4 paths to the heart of complex database management

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

4 paths to the heart of complex database management

It goes without saying that it can be tough to get a good handle on government agencies’ increasingly complex database environments. Today, federal database administrators are in charge of everything from traditional systems to multiple cloud-based and on-premise solutions. DBAs are like the central nervous system of the human body -- they are in charge of disseminating information throughout the entire agency.

That’s a big responsibility, and things are not going to get much easier anytime soon. The amount of data will skyrocket, and concerns surrounding security, efficiency and cost will continue.

So much to consider in an eight-hour day. (Come on, one can wish, right?) Fortunately, there are a few ways DBAs can reduce headaches and database management complexities.

1. Make sure that everything is on the same page, especially when it comes to application response times.

In order to streamline processes, it’s vitally important to ensure that all databases have a common set of goals, metrics and service-level agreements. These goals should be based on acceptable application response times, which may vary depending on unique agency or mission needs. A three-second response time might be  acceptable for one agency, while another workplace might require two seconds or less.

Work with management to determine appropriate response times for the various database application, and then implement the solutions that can deliver on that agreement. Choosing the correct solution is critically important, as the database is typically the foundation of application delivery within the agency. If applications aren’t responsive, the databases aren’t doing their jobs, and productivity and uptime could be significantly impacted, affecting the delivery of the agency’s mission.

2. Carefully document your processes and implement log and event management.

To help keep a close eye on all of the data that’s passing through a network and to ensure its security, establish a documentation system. Begin by documenting a consistent set of processes for database backup and restore, data encryption (for data both at rest and in transit), detection of anomalies and potential security threats.

Consider implementing automated log and event management tools that will send alerts when it spots any suspicious activity in the log data. By doing so, you’ll be able to identify potential incidents and respond to them in a timely manner -- before they impact and expose agency data. In many cases you’ll also be able to remotely block certain devices from accessing data -- USBs, for example -- and automatically kill suspicious applications.

3. Reduce workload costs by planning ahead.

There are so many articles about how to move to the cloud that your eyes themselves are clouding over. Don’t worry, though; I’m not going to talk about that here. However, if you are considering moving to the cloud, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

First, before making the move, carefully map out a strategy and establish guidelines. Be sure to deploy on a certified platform, and plan everything to ensure that the transition is seamless and does not adversely impact performance or create unnecessary downtime.

Second, consider moving to cloud solutions with lower licensing costs or to open source software, which is often less expensive than proprietary technology. Remember that the goal of a DBA is not only to help provide colleagues with better, faster and more secure data access, it’s also to help save the agency money.

4. Keep things in perspective so you don’t go crazy.

No one said database administration was going to be easy. Government data is a tough business, and it’s only going to get tougher.

But, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Think of it: DBAs are the foundation of everything that happens in the agency. They control where the information goes, whether or not critical applications are working properly and, in effect, how effectively the agency completes its mission.

Forget about being the nerve center of agency operations: you’re the heart of it all. Yes, a DBA’s role is extremely complex. But making a few simple adjustments can reduce that complexity, ensuring that information keeps pumping and the agency’s vital operations stay healthy.

About the Author

Joel Dolisy is the CIO at SolarWinds.

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