The 5 Core Issues Facing Database Administrators

The 5 Core Issues Facing Database Administrators

Every data centre manager, be it at a Fortune 500 or a small startup, must face five core issues during his or her database management. Two fundamental keys of databases themselves are exacerbated by three other forces that require attention in order to have a robust, functional, and powerful database system.

The nature of DBA is simple: ‘If you’re doing your job well, nobody will notice. If you screw it up, everyone will notice.’

=== DB Fundamental: Accessibility

To be useful, a database must be accessible. Otherwise it is just a store of information that no one can retrieve. In database management terms, the value of data is measured by how much it costs (in dollars and/or machine function/processor time) to store and retrieve it. The less it requires to get to the data, the cheaper the data is by these metrics.

This means that the easier it is to find data, the cheaper that data is to the overall scheme. For example, in 2005, Cisco estimates that it spent $25.2 million on data retrieval just for regulatory compliance purposes. After upgrading and improving their processes, they cut that cost by 97% to $1.8 million the next year. Not insignificant.

So accessibility is perhaps the top priority for nearly every DBA and her team.

=== DB Fundamental: Change Management

Two types of change management occur in a database. The first is management of the data’s changes themselves – how they are accessed, changed by users, and stored. The second is how the business around the database changes, affecting the database itself.

The first DBA concern is user management and this ties in closely with security (below). Most DBAs realize the importance of keeping date-stamped backups of original data so that if something is changed and the changes must be reversed, they can be. That’s the basics of change management in data.

In business, changes are constant and for the DBA, this means new hardware, changes in software, upgrades to client machines, and more. All of these can affect the DB, so the administrator must keep a fluid system capable of growth or alteration. Managing the lifecycle of your hardware, for instance, can mean 30% in savings over a year thanks to lowered replacement and disposal costs.

=== DB Forces: Compliance

Likely the most important (and hated) aspect of database management is compliance. There are whole volumes of legal books dedicated to document and data storage requirements as well as retrieval needs for those legal documents the company stores. Literally every department of a business will have compliance requirements for the DB. Often these must be preserved for long periods of time as well.

Balancing the data storage needs of the company with its retrieval requirements is often the most demanding thing a DBA does.

=== DB Forces: Security

If the news is any measure, data theft and losses are on the rise. While this has been a core issue for DBAs since the days of DBA 101 classes in school, it’s becoming a forefront subject as well as the impetus for many changes happening in the business today.

=== DB Forces: Disaster Recovery

‘Backup once, then backup regularly’ is the mantra of all IT workers. In DBA it’s said twice. Nothing is more disastrous for a company than having its database lost and irrecoverable. The ability to quickly restore lost data, change access accounts and passwords, etc. are paramount to both security and asset safety.

These five issues can be considered the core of what all DBAs face and should be what they focus on the most.

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