Jidaw Systems
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To DBA or NOT To DBA

Who is a DBA? Many people who are interested in IT careers often talk about becoming a DBA. This is no surprise as the demand for DBAs continues to rise. But while interest is quite high do many really know what being a DBA entails?

To some it's just about getting a DBA certification. For most, it is simply a bad case of "joining the bandwagon". 

Let's start by taking a look at databases and DBAs.

 

 

What is a DBA? The Why of Databases

What is a DBA? What does a DBA do? The term, DBA refers to the Database Administrator. A database is a collection of information that's related to a particular function or purpose. In its simplest form, your contact information kept in a file on your system is a database. We will not dwell much on databases here but it is important to understand what drives the demand for DBAs. A key requirement of modern IT infrastructure is secure and timely access to and storage of vital data. The most reliable, time-tested method of storing electronic data is inside a database. 
Databases are needed by organizations that store and use information, irrespective of location or industry. And in today's knowledge-driven economy useful and timely access to information makes the difference. Why use databases is like asking why electricity is useful. Is there any industry or business that doesn't depend on information? The aim of databases is to aid the generation and the exploitation of knowledge in a reliable and cost-effective manner. 

How would banks survive without databases on customers and financial transactions? E-business sites use databases to track orders and inventory. Telecom operators can't do without databases if they must keep track of accounting and subscriber information. Airlines, airports depend on databases.  

The most popular database products are from Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, MySQL and Sybase. Oracle is the market leader in the database market followed by Microsoft SQL Server. And from the open source scene, MySQL is making impressive impact in the database world.

So what does a DBA do? DBAs are regarded as "those professionals who organize information in a meaningful way so it can be easily maintained, retrieved and updated". DBAs ensure that data produces and delivers real business value. The role of the database administrator is very important in an organization. Though the role can be quite complex, let us identify the core functions. 

Database Implementation and Design

A critical duty of the DBA is designing databases for maximal performance, scalability, flexibility, and reliability. A well-designed and implemented database justifies the database investment. In this regard, the DBA is responsible for installing new DBMS and upgrading existing DBMS. The DBA must be conversant with installation and upgrade issues, i.e. problems, requirements, etc.

Performance Monitoring and Tuning

A DBA must make sure databases are fast and responsive. A slow response database is usually indicative of poor system performance -something is wrong somewhere. The DBA monitors the state of the database for optimal performance and the error log or event log is also monitored for database errors. Poorly tuned databases are frustrating to use - they tend to add more stress than value. Monitoring is essential to assess the state of the database and tune accordingly.

Availability, Backup and Recovery

To many in the IT industry, the most important job of the DBA is that of availability, backup and recovery of data. Because of the value placed on electronic data, the database must be protected from all forms of failure -hardware, software, and human. A DBA maintains the information an organization needs to be successful. In the DBA world, "nothing else matters if your database can't be recovered".

Availability means data must be available to all who need it when they need it. What is the use of having a great, functional database if half of the time, it is inaccessible due to one failure or the other. A database only has value when it is available. If data is not available, the business stops functioning. Imagine the impact this will have on a bank that can't have access to customers' balances. A DBA must be equipped to eliminate and reduce outages -planned and unplanned. Since not all failure can be predicted, the DBA needs to implement recovery procedures that will reduce downtime associated with failure.

User and Data Security

The DBA is responsible for security management. DBA work must be grounded in the fundamentals of IT security. Security must be designed into the database and applications. This involves assigning users to databases and determining the proper security level for each user. To make sure data is secure rigorous security schemes are required for production and test databases.

Working with Developers and Network Administrators

DBAs need to work closely with members of the technical team to ensure high, overall database performance. For instance, there is an increasing overlap between the functions of the DBA and the developer. DBAs also work with network administrators who run the servers on which their databases reside. In fact quite a few DBAs initially start out as programmers or network system administrators. DBAs and developers especially have to work as a team in areas such as design, debugging, implementing and tuning of queries, triggers and stored procedures that are stored in the DBMS. Today's databases do not just store data. They store stored procedures, triggers and user-defined functions, which are processes that act upon that data.

