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WHITE PAPERS - Optimizing ROI Via Remote DBA Support

Relational databases are the underpinnings of virtually every modern business enterprise, from small businesses through Fortune 500 companies. They’ve long provided the infrastructure for information storage and management; when they’re functioning optimally, they hum along quietly in the background, supporting players to the enterprise’ core competencies. In recent years, businesses have flocked to the Web, expanding their competitive market reach by establishing a vital internet presence – and the databases that support those enterprises have become dynamic repositories for ever vaster amounts of data. In response, database architecture has necessarily evolved to handle the exponential jump in the volume and type of data handled.

Despite the essentiality of smooth database function, these systems are often taken for granted. They’re a bit like the immune system, in the sense that they are silent powerhouses, toiling invisibly on behalf of an enterprises’ health. Yet ignoring little bobbles in function – sniffles in the database, so to speak – can lead to potentially devastating consequences for both the database and the enterprise it supports.

Enter Database Administrators (DBAs). Experts in database configuration, optimization, and maintenance, DBAs monitor the pulse of an organization’s database system, boost performance, diagnose problems, and operate on and rehabilitate those systems whenever necessary. Adapt at new installation, systems upgrades, and performance tuning, DBAs are also the go-to’s for data analysis and back-ups. And should disaster or data corruption strike, DBAs jump in – like EMTs of the IT world – to drive the recovery efforts. Thanks to the breadth of their knowledge about an organization’s data storage, DBAs are also often called upon to liaise with data architects, applications developers, and end users, and to play a role in network administration and trouble-shooting.

It may seem a given, then, that every enterprise reliant upon databases should have a DBA (or several) on staff. In fact, many mid-size to large businesses do – yet the surprising reality is that often internal DBAs are inefficiently deployed or under-utilized. Generally speaking, at least 40% of a DBA’s workday is spent on repetitive, low-level administrative work. The DBA’s tasks may include checking alert logs, monitoring performance logs, tuning, applying patches, performing upgrades, installing agents, validating the backup and recovery process, following change management procedures, and addressing requests from applications developers, O/S administrators, and end users. While these tasks are critical to database maintenance, and therefore, the support of an organization’s infrastructure, they rarely relate directly to a company’s core revenue – generating competencies. The irony is that while DBAs are invaluable as sets to an organization’s IT support team, the Return on investment (ROI) of relying exclusively on internal DBAs is often poor.

Fortunately, a savvy solution exists with Remote DBA. Companies can better utilize their internal DBAs by allowing them to focus on more strategic, enterprise-specific projects, while outsourcing routine monitoring and maintenance. Smaller operations that were previously unable to support an internal DBA can likewise benefit from cost-effective Remote DBA support. The true beauty of Remote DBA is the degree to which support can be customized for each client, and the host of added benefits the arrangements provides as a matter of course.

Added Value: Realizing ROI through Remote DBA

Greater Oversight:
Whether or not a company employs an internal DBA, Remote DBA support affords the benefit of additional eyes on the database environment. Moreover, the best third party vendors staff their remote teams with senior-level DBAs. That translates to DBA support with deeper, more comprehensive knowledge and troubleshooting precision – at a more competitive price – than ever could be had with a single in-house DBA.

Mentoring Opportunities:
Outsourcing IT development, for example, is often done as a series of discreet projects – a factor that tends to detach vendors from the enterprise. Remote DBA is unique in that the team takes a more dedicated, holistic approach to the client, its systems, and its needs. The remote team necessarily functions as an extension of the in-house staff, and Senior DBAs are uniquely equipped to provide internal employees with training and mentoring. That’s especially valuable for companies adopting new technologies, or for those that employ only junior-level DBAs.

In its 2007 IT Salary and Skills Report, Global Knowledge reported that IT professionals tend to have great concern for developing new skills, and that training opportunities were linked to job satisfaction. That the remote DBA team can potentially provide that training, while freeing in-house DBAs to work on new challenges, is a boon for overall productivity and employee morale.

