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What is your definition of a DBA?

By Ben Kubicek,

Today we have a guest editorial as Steve is traveling to the UK.

OK, I know the easy answer is a Database Administrator, but what role is that?  If you had to describe it to a non-technical person what would you say?  There are many different roles and functions a DBA can have.  Some of the roles or functions I have seen / done are: installing SQL Server, managing server performance including disk space utilization, managing backups, controlling access and user’s rights/roles, managing replication and always-on / multiple failover clusters and performance tuning/indexes, sql jobs, alerts, database mail, releasing db scripts.  I think these could be described as core DBA responsibilities.

I have also seen, depending on the size of the company you work for, some DBA’s have some additional responsibilities.  Things that might be described as more database developer such as creating tables, views, functions and stored procs.  Or things that are more in the data architect realm, such as database design, schema, normalization of tables, keys and indexes.  Sometimes, a DBA might manage the SSIS packages that bring data in and/or out of the database.  Other times they might need to do some reporting perhaps using SSRS or other reporting tools.  As you move more into the BI landscape, there may be data warehousing and ETL packages to manage.  I am sure there are other aspects of being a DBA that I have missed.

In my previous job I was hired as a .net developer that also did database development.  It was a very small shop and I was the one with the most database experience.  Before I knew it I was installing sql server, setting up backups and managing sql server performance and more.  I spent nine years at that job, where about two thirds of my job was doing DBA, database architect or database developer work either for the company I worked for or for their clients.  No one really asked me to do it, I just jumped in as I saw the need.

Now there are some people out there that aim to do the minimum at work.  They are just skating by trying to stay under the radar.  These people, when they are DBAs, are probably doing an adequate job.  The database servers are running etc., but this is not how I would want to define a DBA.  I think one thing that defines a good DBA, is someone who is willing and ready to jump in and go above and beyond their job description.  They are managing their core responsibilities, but are also willing to lend a hand at some of the other aspects mentioned above that could be considered DBA work.  They are not afraid of learning / trying something new.  They are team players that want to see a project succeed and they are willing roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in the process.

How would you define a DBA?  What roles and responsibilities do you currently have at your job?

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