Businesses today generate huge volumes of data. Much of this data can be good to use, with data science allowing companies to discover patterns and trends to better understand and serve their customers. But, before data can be analyzed, it first needs to be organized.
Enter the Database Administrator.
Database Administrators (DBAs) organize and manage data, design and develop databases, archive data, and more. They also may handle maintenance, troubleshooting, security, documentation, and training. Let's take a closer look at each of these responsibilities.
Organizing and managing data
As we mentioned, DBAs organize and prepare data to be used by data science professionals like Data Scientists and Data Analysts. These professionals analyze this data to find trends and make informed predictions to help guide their companies' decision-making. The types of data that fall under a DBA's domain can include purchase histories, financial records, and customer details.
Part of organizing data means setting up databases and making sure they operate efficiently. This often includes modeling and design, which involves collecting user requirements for the models and what's required to feed them.
DBAs also help ensure data is secure. This involves managing access to sensitive information to ensure that only authorized users within a company can see it.
There's more than one way to update a database. It doesn't only mean feeding the latest data into it.
A DBA can update permissions for accessing the database to keep up with personnel changes or changing responsibilities within their company. They may also update the languages and systems used within their databases, check for software updates, or write new SQL code to keep up with the company's needs.
They may also need to review how well the database functions and determine if a completely new system is required. Or, DBAs might adjust a database's functions to align with the insights their company is trying to derive.
Design and development
The design of a database can include several elements, such as:
- Data input and accumulation methods
- Data protocols
- How access permissions are administered
- Checks for data integrity and accuracy
- Backup plans
- Program updates
A DBA has to consider the database users' needs and build conceptual and logical data models that can accomplish them. Even if they're not writing the databases' code, they should still know what effective code looks like and accomplishes.
A DBA should be able to support the development of a database by enabling supporting applications and infrastructure.
To understand this aspect of a DBA's role, you need to understand what archiving is, its purpose, and how it's accomplished.
Archiving finds data that's no longer being actively used, sets it aside, and transfers it out of operational production systems and into long-term storage. This long-term archive storage is set up to retrieve information that's needed again for active operations.
DBAs archive data to keep active operational capacity from being wasted, ensure that information is backed up, and make all operations more productive and efficient.
Last but not least, DBAs ensure maximized use of cloud resources and that the most expensive infrastructure and data management systems are used for current, active operations, rather than being wasted on stale, unnecessary data.
Maintenance and troubleshooting
Database maintenance includes performing routine tests and making modifications to ensure the database works correctly and performs well.
To fulfill maintenance responsibilities, DBAs should know and understand these complex database systems. DBAs have to understand what to look for in both software programs and hardware to troubleshoot issues, and when they spot the issue, they know how to correct it.
Maintaining databases involves several regular tasks for a DBA, such as:
- Periodic back-ups.
- Monitoring operational elements like transaction rollbacks, disk space, and violation of system constraints.
- Avoiding interruptions of applications.
DBAs also have a working knowledge of the SQL programming language. This allows them to resolve problems by correcting errors or issues in the SQL code itself.
DBAs protect the integrity and security of their companies' information. This can include elements of cybersecurity when databases are accessed remotely or through the internet. Data privacy is also a security issue for DBAs.
Some of a DBA's security-related tasks include:
- Anticipating, finding, and correcting problems.
- Educating colleagues on security aspects of data.
- Putting proactive measures in place at every level of a company.
- Collaborating with management on plans.
- Staying up to date on technology advances that serve security functions.
Of course, team members in other departments can't do very much with a database if there's no guide for its use. DBAs create database documentation, so end-users know what they're working with.
Database documentation describes the database, the data within, how it's used, its sources, and what applications it can support. It also holds operational information such as:
- How authorized users are identified.
- How the database may be accessed.
- How the database can be restarted or recovered if necessary.
Documentation is a prerequisite for this last element of the work that DBAs do. DBAs help train their colleagues on what they need to know to work with databases.
Database documentation or guides are a reference for building training courses. DBAs' team members need to be trained to understand database concepts, data availability, how to enter data, how to execute queries in a database, and how to generate reports from a database.
DBAs tailor training programs to the needs and responsibilities of those taking the courses. DBAs may also need to document when people have completed training and understand the concepts they need to know.
DBAs: Professionals with broad responsibilities
As you've now learned, DBAs have a lot on their plates. Not only are they designing, building, and maintaining databases, they also deal with peripheral issues. This includes working with colleagues, end-users, and management to make sure they know what they need to know to work with a database. That's why DBA salaries are so competitive.
Database administration can be a rewarding job in that it offers a variety of challenges and functions to master. The importance and reach of data in business operations mean the DBA is now a crucial role in many companies.