24x7 Monitoring:
Remote DBA teams have the capacity to provide round-the-clock support. That’s rarely feasible for an enterprise’s in-house staff, both from logistical and cost standpoints. Yet it’s also increasingly necessary, particularly from companies that provide a 24-hour interface with customers via the Web.

Rapid Response and Problem Resolution:
Since Remote DBA programs focus exclusively on administrative support, the response time for user request, performance-related issues, and development support is typically enhanced. Problem resolution is quickly achieved in a 24x7 environment.

Cutting Edge Software, SANs Exorbitant Investment:
Beyond the upfront costs of database monitoring software and licensing fees, there are the hidden costs of employee training in that software, upgrades, and further training when configurations change. Moreover, owning software does not guarantee its optimal use, or protect against its obsolescence.

A better strategy for most companies is to leverage the resources of Remote DBA vendors, for whom maintaining the most state-of-the-art tools makes sense. Plus, precisely because Remote DBAs focus on database management, they maintain sophisticated competency in the optimal use of new software.

Remote DBAs are also in a unique position to advise companies as to when in-house software upgrades truly do make sense, and can configure that software to mesh seamlessly with existing systems.

Detailed Snapshots of Actual Work:
Remote DBA vendors can – and should – provide a detailed account of the work they perform on their client’s systems including case tracking and resolution analysis. Such detailed reports would typically overload the internal DBA, who tends to be pulled in many directions. Yet that to the Remote teams’ concentration on database function and management, such accounting is quite feasible, and provides valuable insight into a company’s overall IT health.

Greater Bang for the IT Budget Buck:
CIOs remain under pressure to reduce costs, or manage challenging budgetary constraints. Compromising on database management is shortsighted; yet retaining in-house DBAs – particularly to handle the more mundane administrative tasks – may not be cost-effective. Outside consultants are rarely the solution – they are expensive, and it is difficult for an individual consultant to master an enterprise’s “big picture” needs, particularly if they are called upon only sporadically for troubleshooting.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, companies can engage an entire team DBAs – including those with senior-level expertise, for significantly less than the cost of an internal DBA. And because Remote DBAs are highly specialized, and have greater exposure to various databases, monitoring programs, and company situations, team members know how to address issues with greater accuracy, and troubleshoot with precision. Less guesswork means less downtime, and fewer unnecessary expenses. And companies gain the time and peace-of-mind to focus on their core revenue – generating competencies.

Hidden Costs of Internal DBA

The Single Point of Failure Risk:
When companies employ just one DBA, that employee becomes the repository for a tremendous amount of information related to all of the enterprise’s data storage. That places an inordinate amount of responsibility on a single person, who cannot afford a single misstep, while drastically reducing the likelihood that other employees could respond effectively to database-related concerns. Issues that occur during a DBA’s single vacation day or extended leave could snowball into emergency situations. The very prospect of a DBA’s permanent departure from a company compounds all single point-of-failure risks.

Lack of Advancement Opportunities:
Because repetitive, yet essential tasks often fall to the internal DBA, management may wish to maintain the status-quo by keeping the DBA in place. But job satisfaction tends to slip for employees whose day-to-day tasks don’t reflect their greater competencies. DBAs who aren’t entrusted with new challenges or the chance to gain new skills will often seek employment elsewhere. Ditto if promotion is nowhere in sight.

Training and Software Expenses:
Companies that do deploy their DBAs to increasingly complex tasks must train them to handle those new responsibilities. Of course, managing all DBA in-house necessitates more frequent software upgrades, which can be quite costly.

The Distraction Factor:
Internal DBAs are generally pulled in many directions by many different departments. Often, the DBA is forced to spend a great deal of time putting figurative band-aids on problems, rather than proactively preventing them. Unfortunately, the less time a DBA can spend on monitoring and maintaining systems, the greater likelihood that problems will escalate.


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