What have been highlighted are major functions of a DBA. It should be evident that the role of the database administrator is very important in an organization. 

Success as a DBA

To succeed as a DBA, organizational skills are essential. It is a promising field for people who love planning and paying attention to details. Do you love details and planning? 

Working with developers and Network administrators means you should have excellent interpersonal and communications skills. Teamwork and team building skills are essential. How do you motivate other members of the team? How do you provide leadership? DBAs maintain the information the organization needs to be successful. Do you have a clear business understanding of what the database systems are meant to achieve? 

Also it helps to have an open mind. All databases and systems are not the same and there are many different ways of doing things. Often there is no single answer to a given question. There are best practices and standards you must adhere to, but you must also be creative and flexible in dealing with situations. Solving situation A may require you to think differently from the way you solved situation B. Nothing is cast in stone. There is no box of absolutes!

In addition as the DBA, you should recognize that the database is your responsibility. This requires leadership and the pursuit of excellence on your part, by being an advocate for best practices and good design. In this respect and due to the functions of DBAs in the technical team, DBAs are often involved in IT management and key aspects of Project management.

Knowledge and Certification 

If your aim is to become a database administrator, you need to understand the underlying concepts of database. You need to understand concepts like Tables, Views, Queries, Primary Keys, Foreign Keys, Types of Indexes, Columns and the different data types. Then you'll need to learn concepts of tablespaces, partitions, stored procedures, packages and functions, business objects, etc.

A programming background is helpful. Any programming knowledge is highly recommended but query language knowledge (PL/SQL or MS-SQL) is a must for a DBA. You need to know how to actually talk to the database. Knowledge of Visual Basic is a definite plus.
Get books, read magazines, use Internet resources, participate in DBA related forums and news groups and start from there. Attend Formal training courses. Also visit relevant websites and talk with practicing DBAs. Look for opportunities to practice. And your interest or quest will motivate you to pursue more once you have some grasps of the basics and concepts.

While Oracle's DBA and Microsoft's MCDBA are still leaders for database certifications, MySQL Core Certification is establishing itself as a valued credential.

However, though certification is important, just like the software development community, premium is placed on work experience as a programmer or network/systems administrator first. Most DBA certifications are usually middle level to advanced level certifications. With the increasing competition for DBA opportunities, having a certification could give qualified candidates an edge.
Project management training and certifications () are also important for experienced and growing DBAs.

Other Issues

  • There is a future for most in-demand IT professions, some however lend themselves faster to opportunities for newcomers than others. In that light, your knowledge choices should also depend on opportunities at your disposal. For example, investing in DBA knowledge and certification expertise could be great as a newcomer, if you already have a job as a junior database administrator. However, by the same token, while having an Oracle DBA qualification equips you with useful knowledge, you can only apply what you have acquired in an environment that has Oracle database installed, or with organizations that support Oracle installations. 
  • There is a rush for certification, but please get the picture clear. There is a need to strike the right balance between certification and your expectations. Certification is no substitute for experience, but it's better than nothing. But be realistic: while certification may confer advantage, it doesn't guarantee anything. You therefore need to make sure you examine opportunities for work experience as well. Can you retain what you have learned without having the opportunity to practice it? Are you just getting certified so as to have something?
  • More opportunities exist for experienced DBAs or programmers than for entry level DBAs. Since DBAs are responsible for an organization's critical asset -- data -- they tend to prefer those with some degree of experience. Typically, even the junior DBA will already have some IT experience, either as a developer or as a system administrator.
  • Application Developer or Database Administrator? This issue always comes up in assessing Database career options. There is a need for DBAs as well as Application Developers. It depends on where your passions lie. An application developer is more of a business analyst / software developer while the DBA as described above is more of a data facilitator - making sure data is secure, available and used productively. Click to Learn more about the differences

Future

The industry including the Database scene is moving toward more automation. For example, Oracle's latest release 10g has RAC, automated storage management, ADDM, Enterprise Manager, grid control, and many other advanced features. DBAs will have to shift focus to more business matters than just technical administration. The focus will be on how to add business value. With more and more complex systems, the creativity of the DBA is essential. 

