So you are a business owner or technology manager, and you are wondering why anyone needs to hire a Database Administrator. Maybe you believe your Windows Administrator or other technical team member can install the SQL Server application on a new server instance in just a few minutes – It only takes a few more minutes to install a database and grant the proper user permissions. Most third-party application vendors have simple setup scripts that include database deployments. Why do you need to spend extra money on a salary for a SQL Server Database Administrator (DBA)?
An experienced and effective DBA will do the right thing at the right time. That means a professional DBA will understand the proper configuration and settings used by a database server, and not just accept the default settings when running through the installation wizard. They will understand the risk and reward of the decisions they make in setting up a new server, will know what choices fit best with your environment and intend applications, and will understand how to fix the issue if they turn out to be wrong or as your business requirements change. A professional DBA will have read one or more books on the subject of databases in the last 6 months, have attended user group meeting, actively follows a few blogs on the subject of databases, and can tell you what database features are available that you should be using today. Most people in the field can also explain the network requirements, Windows server setting, and discuss general technology subjects with intelligence.
Who Cares About Your Data?
Your software developers hopefully care about the data. Your third-party software vendors probably care about your data if it can effect their bottom line. Your system administrators and technical team want things running smoothly. A DBA has a real interest in keeping your data clean and healthy. A really good DBA will often say “no”, or “not right now”, or “maybe later” if something is being done without addressing security or performance best practices.
A professional DBA that knows about databases and risk can come across as tough sometimes. When given the chance to explain the details it is usually because they care about the data. Maybe they just don’t want to have to deal with poor decisions causing system issues at 3 am, but it could be they want the best solution for the database users. Either way, you do want someone that will tell you when you are about to do something that could impact your customers, right?
Sometimes a business owner, management team, or business users will appreciate and understand why a DBA can make your decisions more difficult and potentially more expensive. Don’t you want to do the best job possible when developing a solution that will generate revenue, add customers, and create a reliable infrastructure?
Who Cares About Your Users?
A DBA will gauge system performance using facts and system data, but will also factor into that technical equation the feedback they will get from the users of those systems. Facts may indicate the system is performing as expected, but the users may be telling their co-workers and supervisors they are unhappy with system performance or application output. Who is listening to that feedback, matching that to system performance metrics, and developing solutions to address system weaknesses? The usual feedback to the technical team is “it is just too slow” or “just make the system faster”. A professional DBA will know what settings and information to start looking at to determine the issue and the proper tools to use to address the source of the issue. The practice of updating statistics, rebuilding indexes, updating system settings, changing the location of system files, etc. is something best left to a true professional. A DBA will track the available performance information and usually perform scheduled maintenance on the database server and databases to keep things running smoothly, before the user even sees the issue. If you have a DBA, you would have less performance related issues, you wouldn’t have to pay an invoice to a consultant to come in and save the day, and you might save money on not implementing the wrong solution because your non-DBA didn’t understand the true source of a reported issue.
Picture the worse disaster scenario for your business. The customers systems are down, payroll systems aren’t working, hard drives have crashed, etc. How quickly do you want these problems to be resolved? A good DBA has been using industry best practices to reduce errors, has been verifying regular system backups, and has recently practiced a system restore. They are thinking about disaster scenarios, recommending system changes and possible responses to potential system failures, and recommends solutions that show they have thought about the bad things that can happen to good companies.
Do you want to start making telephone calls looking for technical experts during a system failure, or make telephone calls telling everyone that the issue has already been resolved by that really good DBA you hired a few years ago?
How Important Is Your Data?
How much do you rely on your business data? Maybe you use your data for analysis of trends, creating sales forecasts, processing payroll data, reporting sales data to investors, generating customer or partner lists, tracking inventory, or controlling shipping and tracking information. You probably don’t know the technical details about how that data is stored or even how it moves from one system to another. As you look at all the data that makes up your business, what parts are you prepared to lose? What parts of that data don’t have to be 100% accurate?
Ready To Hire A DBA?
Have your learned enough to make a decision? Do you need more examples or do you need to hear some horror stories before you decide to hire a professional to manage your databases?
If you have a couple of database instances and a few internal applications running, you probably have enough work to keep a full-time DBA busy. Maybe you could start smaller and get a part-time consultant or maybe put someone on contract for a few hours a week. Some companies just want someone committed to the business in the event of a major issue, just need an advisor, or if they have few projects they want someone working on a few hours a week. Maybe you want to hire a DBA that can also help with development, or has experience working on general network issues, or even supports users with basic user technology questions when they aren’t working on database issues.
Review a couple of job postings for a position like the one you want to fill, work up a good job description, and call either a consulting company for help or put an ad on the internet job boards. You might need to get someone to help you interview a prospect, and that help can come from consultants that have helped you with database deployments or issues in the past, or even an expert from one of the third-party companies have been selling you database-driven software.