REVIEWER: Kurt Windisch, senior technical specialist at Levi, Ray & Shoup, Inc. and director of program development of the Professional Association for SQL Server.

BACKGROUND: Founded as a local computer consulting company in 1979, Levi, Ray & Shoup, Inc. (LRS) has grown to become a global provider of innovative information technology solutions with more than 500 employees. Corporate headquarters are located in Springfield, Illinois, and LRS offices are found throughout the United States and around the globe. LRS software is in use at a majority of Fortune 500 firms and in 30 countries around the world, and the company is recognized as a global IT leader.

PLATFORMS: LRS runs Log Explorer from Lumigent Technologies on Microsoft SQL Server, Versions 7.0 and 2000.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With the implementation of a new CRM system at LRS, employees began to ask for the capability to determine who changed or deleted information in the database and the original values before the changes were made. When CRM users and LRS management have the answers to these questions, they are confident that the data is secure and correct. Although the CRM system had some auditing functionality, it did not have the capability to answer all of the questions being asked. There was an immediate need to determine how and why database changes were made, who made the changes and to see the original information. In addition, it is critical that we keep our customer data accurate, timely and in one place throughout the company. When data is lost or changed in error, it affects the accuracy and availability of our database. When these situations occur, it requires extended staff time to search for and recover the lost data.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: On a daily basis, I can look at the database and get at information that I could not get without Log Explorer. Using this tool, I can determine what changes have been made, who made them and what the original information was. It's also extremely useful for recovering data. For example, someone on our staff may call about a table that was accidentally dropped and ask for it to be restored. Normally, I would have to restore the entire database and copy the table back into the production environment. That process would typically take 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the database. If I run Log Explorer, I can retrieve the information in just a few minutes. Probably the most impressive feature to me is the ability to select multiple log backups in addition to the online transaction log and have Log Explorer treat these as one contiguous log. It continually amazes me how fast Log Explorer can get the information, especially from the backup log files. I have changed our backup strategy to keep more online transaction log backups because I can immediately use them with Log Explorer. We also use Log Explorer to recover data that is lost or inadvertently deleted. On occasion, I'll get a request from a user who accidentally deleted some data. By using Log Explorer for data recovery with our CRM system, I save time by a factor of at least ten and ensure that the data recovered is 100 percent accurate. Log Explorer lets me quickly identify the problems and answer user and management questions regarding changed or deleted data.

STRENGTHS: I would not do without Log Explorer. There is no other product on the market like this, and no one else has the feature set that Log Explorer offers.* I don't typically buy many third-party products to manage SQL Server, but Log Explorer is a critical tool for me. Most DBAs could make use of Log Explorer on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

WEAKNESSES: In certain situations, the interface is a little difficult to navigate. It would be cool to integrate the tool within the Microsoft management console or have an improved Windows application look and feel.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We needed the features that Log Explorer offers. I needed the ability to recover information and understand where database changes originated. No other product offers the functionality of this tool.*

DELIVERABLES: We get online viewing of deleted data and data that has changed so I can immediately answer the questions of who deleted or changed something and obtain the original values. In addition, I can undo any transaction or recover dropped tables by generating a SQL script, which I can use to either restore the data directly or, in the case of our CRM application, load temporary tables to get the information back into the database.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Support from Lumigent Technologies is excellent. My e-mails are answered the same day. When I contacted Lumigent for a new update, the service was fantastic. Lumigent staff called back several times and sent follow-up e-mails to be sure everything was working. Lumigent has a quality product, and the staff treats us like we are their only customer.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is complete and easy to understand. I have run the product easily relying only on the documentation provided. I have seen no flaws.

* NetIQ sells Log Explorer as part of their SQL Management Suite.

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