlColumnEncryptionKey Returns all column encryption key objects defined in the database, or returns one column encryption key object with the specified name.
Get-SqlColumnMasterKey Returns the column master key objects defined in the database, or returns one column master key object with the specified name.
Invoke-SqlColumnMasterKeyRotation Initiates the rotation of a column master key.
New-SqlAzureKeyVaultColumnMasterKeySettings Creates a SqlColumnMasterKeySettings object describing an asymmetric key stored in Azure Key Vault.
New-SqlCngColumnMasterKeySettings Creates a SqlColumnMasterKeySettings object describing an asymmetric key stored in a key store supporting the Cryptography Next Generation (CNG) API.
New-SqlColumnEncryptionKey Crates a new column encryption key object in the database.
New-SqlColumnEncryptionKeyEncryptedValue Produces an encrypted value of a column encryption key.
New-SqlColumnEncryptionSettings Creates a new SqlColumnEncryptionSettings object that encapsulates information about a single column’s encryption, including CEK and encryption type.
New-SqlColumnMasterKey Creates a new column master key object in the database.
New-SqlCspColumnMasterKeySettings Creates a SqlColumnMasterKeySettings object describing an asymmetric key stored in a key store with a Cryptography Service Provider (CSP) supporting Cryptography API (CAPI).
Remove-SqlColumnEncryptionKey Removes the column encryption key object from the database.
Remove-SqlColumnEncryptionKeyValue Removes an encrypted value from an existing column encryption key object in the database.
Remove-SqlColumnMasterKey Removes the column master key object from the database.
Set-SqlColumnEncryption Encrypts, decrypts or re-encrypts specified columns in the database.


That seems to cover setting up Always Encrypted with Powershell , removing it and getting information about it. When the new SSMS update is dropped you will be able to start using all of this new functionality.

Just remember Import-Module sqlserver


Microsoft are engaging with the community to improve the tools we all use in our day to day work. There is are two Trello boards set up for YOU to use to contribute

https://sqlps.io/vote  for SQLPS  sqlserver PowerShell module

https://sqlps.io/ssms for SSMS

Go and join them and upvote YOUR preferred choice of the next lot of CMDlets



We have also set up a SQL Community Slack for anyone in the community to discuss all things related to SQL including the Trello board items and already it seems a good place for people to get help with 150+ members in a few days. You can get an invite here https://sqlps.io/slack

Come and join us

PowerShelling SQL Saturday Sessions to the Guidebook app

Following on from my previous post about parsing XML where I used the information from Steve Jones blog post to get information from the SQL Saturday web site I thought that this information and script may be useful for others performing the same task.

  1. Edit – This post was written prior to the updates to the SQL Saturday website over the weekend. When it can back up the script worked perfectly but the website is unavailable at the moment again so I will check and update as needed once it is back.

    We are looking at using the Guidebook app to provide an app for our attendees with all the session details for SQL Saturday Exeter

    The Guidebook admin website requires the data for the sessions in a certain format. You can choose CSV or XLS.

    In the admin portal you can download the template


    which gives an Excel file like this



So now all we need to do is to fill it with data.

I have an Excel Object Snippet which I use to create new Excel Objects when using Powershell to manipulate Excel. Here it is for you. Once you have run the code you will be able to press CTRL + J and be able to choose the New Excel Object Snippet any time.

I needed to change this to open the existing file by using

In the more help tab of the Excel workbook it says

2.     Make sure that your dates are in the following format: MM/DD/YYYY (i.e. 4/21/2011).  If the dates are in any other format, such
as “April 21, 2011” or “3-Mar-2012”, Gears will not be able to import the data and you will receive an error message.
3.     Make sure that your times are in the following format: HH:MM AM/PM (i.e. 2:30 PM, or 11:15 AM). If the times are in any other
format, such as “3:00 p.m.” or “3:00:00 PM”, Gears will not be able to import the data and you will receive an error message.

