What is a database administrator (DBA)?

We’re in the age of Big Data. Each day, we produce about 2.5 quintillions — meaning 1 and 18 zeros — bytes of data. Unsurprisingly, this number will keep increasing at an exponential rate. In the past decades, we’ve generated more data than in the entire history of mankind.

So the question is, where does all this data go? One such location is a database. If there’s no database and if we can’t query the database, it’d be almost impossible to analyze data meaningfully.

In truth, it is an exciting time in the world of data with novel approaches to data manipulation, collection, and database types. For this reason, we need maintainers and gatekeepers for these large caches of information. This group of people is known as database administrators.

Before we find out who a database administrator is, let’s define a database administrator first.

Database Administration is made up of everything needed to manage a database in addition to making the data available on demand.

On the other hand, a database administrator (or DBA as it’s sometimes called) is an individual who maintains, manages, and secures data in a data system – sometimes they manage multiple systems – so users can carry out analysis for any business operation. DBAs are in charge of organization, data storage, utilization, presentation, and analysis from a technical viewpoint.

As it stands, the role of a DBA cannot be understated in a lot of IT departments, and organizations at large.

Let’s take a commercial bank for example: the database administrator ensures that the teller has fast and easy to your data – like quickly accessing your transaction history and bank balance. In this case, the database administrator is an application database or system administrator which is a general database administrator role in charge of most parts of an organization’s database.

What are the responsibilities of a database administrator?

Some of the roles of a database administrator are:

  • A DBA installs and upgrades the database server and other application tools.
  • Plans and allocates the physical requirements of the database’s system, like disk space, network requirements, memory, and more.
  • Modifies the database structure using data given by app developers.
  • Creates users’ profiles, and ensures system security by allocating user permissions appropriately.
  • Ensures total compliance with the license agreement set by the database vendor. This includes the number of installations and sorting out licensing renewals.
  • Creates a recovery strategy and backup for the database. A DBA also testings the backups regularly to certify usability.
  • Keeps an eye on technical support for database systems and any related applications.

As needed, a DBA creates reports by querying from a database. Using the app’s front end, these reports can come in form of custom-made ad hoc reports or pre-formatted reports by the DBA.

Optimizes and monitors the performance of the database using automated or manual tools. This is one of the crucial tasks of a DBA.

Migrates database instances to new software versions and new hardware from on-site to cloud-based databases and vice-versa.

Outlook for Database administrators

The digital age has led to a rise in unstructured data like images, text, audio, videos, and sensor information, on account of IoT, e-commerce, social media, and AI. As a result, a database administrator’s job is evolving to become more of a ‘data administrator.’ This way, they can cater to and manage both unstructured (big data) and structured (database) data sets.

Right now, most digital companies aren’t restricted to transactional data alone, so a DBA must be familiar with the file, object, and block storage solutions.

In addition, due to the large amounts of data, and the accessibility of machine learning/AI solutions to analyze such data, most organizations prefer cloud-based solutions as their data storage mode. In this regard, a DBA must know how to use cloud technologies and architectures, including big data solutions (such as Hadoop) and data lakes.

The DBA must also be a comb-shaped specialist due to the rise of DevOps as the ideal model for end-to-end product management. This means that they have to work in an autonomous environment together with platform engineers to create automated self-service tools. Then, these tools will be used by software developers to produce the data solutions needed for their applications. In essence, DBAs need to add at least some level of software engineering to their skillset.

DBAs must take data privacy regulations seriously

In this age and time, it’s almost impossible for any organization to run without data as it has become the lifeblood of all organizations. Hence, the management and security of data in IT systems is an utmost priority, especially now that data privacy regulation is taken seriously.

Data protection regulation is now a focus area for organizations worldwide. Those that have been caught lacking have paid the price heavily and these include top corporations like Facebook which have been fined massively.

The current-day DBA must be up-to-date with data protection regulations like GDPR. They must also know how to implement the applicable security controls to guarantee customer/user privacy rights and block all information leaks. This must be done to ensure they have the customer’s trust and that their organization has the best cyber security reputation.

With this in mind, any organization aims to ensure they have the best DBAs on their team. Ideally, most companies may prefer an in-house DBA or a full IT department to handle related tasks but the financial costs may be too high to maintain.

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