Free to Be the Best DBA You Can Be

Free to Be the Best DBA You Can Be

The other day I was catching up with a long-time friend and excellent Oracle DBA.  She was frustrated with how management rarely sees the strategic role she needs to play in helping them make smart decisions surrounding the future of the company’s data. Management clearly recognizes the value of the data itself, but often overlooks the value of the people charged with its management. She continues to be stressed with emergencies that prevent her from enacting the strategic ideas needed to prevent those emergencies.  

As we talked, a common theme bubbled up: how do we get the most value from our DBAs, especially in a large or growing environment? In a way, how can you be the Best DBA you can be?

Expert Help Makes a Difference

While there are tons of DBA best practices, tips, tricks, habits, and scripts, the one thing that moves the needle the most is allowing the DBA to have some expert help. The job is overwhelming and can have moments of significant stress. To successfully pull it off, our DBAs need help. In more than 20 years of working in this industry, the most significant tip/trick/best practice for DBAs that I have seen is bringing in a third party Database Managed Service Provider (DBMSP) to handle the mundane, day-to-day tasks, freeing up the DBA to fulfill a critical strategic role for the company with a clear and well-rested mind. On top of that, veteran DBMSPs bring with them all those best practices, tips, tricks, habits, and scripts that improve efficiency for the whole team.

Database managed services is an expert team of DBAs that is available 24/7 to tackle the day-to-day needs and extinguish emergencies at a fraction of the cost of adding another full-time DBA. DBMSPs add depth and experience giving the existing DBAs:

  • A seasoned team of experts to kick ideas around with 
  • A competent team to handle on-call 
  • Trusted resources to delegate tasks

The result of the DBMSP taking on maintenance is that your company’s DBAs are well-rested, more confident, less stressed, and ready to play the key strategic role of database architect, designer, and builder.

Put Out Fewer Fires with Fire Prevention Best Practices

In some ways, bringing in a DBMSP is counterintuitive to what DBAs and management have been trained to think for many years. Many companies still consider a DBMSP as a sign that the existing DBAs are not good enough, fast enough, smart enough, etc. But in many shops, there is just no way, without help, that any DBA can live up to those expectations. And, it misses the point of the job and the opportunity to improve. 

If we look at DBAs as fire-fighters that need to be ready for battle 24/7, we are setting ourselves up for trouble. We cannot allow the people charged with protecting our one irreplaceable corporate asset (our data) to become tired, stressed, and sloppy. I have seen the ramifications literally put companies out of business. Yes, there is work that is not firefighting, but it’s the pain of the fire that traditionally incentivizes management to invest in the position. 

Because this investment is often born from the ashes, management thinks about fire prevention as adding technology and/or DBAs. While that is not necessarily wrong, the opportunity is often missed to consider bringing in a DBMSP to help improve everything while preventing fires and becoming more strategic.

There are many tasks that a DBA or DBA Team can hand off to a DBMSP to be freed up to be more proactive and strategic. The most common are:

Tasks easily handed off to a Database MSPTasks that stay with the in-house DBA 
(but with an expert available to run ideas by)
Tasks the DBA can now do because they have help
Day to Day monitoring of jobs, performance, backups, replication, etc.Database architecture planning and improvementsDatabase licensing management
Manage and respond to alertsDeveloping and improving SQLPro-active investigation and management of data growth
Research (problems, best practices, new DB features/functionality, etc.)Managing existing database securityData archival and purging
Opening and managing tickets with the DB VendorDatabase consolidation projectsPro-active investigation and management of performance degradation over time
Script maintenance and managementDatabase Cloud projectsExploring new ways to capitalize on existing data
Routine patching (security patches)Data warehouse and BI projectsExploring ways to improve overall system efficiencies by improving database architecture and jobs
Data refreshesReviewing new DB versions and features, and implications to the existing environmentFocus on aligning the database to meet new business needs
Database upgradesAttend DB training sessionsFocus on database security enhancements
DB role and user managementFocus on high availability and DRStrategic planning for Cloud migrations and hardware refreshes
Expand database and related skill sets  (security, networking, Storage, replication, clustering, cloud, etc.)

Cost and ROI

The cost of adding a DBMSP is often much less than the cost of adding another seasoned DBA. But, instead of just adding a single DBA, you are adding a team of experts that can cover on-call shifts, vacations, emergencies, and can jump in to help with an unexpected spike in workload.

The Best DBAs Have Help

The DBA is one of the few jobs where housekeeping and house building are intimately linked. The person putting out fires knows more about where they start and how to prevent them than anyone else. Therefore, it is beneficial for them to have a key role in database architecting, planning, and design. When they do, everything runs better, and companies can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in database licenses, hardware, other software, and resources because they are able to do more with less. But often, they can’t get to those strategic game changers without help.