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Database Administrator (DBA)

Definition - What does Database Administrator (DBA) mean?

A database administrator, frequently known just by the acronym DBA, is a role usually within the Information Technology department, charged with the creation, maintenance, backups, querying, tuning, user rights assignment and security of an organization's databases.

The role requires technical training and expertise in the specific RDBMS used by the organization, in addition to other skills such as analytical thinking and ability to concentrate on tasks, as well as experience working with databases in the real world. The DBA role is a critical member of the IT team.

Techopedia explains Database Administrator (DBA)

Commercial RDBMS systems such as Microsoft's SQL Server, Oracle DB, MySQL and IBM's DB2 are complex applications that call for specialized knowledge and training. Most also incorporate certification programs to assure potential employers of a candidate's proficiency in managing the systems.

This complexity requires a trained, dedicated role tasked with looking after the organization's databases running on these database platforms. This is the DBA role. It is especially critical for organizations that rely heavily on their information systems and the databases forming the back-end for those systems. Examples are banks, insurance companies, hospitals, colleges and universities, telecommunication companies and many others. In most smaller organizations, the DBA also doubles up as a systems administrator because of resource constraints. Larger organizations are more likely to utilize dedicated DBAs, or even teams of DBAs.

Since databases run on a base platform consisting of the server hardware and the operating system, DBAs also have to be technical experts, or at least very conversant with these two areas as well. For instance, if a DBA wants to do a fresh install of an Oracle database on a Unix server, he/she will need to know the intricacies of RAID configuration, as well as the Unix commands and tasks required to perform the installation.

There are different types of DBAs depending on the an organization's requirements:
  • Administrative DBA – maintains the servers and databases and keeps them running. Concerned with backups, security, patches, replication. These are activities mostly geared towards maintaining the database and software platform, but not really invloved in enhancing or developing it.
  • Development DBA - works on building SQL queries, stored procedures, and so on, that meet business needs. This is the equivalent of a programmer, but specializing in database development. Commonly combined the the role of Administrative DBA.
  • Data Architect – designs schemas, builds tables indexes, data structures and relationships. This role works to build a structure that meets a general business needs in a particular area. For instance, a software company will use data architects to build a design for the database of a new commercial application system for running a bank's operations. The design is then used by developers and development DBAs to implement the actual application.
  • Data Warehouse DBA - this is a relatively newer role, responsible for merging data from multiple sources into a data warehouse. May have to design the data warehouse as well as cleaning up and standardizing the data before loading using specialist data loading and transformation tools.
With the increasing uptake of ICT as a tool for increasing business operational efficiency, the DBA function is a prized one- in fact in most job markets there is a shortage of experienced DBAs. This means that, in most markets, the DBA a secure job role, rarely targeted for downsizing and offering good remuneration and growth opportunities.

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