These advances in technology underline the growing and continuing need to take advantage of opportunities in the knowledge world. There is in addition, a need to eliminate the inefficiencies and increasing management and administrative costs associated with business. This existing and foreseeable demand in the database market sustains the need for DBAs. And trends indicate that DBA expertise will continue to be valuable in the years ahead. 

Conclusion 

Becoming a DBA involves more than getting a certification. It requires intensive study, constant learning, practice and most importantly the creation of opportunities for work experience. Furthermore, you must have the right attitude and personality to handle the tasks described earlier. Focus on what works and what matters. Have a passion for learning the DBA substance mentioned earlier and keep on learning. Have an open, enquiring mind. 

There are prospects in the database field just like in any other field but it all depends on your perspective and situation. Do you have the background? Do you have the interest? What opportunities for education and experience are available to you? Can you face the challenges? The choice is yours: to DBA or not to DBA?

I wish you all the best in your IT Career, 

Jide Awe

Jide Awe is the Founder of Jidaw.com (http://www.jidaw.com)   

 What Do you Have to Say? Post Your Comments about this article Here 

Comments

 

May 7, 2010

 

David Adekunle of New York, USA says 

 

 

Great article and very informative. I'm looking to get my certs in 10g or 11g, and was looking for info in this regard. Your article shed some light as to what I should be doing.

 

 

November 27, 2008

 

Farinmade Stephen Adedayo of Lagos, Nigeria says 

 

 

I really appreciate your Article on DBA/DB Application. I have Bsc. Economics together with OCA Certificate, I needed to work in a place where i can practice proper DB, Thank you and God bless.

 

 

October 9, 2008

 

John-Mark Unongo of Kano, Nigeria says 

 

 

Your articles are really eye opening with them as your guide through the vast world of IT you cant really miss out on what you want. KEEP THE GOOD WORK.

 

 

September 15, 2008

 

Terri of Michigan, USA says 

 

 

Thank you very much for this article, as a DBT student, I know have a clearer insight on the field of DBAs and required certs.

 

 

September 1, 2008

 

Johnny of Mississippi, USA says 

 

 

Thank you very much for this article. It gave me a lot of information.

 

 

August 7, 2008

 

Simon O. Ainoko of Abuja, Nigeria says 

 

 

Mr. Jidaw, It seems this very article is posted only to me, because it has given me all information I want. The next step is to run to any of the accredited centre and enroll immediately.

 

 

June 25, 2008

 

Phumeza in Durban, South Africa says 

 

 

Very informative, precisely every information I was looking for. I have made my mind of whether to become DBA or Not! Thanks a lot.

 

 

June 11, 2008

 

M. Sivashankar in Hyderabad, India says 

 

 

I was really impressed with your article.

 

 

June 5, 2008

 

Reddy in Texas, USA says 

 

 

It's awesome. After reading this i came to know what exactly DBA means and what it requires to be one.

 

 

May 22, 2008

 

Ifiok in Kaduna, Nigeria says 

 

 

It is just as true as you made it out. As a certified DBA1, I am determined to be on the lead with all integrity. Information is power and DBAs are not left out. Thanks.

 

 

April 21, 2008

 

Chibueze in Lagos, Nigeria says 

 

 

I'm impressed. I consider the article a balanced Overview, concise and pleasantly presented.

 

 

November 29, 2007

 

VINOTH KUMAR of FIDELITY, CHENNAI, India says 

 

 

Simply one word!!! SUPERB.

 

 

November 27, 2007

 

LC of Joliet Illinois says 

 

 

Very informative article. This has really helped in my decision on becoming a DBA.

 

August 19, 2007

 

Subu of INDIA, @ ORACLE,
Bangalore says 

 

 

Really superb. It gives you the real insight of what a dba is. It was presented well to people who pursue a career in this and for people wanting to pursue a career in this area of expertise. As you told what really matters is whether you have the time to implement what you have learnt at work. Most DBA's have a specific task and few have the oppurtunity to work in what all they have learnt. Opportunity at work is most important than learning.
Good form, keep updating this.

