To understand what a Database Administrator (DBA) is, we first need to know what a database is.

A database is basically a data archive structured to store and organize information, allowing for complex searches. 

A database administrator (known as DBA) has the responsibility to set up, configure, organize, and manage all data storage systems. They also provide server maintenance and monitor performance and overall reliability. Managing a database includes collecting, sorting, storing, and protecting data, as well as making it accessible only to authorized users.

The DBA also works with programmers and software developers in the design and optimization of databases, organizing both the back-end and controlling access privileges. Many applications used to provide services or to uphold the company’s processes require the proper functioning of the databases. Therefore, monitoring, detection, and (fingers crossed) troubleshooting by a database administrator are essential. 

Failing to properly manage databases can slow down operations or cause undesired incidents that leave a negative impact on the business, including: service downtime, loss of data, security breaches, and workload malfunctions. This can lead to loss of revenue and customers’ confidence, damaging the brand.

Summing up, a DBA ensures fluid and continuous access to the data within the business’ databases. Most organizations use at least one DBMS (Database Management Systems). The larger the organization, most likely it will need more DBAs.

Why companies will need more DBAs

Organizations are now gaining more data from their environment and leveraging it towards actionable business insights. They need professionals to help them organize, model, and process this never-ending cascade of information. In a hyper-connected world, this trend can only grow in importance.

The volume of data grows steadily. The role of database administrator has attractive prospects, with low unemployment rates, current and projected. Companies cannot get enough of them to organize data.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, data analysts and database administrator jobs will grow 8% in this decade. In May 2020, the median annual wage was $98,860. Typically, they hold a degree in computer science and IT or a related field.

An entry-level database administrator can find work in many industries: education, healthcare, public sector, financial and insurance services, IT… In a few words, career opportunities abound in any organization that collects, processes, and stores large amounts of data. DBAs can also function as consultants and freelancers. Usually, they can work remotely.

What tasks does a DBA perform?

There are many kinds of database administrators, depending on which area they focus their efforts on. The most common is the archetypic DBA, who is in charge of everything related to databases in their organization, from database design to overseeing performance.

Typical roles may include DBA architect, system DBA, application DBA, performance tuning DBA, task-oriented DBA, data warehouse administrator, cloud DBA or database analyst.

Usually, a database administrator will focus on the following tasks:

  • Design and Set Up. Evaluate the available technologies and choose the most suitable for the company’s needs. Then, set up, configure, and update the database system.
  • Health Check. Analyze the overall health status of the database so they can optimize performance.
  • Monitoring and Maintenance. Keep the infrastructure under control through tests and analysis, to guarantee a timely intervention when necessary.
  • Tuning. Optimize the system’s performance for the objectives set, especially to cope with increasingly extensive sets of data.
  • Backup. Establish protocols for data recovery and create contingency plans in case of malfunctions and unexpected events.
  • Security. Enable security measures to ensure protection from data breaches, unauthorized changes, and similar risks.
  • Privacy. Data regulations provide clear rules for storing, using, and protecting personal and professional data.

What competencies does a DBA need?

DBAs need to be familiar with relational databases, such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, and with non-relational ones (known as NoSQL), including MongoDB, Redis, and Cassandra. They should be able to manage databases on different operating systems and have knowledge of programming and coding languages, frameworks, and development environments. Often, companies work with a preferred DBMS and may require specific certifications or previous relevant professional experience from a DBA.

Some other common skills companies look for in a DBA are the following:

  • Analytical skills, attention to detail, and problem-solving.
  • Good communication and teamwork.
  • Knowledge of technical English.
  • Flexibility and organization.
  • Ability to work under pressure while meeting deadlines.
  • Knowledge of data protection regulations.

Are database administrator certifications helpful? Yes. At the same time, some companies will place higher value on a DBA’s practical experience or their knowledge of a certain DMBS.

The DBA in the cloud era

Organizations are always looking for agile tools that can ensure simple and fast management of large amounts of data. Many have started, in recent years, to approach cloud databases, i.e., moving their data infrastructure to the cloud. 

Companies are shifting from traditional data centers into a hybrid-cloud model, especially as the service offering widens. Infrastructure and operations can now benefit from new cloud-based developments capable of wonders unheard-of just a few years back. According to Forrester, the cloud infrastructure business will increase by 35% in 2021, up to US$120 billion.

This recent report by Canalys shows AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud accounting for 60% of the global cloud service market. “Over a year into the pandemic, digital adoption curves aren’t slowing down,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. The Cupertino tech giant is well aware of the brilliant future ahead for the “Intelligent Cloud” and constantly provides new features and updates for Azure.

The latest cloud computing trends show that policies aimed at migrating data to the cloud are a top priority for companies. Forbes said in 2019 that by 2025, at least 80 percent of a company’s workload will shift to the cloud.

Are DBAs necessary with cloud databases?

The answer is yes, but the role and responsibilities of the DBA will change. The job of the DBA is transforming data quickly, something that the cloud has certainly helped speed up. While the role of the DBA will not disappear anytime soon, it will need to be integrated into this new paradigm. Professionals should be mindful of keeping up with new trends.

Database as a Service (DBaaS) means that users do not have to install and maintain the system. However, companies will still need someone to identify the database type and the version that can meet best the specific requirements of a company. In this respect, the role of the Database Administrator will remain fundamental.

Some common tasks assigned to a cloud DBA may be the following:

  • Data migration. Assessment of the cost and time of transfer, as well as detailed planning of all steps for migration to the cloud
  • Security. Keeping the data encryption mechanism in place, enacting appropriate measures.
  • Performance. Safeguarding database performance while keeping costs under control.
  • Backup. Define a disaster recovery plan to minimize information loss and recovery time.
  • Costs. Checking consumption and alternative resources available, to avoid wasting money: pay only for what you need, when you need it. 

Does your company need external DBA support?

Finally, depending on the needs of your business, one (or even several) DBAs may not be enough for your organization. Maybe you want to scale up operations, but your team has their hands full with regular chores and monotonous daily tasks.

Or you might need a very precise knowledge your team lacks, either to fix and prevent unwanted incidents, detect bottlenecks, or work within dynamic cloud environments in constant evolution. Licensing can be tricky sometimes for cloud-based or hybrid data platforms. In situations like these, outsourced expertise can be helpful to save money and optimize performance.

By backing up your IT team with expert assistance, external support for database management can make a significant difference in your business. Some companies would rather trust their server instances and databases to DBA as a Service providers, totally or partially, so their DBA team can focus on more productive tasks.

Nowadays, many service providers offer 24/7 monitoring and quick troubleshooting, relieving your DBA team from monitoring the data platform during the night or on weekends, keeping them fresh to stay sharp and walk the extra mile.

Lucient is one of these companies, providing DBAaaS and much more through our Guardian service. If we can offer you our support or you simply want to know how we can take care and improve leverage of your data platform, contact us and we will get back to you ASAP.