So we need to do some manipulation of the data we gather. As before I selected the information from the XML as follows

I then looped through the $Talks array and wrote each line to Excel like this

I know that I converted the String to DateTime and then back to a String again but that was the easiest (quickest) way to obtain the correct format for the Excel file

Then to finish save the file and quit Excel

Then you upload the file in the Guidebook admin area

wait for the email confirmation and all your sessions are available in the guidebook


I hope that is useful to others. The full script is below

Twas 2 Days Before Xmas or Thank you SQLFamily

Twas 2 days before Xmas & all through the office,
not a creature was stirring not even old Maurice.
With merriment going on outside of his window
There sat a bearded DBA without much to do

No changes can be made through the holiday season
We’re on skeleton support, which is a good reason
Ensure you are making the most of your time
You mustn’t be wasting the company dime

The backups are checked, there isn’t an issue
So documentation writing should ensue
Instead he decided to procrastinate
And so, this little ditty he proceeded to create

Looking back over last year he did ruminate
About all the progress he had made, it was great
So much had been learned, so many improvements
Derived using content from fine ladies and gents

Impossible to estimate how much it would cost
Or calculate the amount of revenue lost
For all that he would have been unable to do
Or the times that he knew how to get out of a stew

But also the friends old, new and the rest
The talking and dining and drinking and jest
I am lucky to be a part of the SQL Family
So thank you one and all, with love from me


Giving Back – #TSQL2sday

T-SQL Tuesday, which was started by Adam Machanic (blog|twitter) and is now starting its 6th year, is hosted by a different person each month. The host selects the theme, and then the blogging begins. Worldwide, on the second Tuesday of the month (all day, based on GMT time), bloggers attend this party by blogging about the theme. This month it is hosted by Wayne Sheffield blog|twitter and in the spirit of the holiday season it is about giving. This is my post on giving back, in the little ways as well as the bigger ones, how you can give back and why it not only benefits others but also yourself

What’s the SQL Family?

The SQL Family (or SQL community call it what you will) is a fabulous place to be. Full of many wonderful, talented, passionate and generous people. Every method of interaction that you wish for can be found if you look. Ever wanted to know how others do it? or Does this happen in other shops? or I wish I had access to someone who knows about ‘insert new shiny thing here’?

I guess that that is how I joined. I had no peers in my shop. I had no one to turn to to ask questions or get advice. I had no support and I turned to the internet. Now we all know that the internet lies. It is full of accidental and deliberate mistruths, of part information and downright bad advice. You have to be careful where you go and who you trust. I gradually found myself going back to the same resources and from those I found out about PASS and user groups

I am in the UK. I found the list of UK SQL User Groups

You can find more here both local and virtual

User Groups

I found a user group near me and went along to a meeting not knowing what to expect. I found a group of people like me willing to give up their time to learn and share knowledge. A wide range of people from DBAs, Developers, BI Professionals and SysAdmins. Working for International multi regional companies looking after many hundreds of SQL Servers to single sysadmins looking after the whole kit and caboodle and everything in between. A wealth and breadth of knowledge to tap into. You will learn so much not only from the sessions but also the conversation with all these other talented people

Come along.

Simply coming along will bring benefit. Other people will be interested in what you have to say even if you are in week 0 of your first ever job. Your view will still be valued. Everyone can learn from everybody and NO-ONE knows it all.

There will come a point where you will pass on a piece of knowledge or an idea or a way of working and someone will say thank you I didn’t know that. You just gave back. It may even be someone you look up to, someone whose knowledge and experience far outweighs yours whose word you hang on to. That feels good.

You may ask the questions that others thought but didnt ask and boy are they glad you asked the question. You just gave back. It’s something I do often. I ask questions and sometimes I ask questions I know the answer to so that they will be of benefit to the group.

