Regularly review database systems

Maintaining a successful database infrastructure requires regular review to establish what is going right and where problems may be lurking. This should consist of close consideration of all aspects of the database system, including: hardware & software, administration & input, documentation, staff & training and disaster recovery.

The frequency of database system reviews is dependent on the size of a company or organization and the complexity of the system. At a minimum, we recommend quarterly reviews, but many situations warrant more frequent action.

Prior to conducting any database system review it is important to establish a set of benchmarks and checklists to compare against the findings.

HARDWARE & SOFTWARE: A database system review should begin with an assessment of the applications, computers, workstations, network servers and other devices that underlie and run the system. Decide if they are meeting the expectations and requirements of end users and if they are doing so efficiently. Needs change and technologies grow rapidly, and keeping on top of the machinery is essential in a competitive environment.

ADMINISTRATION & INPUT: Take a long look at how the database system is administered and the input into the tables. Determine if there has been unauthorized augmentation of a database, particularly rogue changes, or if unapproved or non-standard practices and tools are utilized. This will help maintain the system’s physical and logical models as well as prevent costly downtime and gaps in performance.

DOCUMENTATION: The fun often stops for tech people when they have to hang up their programming tools and put their work down on paper. Consequently, documentation is often lacking for database systems. Make sure this is not the case because end use of the system is highly affected. Documentation should include a data dictionary and reflect the current physical and logical state of the infrastructure as well as be understandable to the less tech savvy.

STAFF & TRAINING: The people part of the review is very important because a database system is only as good as those that run and use it. It is important to align duties properly, and the staff needs to have the necessary expertise and training to adequately leverage the technology and be equipped to handle new complexities in the infrastructure. Investment in this area can reap large rewards.

DISASTER RECOVERY: Last but definitely not least, asses the database system in terms of its ability to recover from a disaster. Backups need to be performed regularly and properly stored, and it is vital this includes offsite backup. Additionally, make sure there is an adequate plan for unforeseen complications and worst-case scenarios and that the system’s immunization against viruses, worms and other web-based attacks is at full strength. This is particularly important when there are substantial changes to the database infrastructure.

Database management can become overwhelming as requirements escalate and the volume of data mushrooms. Regular review of a database system is essential to preserve the return on investment, meet objectives and insure long-term success.

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