The Five Best Habits of Successful Database Administrators

by Analytics Insight

December 7, 2021

This article features the five best habits of successful database administrators


DBAs (Database Administrators) are the gatekeepers of the most important asset a business can have: data.

A data breach can open the doors to the theft of passwords, bank accounts, classified communications, not to mention ransomware attacks, and corporate espionage.

Without the proper disaster recovery procedures in place, a database crash could lead to the permanent loss of data that would be impossible to fix.

The cost of a data breach or database crash is immeasurable and quite possibly detrimental. It can break your business.

The DBA’s mission is to maintain the safety and reliability of the information your business needs to survive and thrive.

The DBA is your first and last line of defense against a long list of threats.

To protect your data effectively, a DBA looks at security from several angles: where your data is stored (cloud or device), whether or not it is encrypted using what algorithm and at what level, who has access to which parts of the data, how modifications to the data are recorded, and finally what security systems and protocols are in place.

In other words, there are what safety-related habits your company implements needs.

These habits may seem unnecessary, excessive, or burdensome in times of “peace,” but a single failed attack on your defenses suffices to prove their value.

So successfully fending off an attacker is proof that your DBA has done an excellent job.

So what are these habits? First, let’s look at the best security practices a good DBA should have in his defense armory.


1. Start With Context: Be Aware of The Role of Data in The Company

Understanding the role and nature of the data stored in a company’s database is the foundation for deciding storage, access, and workload requirements.

This means answering questions like “when are different types of data used, and by whom?”, “who needs access to what data, and at what level?” and “how is the data stored in the database used, especially with regard to the company’s commercial operations?”

Ultimately, like everyone else in the organization, the DBA’s supreme mission is to drive that organization’s success. Data plays a crucial role in this, and the DBA’s job is to connect that data to successful commerce.


2. Make It Yours: Customize Your Database For Your Business

Databases come with default settings that enable non-specialized customers to install and run them without facing crashes or other incidents that undermine the user experience.

This means that the default settings of a new database are far from optimal for your company.

They’re for everyone and anyone, and it’s the job of the DBA to customize the features of a database solution for their company’s needs.

They have to look at throughput, I/O speed, workload, levels of parallelism, and performance requirements and match the settings to them.

Customization is not something that has to be done only when a database is first deployed. However, as a business grows and changes, data and database requirements also evolve and require constant customization.


3. Preventive Maintenance: Keep The Engine Running

Preventive maintenance takes time, which is why DBAs often skip it when more significant priorities force it.

Preventative maintenance involves backup and restores tests and corruption checks, fragmentation maintenance, and indexation maintenance. In addition, many maintenance tasks can be automated, saving time and effort.

One crucial preventive maintenance habit involves regular disaster recovery drills with a full database backup and recovery test. With requirements that specific types of data be recoverable for several years, international data compliance laws also necessitate preventive maintenance tests.

It’s essential to verify that your company’s data can be fully restored in various disaster scenarios and do so at regular intervals, at least twice a year.

Another critical aspect of preventive maintenance is the methodology, or what to do in case of trouble. Putting clearly-defined procedures and checklists in place for various disaster scenarios and then testing and improving them is a sure sign of a DBA who knows his job.


4. Access Controls: Choose Who Gets Access to What

Access and controlling it is a question of security, privilege, and workload. It is also the cornerstone of an effective relationship between data and the growth of your business.

Granting and managing just enough access (lowest level of permissions) to only the right people is a key task for a professional DBA and vital to the proper functioning of your business. Grant has too little access, and nothing works. Grant too much, and you lose control.

Developers often demand (and get) administrative privileges for faster development and debugging, but this creates risks of independent and unexpected changes being made that could lead to chaos, database corruption, data exposure, and data theft or loss if left unchecked.


5. Ongoing Battle: Make Everyone Part of The Data Security Picture

The battle between hackers and data protectors is an evolving one. As hackers become more and more sophisticated, so do the security systems installed to protect a company’s data.

This means that a responsible DBA has a responsibility not just to keep up with new security features and methods as they appear on the market but to create a system that ensures the highest level of awareness within the company.

This is because one vital aspect of database security is being clear about who is responsible for it. It’s not just the DBA who has exclusive responsibility. Everyone in the company plays their part in keeping critical data out of the reach of hackers.

From senior executives carrying vital information around on flash drives that can easily be misplaced to developers failing to build the proper defenses into the system, everyone is responsible for data security.

In this context, the DBAs responsibility is to raise security awareness and create and assign the proper security procedures and do’s and don’ts for everyone in the company to follow, depending on their role.

Once a disaster occurs, and data is lost, the damage is irreparable, and DBAs can do nothing afterward to compensate for the loss or reverse it. Therefore, it pays to make everyone part of the data security picture at all times.

An example of a secure tool for DBA is Embarcadero InterBase, which is a powerful database engine. The program is zero administration and minor, which can feed servers as an integrated database even to mobile devices.


6. Bonus: Keep a Close Eye on Workload

Monitoring database activity, workload, and overall performance during peak usage times could easily be overlooked but shouldn’t.

Performance-conscious DBA’s gather statistics about database performance, create a picture of average and peak workload requirements, and identify ways to make a database perform at optimal levels.

As your business grows, the demands on storage, CPU utilization, and I/O will change.

Keeping a close eye on database workload and measuring performance at regular intervals will help you make intelligent decisions about growing and managing the databases you work with.


Conclusion: Data Security is Everyone’s Business

As a DBA, you are entrusted with guarding the gates to your company’s data. Besides installing security features and customizing the elements of your database, the essential part of being a successful DBA is realizing that data security is everyone’s business.

One careless employee will negate all security guidelines and measures, however sophisticated.

Therefore, by raising security awareness within your company, restricting access based on roles and requirements, and putting in place procedures and benchmarks to measure performance and safety, you will be doing the best that a successful and conscientious DBA can do for their company.

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