The ManageForce Blog

Tough Questions for Your DBA

Posted by John Hughes | 8/1/17 10:51 AM

In many ways the role of a database administrator, aka the DBA, can be a thankless but vital one. As a business leader, you know the true value and peace of mind of knowing your Oracle, SQL Server, or NoSQL databases are being looked after and running smoothly, allowing your business to do the same. CIOs and end-users alike expect to always have their data accessible without having to worry—but likely prefer that the tasks required to achieve that ease remain out of sight and out of mind. And that’s the way it should be.

Whether it’s to troubleshoot an issue or to accommodate off-hours testing, it’s critical for your business to have direct, anytime access to skilled DBA resources to manage your database environments. However, to achieve such database nirvana you need to have the right skills in place, and that means finding a truly qualified DBA to own the task. And whether you’re looking for a full-time in-house addition to your team or are looking to partner with a managed service provider and remote DBA services, finding the ideal person for the job is contingent on knowing the right questions to ask. But unfortunately when it comes to qualifying their DBA options, businesses oftentimes run into the age-old problem—not knowing what they don’t know—and as a result failing to ask the hard-hitting questions to find the best talent.

As you explore your database options you’ll want to know about standard service levels, options for custom service levels, severity levels by incident type, lights-on and lights-off support hours (with specific response times), escalation procedures, backup and recovery processes, the level of database monitoring that they offer, and more. Clearly there’s a lot to cover and in order to maximize the value of a DBA partnership for your business, it’s necessary to ask some pretty tough questions in key areas:

How broad is their database knowledge and experience?

Yes, years of experience may seem like an obvious place to start, but as more Oracle, SQL Server, and NoSQL databases move to the cloud (such as AWS, Azure, etc.), this is of more importance than ever. Many of the skills needed to manage the modern database didn’t exist five years ago. So having a solid understanding of the scope and breadth of experience of your potential DBA requires a detailed look.

If you’re planning on going with a managed service provider, be sure to ask whether they will provide a dedicated team member or a team of remote DBA experts. And of course inquire on the average number of years of experience for your DBA team members. If your databases are in the cloud or you plan on making the move to the cloud be sure to get specific about experience managing databases in the cloud as well as hybrid and on-premise experience.

How well defined are roles, practices, and procedures?

It’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance of well-defined roles, best practices, and processes in your databases, yet they can be an easy step to gloss over in pursuit of the more immediate payoff and flashier show-and-tell of getting out reports. But having the right roles and processes in place will keep those ever-important reports functioning better for you down the line. So it’s not to be overlooked.

It is imperative to design a detailed scope of work, process flows, best practices, daily maintenance, and agreed-upon procedures based on your database challenges. Your DBA provider should thoroughly describe the following areas as part of planning your assessment and support:

  • Backup and recovery procedures
  • Scope of monitoring
  • Frequency of health checks
  • Space management
  • System updates and new installations
  • Configuration management
  • Support (and troubleshooting)
  • Project services

Of course, your particular business needs will require a focus on more specific areas of importance. A retail company would require on-demand, 24x7 support during holiday peak months, a public accounting firm might need intensive support January through April for tax season, and a manufacturing company might need extra support for the implementation of an inventory-tracking database during production hours to ensure accuracy during the most critical times. We’ve outlined all of these critical questions and more in an easy to use checklist that you can download here:

DBA Checklist CTA

At ManageForce we take pride in covering all of these situations with not just an experienced database expert, but a whole team of senior-level dedicated database experts, who are available 24x7x365, so you’re covered year round, at any time, day or night.. We’d love to learn more about how we can help your company with these business-critical tasks. You can set up a free consultation here: 

We're Ready To Talk When You Are

Topics: Database, Database Administration

Written by John Hughes


Recent Posts