How do you make sure that database operations are running smoothly? Here are some common guidelines for better database administration.

Delegate Well to Staff – And Produce Delegation Models

It’s important to have a good staffing model – to know who is responsible for each element of database administration, and who will know the required protocols and processes for managing databases well. That may mean hiring people with specific SQL-related skills and experience, or looking for people with server monitoring experience or other types of qualifications. It also means communicating well to spread the work around in a way that’s sustainable and efficient.

The key is improving delegation. A DBA can essentially become inundated with requests. So, having multiple levels of staff involved to manage the influx can contribute to better overall management. (For more DBA tips, see 5 DBA Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs.)

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Build Centralized Systems

One of the big pitfalls in database administration is when too much data is coming in from too many different sources.

Instead of having a lot of origin endpoints routing information into the database, make sure you have a comprehensive process for data admin and tracking. As a similar point, it also makes sense to curate the data that you're going to be holding on company systems. Many database administrators and project managers make the mistake of adding too much random data, and then get overwhelmed with the job of handling it. One solution is to set up a strict protocol for data to only be added on a necessary basis, which may require signoff from various individuals.

Generally, business people don’t like “bottlenecks” – but this is one bottleneck that’s likely to work out in your favor!

Manage Notifications and Alerts

Automation has done a lot for database management – it’s changed the way that we monitor systems and keep an eye on data-intensive processes. But alerts and notifications can do their job well – or poorly.

The general rule of thumb is to build a reasonable level of notification into a system. You don’t want a blizzard of trivial alerts for notifications, because over time, staff will learn to tune them out. While a tiered system may be ideal, a lot of companies go with a restricted or limited system, where a notification means that something significant needs attention.

Streamline Backup and Restore Processes

This sort of goes along with the first tip above, talking about structuring a database system. You want to make sure that data backups are done on a reasonable timeline – and beyond that, that there is a centralized strategy behind backup and restore operations. You don’t want people just going in randomly and trying to perform database maintenance. Everything needs to be structured and organized. (For more on backups, check out 5 SQL Backup Issues Database Admins Need to Be Aware Of.)

A corollary point is the structure of data. Raw data should be managed at points where it can be scrubbed clean, so that it can conform to the data requirements for a specific process. Having random, corrupted or unstructured data in key points can really harm a system’s efficiency and the ability of database administrators to stay on top of things.

Plan for Security

These days, all sorts of information comes under heavy restrictions in terms of security and privacy. It’s best to have an upfront plan as to how to handle any issues – with audits, protocols and go-to operations that will become valuable if there’s any problem with data security.

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Some of the basic best practices for security have to do with establishing a "life cycle" for the use of a database within an architecture – and protecting every step of that life cycle accordingly. New security laws like the European General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR are driving big changes in how companies approach comprehensive security. For database, other key tips involve authentication for SQL Server, for example, giving each admin his or her own specific access and patching SQL servers regularly. You can also use database firewalls or other proprietary solutions to safeguard data.

Choose the Right Environment

There’s a very weighty debate going on these days about whether container virtualization is the way to house a database. Some people warn about compromising consistency and universality of data, while others applaud the rapid deployment of container-based systems. You’ll need to approach this on a case-by-case basis – understand whether the distributed environment you’re working with may harm the consistency of data. Collective and synchronized updates are incredibly important and must be a central point of your database administration plan.

These are some of the frequent pieces of advice that database administrators get when they’re thinking about how to do their jobs for the long term and safeguard the integrity and functionality of database systems. A lot of new technologies are coming on the scene, but some of these guidelines have remained effective ways to make sure your database operations are up to speed.