Database Management Strategies for the CIO

Database management and all of the processes that go with it, are a crucial part of any organization. Some organizations are able to keep an in-house DBA to focus on these business-critical functions. Unfortunately in many companies that’s simply not possible. As a result, these tasks are often handed off to the “best option” and not someone who is truly qualified to manage this business-critical data and keep your databases running at their best.
Settling for “good enough” database management shouldn’t be an option. These guides for better database management will help you and your team get smart and strategic to optimize your data and your business.
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Hidden Dangers of the Accidental DBA

If you’re getting by with “good enough” database management, perhaps using an IT team member who may not have only limited time to focus on your databases because of other, more strategic (or pressing) responsibilities, you’ve likely been making do with an Accidental DBA. But the problem with an Accidental DBA is they don’t know what they don’t know, which can spell disaster for your databases in truly terrifying ways.

Setup and Configuration Errors

Accidental DBAs don’t have the knowledge base to fully optimize databases from the start, and frequently don’t know how to configure a production database so that it will perform properly. While your databases may appear to run normally at the onset despite these oversights, they will inevitably compromise your databases’ performance over the long term.


MIA (or Inadequate) Backup and Recovery Plans

An Accidental DBA is unlikely to have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place and often doesn’t even understand how backups should be configured. Without backups, if there’s a problem, losing your data may be the least of your worries. The resulting downtime could leave your company standing idle, unable to complete the most basic of functions from accounting to sales to deliveries. The potential catastrophe cannot be overstated.


Overlooked Maintenance

Well designed indexes and statistics are critical for database performance. Accidental DBAs may work with developers and users to fix the immediate problem, but have no concept as to whether changes negatively impact other processes or are sustainable. This lack of expertise for troubleshooting and performance tuning can lead to more problems down the road.

Spotty Security

Accidental DBAs oftentimes don’t understand security or don’t consider it a top priority. They may rely on third-party tools that require a certain level of security, but these tools require a proper oversight and management or they may become a hole for hackers. They also may not consider permissions when assigning and defining roles which can lead to more gaps in security.

Unfocused Monitoring

Many Accidental DBAs fail to closely monitor databases, either due to lack of time, understanding or the necessary tools, so instead of being proactive, they’re stuck being reactive. When a problem occurs, they may resort to Band-Aid fixes like rebooting the server which can lead to corruption, lost data, headaches, and ultimately does nothing to address the underlying root cause of the problem.

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Reasons to Rethink Your Database Management Strategy

Database professionals report that they spend more time managing database lifecycles than anything else. An overwhelming majority still perform a range of tasks manually, from patching databases to nightly backups. In fact, more than 50% of IT Departments take 30 days or more to respond to new initiatives or deploy new solutions. For 25% of organizations, it takes 90 days or more.

Data is power. But to truly gain competitive advantage from a company's vast (and growing) corporate data, companies should consider the following 17 challenging dynamics when rethinking your database management strategy.


1. Rise of the Cloud 

While mid-sized companies are still somewhat skeptical, large and small businesses are embracing the cloud. RightScale’s 2017 State of the Cloud found 95% of businesses are using the cloud in some fashion. And Unisphere’s recent report says 60% of companies surveyed are using the cloud for data storage and management.


2. Balancing Cloud and On-Premise Needs with Hybrid

As businesses sort out their database needs, more are turning to a hybrid approach using public and private cloud along with on-premise solutions, making the skill set needed for database management broader than ever before.


3. Many Workloads Work Best in the Cloud

The move to the cloud has flipped many IT processes on their heads. Where some processes and applications were once built from the ground up, IT pros are now presented with fully realized workloads and faced with the question of what environment it’s best suited for. In many cases, the flexibility and speed of the cloud is the best solution, and for most corporations the amount of data heading to the cloud is on the rise at 10-30% (according to recent data from Unisphere). In many cases, the flexibility and speed of the cloud is the best solution.


4. Responsiveness to Elastic Demands 

Business demand for database services, as well as associated data volumes, is growing at a rate of 25% a year on average. Elasticity in DBA staffing will be crucial now, and in the years ahead.


5. Big Data is a Big Deal 

Relational data from transactional systems is only part of the enterprise equation, and shares the stage with data that can now be cost effectively captured, managed, analyzed, and stored. Availability of data is a key indicator of an IT performance.


6.  More Companies Saying Yes to NoSQL

Compared to relational databases, NoSQL databases are more scalable and provide superior performance. Their data model addresses issues the relational model does not: Large volumes of structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data.


7. Responsiveness to Elastic Demands 

Systems must be flexible, allowing the introduction of new sensors/devices and the data they emit. The need for IoT developers is expected to reach 4.5 million by 2020, which is feeding the rise of the NoSQL database.


8. Cloud Opens Up DBaaS

Increasingly, data managers & professionals will be working with cloud-based solutions and data, whether associated with a public cloud service, a private cloud solution, or a hybrid approach. But in leveraging DBaaS, it doesn't necessarily solve your database management needs.