 

July 28, 2007

 

Hardeesh Kapula of Toronto, Canada says 

 

 

Can't thank you enough for this article and also for Difference between Oracle DBA and Oracle Developer. I am an OCA and preparing for OCP. Hoping to get a break in the industry.....

 

July 13, 2007

 

Sherene Long says 

 

 

Just finished reading the article to DBA or not and I was just curious. Is it realistic for me to believe I will get an entry level job as a DBA once I finish my courses. I plan on obtaining an associates degree in database management or should I go for a networking degree instead. Please some advise.

 

July 12, 2007

 

Philippe Lasm from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, West Africa says 

 

 

This the most explicit summarized DBA job document I've ever read in my starting oracle DBA career.

I am looking for a junior position in the local companies running oracle. People are impressed to my c.v at the first sight and give me a call to chat about it, but so far only one real interview. I've had no feedback yet. It may be a problem somewhere. I keep hope anyway.

 

July 8, 2007

 

Nitesh  from Mumbai, India says 

 

Wonderful!

 

June 7, 2007

 

Adepoju Taiwo from Olori Estate. Alimosho, Lagos says 

 

 

This piece is explicit. It's inspiring and must to raead for unstoppable achievements in the certification world especially in database administration.

 

May 8, 2007

 

Javeddildar from upe Jeddah, KSA says 

 

 

Well, it was informative, and supportive and was simple and good. and gave the inspiration for the youngster to go and get the knowledge.

 

Mar 30, 2007

 

Victor from DDD Computer Institute, Ilasamaja. Lagos says 

 

 

Thanks for your article. It is like a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path in the area of IT especially Database. I appreciate your concern. God bless you and keep up the good work. Hope to see you someday. 

 

Mar 28, 2007

 

Mikhail Ola' Adisa from Abesan Estate, Ipaja Lagos says 

 

 

Many thanks for an inspirational and an eye opening article. I just got my OCA certification early this month and I discovered that is not is just all, more still need to be done, more practicals, more reading and total dedication to the challenges ahead. I'm still in school but I hope that articles like this will help prepare a new comer like me for the future challenges of a DBA. Thanks so much for this wonderful article. I expect to read more from you. 

 

Mar 23, 2007

 

Wole from Trinidad and Tobago says 

 

 

Hi Jide, I am really inpressed with this great article. I would have loved to know you in person, and also to give my own part of contribution. please keep up the good work. I'm very sure you would have helped one or two up coming guys out there. 

 

 

Mar 3, 2007

 

STANLY JOHNSON from India says 

 

SIMPLE AND UNDERSTANDABLE. It is a nice article that you have presented to those who have aspirance in Database. 

 

 

Nov 2, 2006

 

Jidaw Systems 

 

Thanks for the observation. Corrected. 

 

Nov 2, 2006

 

Ayo Coker from UK says:

 

Point of correction pl/sql is the query language for oracle while transact-sql is for MS-SQL, There are also different types of DBA, You have a production DBA and a development DBA. 

 

May 12, 2006

Mohammed Saidu Koro from Abuja says:

I was opportune to read some comments and honest advice given to the intending Developers/DBA. I equally benefitted from the piece. I Just got my OCA-DBA and preparing to obtain OCP. As you rightly said that experience is equally important to excel, my major problem now is how to get somewhere to acquire this required experience. I am really ready to get the experience but could not lay my hand on any place for now. I am still in search of one. I shall be grateful if you can help, I don't mind to do it for free as long as I will be exposed to the Oracle environment and see physically how things work. 

 

Alfred from Accra says:

 

Very thoughftul and straight to the point. One really needs to get the experience part right. 

 

Jamie Jones from Trinidad says:

Thank you. You have answered my questions. But MySQL, what is the future?

 

Oditan Douglas from Apapa says:

You are very great and skillful in this field of IT, I was prompted to to take my Java studies seriously so as to become the great DBA, I have craved for. I am a Web design student and by February this year, I will conclude my course that will make me a web programmer.  Please, what is the difference between a DBA and a web programmer?

 

 

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