What will you get? More than you can ever put in. Free training, often free pizza, knowledge, advice,guidance, contacts, support, a network of people in your field, notice of job openings, swag, fun, friends, more social events and more and more

The user groups are run by volunteers in their own time out of the goodness of their hearts. They will always need your help. Turn up 5 minutes earlier and help set out the chairs or put out the handouts or assist with the tech. You just gave back. Afterwards before going to the pub clear the tables, help carry the boxes, put the pizza evidence in the bin. You just gave back

SQL Saturdays and other community events

SQL Saturdays are held all over the world most every Saturday You can find more about them here https://www.sqlsaturday.com/ There are also other larger events such as SQL Bits and SQL Relay here in the UK. Everything I wrote about User groups counts here just in a slightly larger scale. You will be able to attend several sessions across many different areas for free on a Saturday

These events are also run by volunteers and they will also need your help. If you can spare some time to help on a registration desk you just gave back. A room monitor to ensure the speaker and delegates have everything they need, the room is tidy and the session runs to time. You just gave back. Putting things out and tidying them away again. You just gave back.

You can become a volunteer by asking the people organising the events if they would like your help. These events will all have twitter feeds and emails and facebook pages and many methods of getting in touch. Contact them and offer your help if you can. You just gave back.

If you fancy taking the next step then you can get involved in organising the events. This is hard work, great fun, a good thing to add to your CV and you just gave back. There are so many areas to get involved organising an event. Premises and technology, speakers and printers, volunteers and sponsors all need co-ordination. Websites,twitter feeds, feedback forms, posters, marketing materials all need designing and producing. There are so many ways in which you will be able to provide value to the event and you just gave back

Oh and whilst I am at it, when you attend an event

Say Thank You to the volunteers. You just gave back.

 Speaking and Blogging

All the events named above need speakers. The bigger events like the SQL Saturdays and the large events like SQL Bits will generally have more established speakers but every user group will need speakers and they will be more likely to accept new speakers and will be very supportive if you say that you are a new speaker. Every speaker had to make their first presentation at some point and they all know how it feels and can provide guidance and advice. You will feel that you don’t have anything to speak about that others will want to hear about. You do. Your experience and your knowledge or how you solved something or created something will be of interest to people. Of course, you need to check with the user group leaders and members if your idea for a presentation is suitable. Like anything you do that is new, researching it and taking advice from people with more experience is always useful. Maybe you can start with a lightning talk. Give it a go. You just gave back.

What do you get back from Speaking and Blogging?

I’ll tell you a secret. The vast majority of my posts ( This is an exception) are written for the benefit of one person. Me.

I write posts to record my learning for myself. To document my knowledge. I use my posts to help me to do my job. I know that I wrote the method of doing something somewhere and this is part of my store of knowledge. I write posts to answer peoples questions so that I have a place to point them to. Occasionally people will email me asking a question and if it requires a detailed response I will write a post and email them to tell them that this is the answer. I often point my work colleagues at my blog when they ask me questions about Azure or Powershell. You could also see your blog as an extension of your CV and use it when job hunting and develop it in that way

I also write posts to expand my knowledge and this is the same for speaking. When I am writing a blog post or a presentation I will read and watch videos and ensure I know more about it. The process of creating that content will improve my own knowledge and work practices and you will find that, as you write your blog posts you will have a deeper knowledge also. When you give your presentations you will learn as you answer questions or find the answer to the question afterwards (It’s ok to do that) that you are improving yourself and your knowledge.You will also be giving back.

Putting your information online will enable people to find it. Sure you can worry about SEO and getting to the top of search pages but you know that sometimes the answer is on the ninth page. What you write will be of benefit to others and by taking the time to post you will be giving back to the community

You can do one, many or all of those and you will be giving back. I hope you do

I will be giving back. You will find me at SQL Bits where I shall be room monitoring and volunteering.

You will find me at SQL Saturday Exeter. I am again one of the fabulous SQL South West team

who are again organising a SQL Saturday in Exeter in the UK on April 24th/25th 2015 You can find out more here http://sqlsouthwest.co.uk/sql-saturday-372/ 

You still have time, if you are quick, to submit a session to speak or present a pre-con at Exeter. Submissions close on 15th December and we would love to have yours

I shall carry on blogging and hopefully present at some user groups again this year. If you see me any where, come up and say hi to me. You just gave back