9. Resurgence of SQL

With growth markets like IoT and mobile computing continuing unabated, enterprise data architectures require structured and semi-structured data to scale together. The challenge lies in uniting different data models so that all data can be analyzed together.


10. Hidden Costs of DIY DB Support  

Complex data requests can strain your system for hours, slowing infrastructure. Overworked and/or inexperienced staff are a risk for errors, causing costly downtime and hours of troubleshooting. Strategically right-sourced DB functions can increase efficiency & simplify budget planning—saving time to manage core IT functions.


11. Nasty, Hidden Bottlenecks

Application performance problems often lead back to database issues, which can be difficult to find amongst log files, code, and architecture. Time is money when an app is tied to revenue. Senior DBAs have seen it all and can help save time and money in regards to opportunity costs.


12. More Data, More Databases

Large databases need more tuning, backup, recovery, and upgrade support. The average database-to-DBA ratio tends to be around 5 TB per DBA.

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13. Staffing Ebbs & Flows

As data management changes dramatically IT departments will experience a staffing flux or a gap in needed skill sets. Senior-level external lifecycle management will supplement your staff and help ensure your database support doesn’t miss a beat.


14. Change Management

Migrating data significantly introduces the risk of errors. Relying on a database expert can help prevent lost productivity and revenue down the road by helping to ensure data integrity.


15. Spring (and Winter, Summer, or Fall) Cleaning

With lots of change on the horizon, a project to sort out your database inefficiencies, security, and performance is a great opportunity to evaluate your provider before embarking on more complex projects with them.


16. Maintaining Security

Security remains a top priority for IT pros, and whether data is being stored on-premise or in the cloud confidence in the security of mission-critical data is still high at 77% (according to recent data from Unisphere).


17. Freeing Up Your IT Thinkers  

Working with an external database management services team and dedicated on-demand DBAs can help free up your IT thinkers to plan for upgrades, migrations, restructuring, and other strategic projects. 

As more business processes move to the cloud, business leaders are rethinking strategies and approaches to data to keep up with the swift (and swifter everyday) speed of change. Asking the right questions and having the right solution for your business apps, data, and databases will ensure you stay up to speed.

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Tough Questions for Your DBA

The role of a database administrator can be a thankless but vital one. As a business leader, you understand the true value and peace of mind that comes with knowing your 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.

So, how do you help to ensure 24x7 access to your company’s data as part of your plan for better usage of an ever-growing volume of data? Two ways: 1. A trusted resource who intimately knows your operations inside and out when database changes are required. 2. A senior-level, dedicated DBA team to speak with, no matter the time, when a critical issue comes up.

To maximize the value of your DBA partnership, whether it’s in-house or a remote DBA partnership, for your business, it’s necessary to ask some pretty tough questions.

Is your DBA team truly seasoned and thorough?

  • Will your DBA provider provide a dedicated team of remote DBA experts assigned to your organization?
  • How many years of experience does your DBA team have?
  • Will your DBA provider offer an assigned team and backup resources when needed?

Does your DBA team offer...

  • Standard service levels?
  • Different options for custom service levels?
  • Severity levels by incident type?
  • Deep monitoring that can be scaled up or down?
  • Escalation procedures?
  • Backup and recovery service levels?
  • Lights-on and lights-off support hours?

Does your database provider address...

  • Installations?
  • Security patches?
  • Strategic roadmaps?
  • Strategic projects?
  • Cloud strategy?
  • Cloud migrations?
  • Software updates (patch and/or version upgrades)?

Can your DBA provider perform a comprehensive audit of your environment that includes…

  • System architecture?
  • Database software configurations and release levels?
  • Maintenance operations?
  • Proposed remediation plans (for best practices and/or enhancements)?

Can your DBA provider manage space issues specific to your requirements including…

  • Tables?
  • Indexed?
  • Logs?
  • Free space?

Can your DBA provider assist in backup and recovery with well-defined SLAs like…

  • Database backups (simple, bulk logging, and/or full)?
  • Complete recovery?
  • Incomplete recovery (point-in-time and/or transaction-based)?

Can your DBA provider identify and manage performance-tuning opportunities, including…

  • Long-running application requests?
  • Tuning memory usage?
  • Tuning database data storage?
  • Database options, including Big Data technologies?
  • Lock contention?
  • Sorting?
  • Validating table structures?
  • Identify top database resource consumers?

Can your DBA provider maintain all DBA aspects of your environment like…

  • Security maintenance?
  • User ID and role maintenance?
  • Data file maintenance?
  • Integrity checks?
  • Statistics maintenance?
  • Index maintenance?
  • Stored procedure maintenance?
  • Stored job maintenance?

Can your DBA provider maintain all DBA aspects of your environment including…

  • Problem and incident management?
  • Root cause analysis documentation?
  • Proactive bug alerts?
  • Problem analysis support?
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