By Grant Fritchey
A DBA (Database Administrator) is a Data Professional tasked with managing an organization’s data using some sort of database software, such as Microsoft SQL Server. They are concerned with gathering, storing and presenting data to data consumers, which includes virtually anyone in the modern world. For example, managers use data to plan for the future, employees use data to make daily decisions, and Internet users (virtually anyone who uses a computer or smartphone) use data they find to comparison shop, learn new skills, listen to music, and keep up with the news. No matter where you look, virtually all the data that exists anywhere is managed by Data Professionals.
Here’s a quick break down of the various jobs that fall under the umbrella of Data Professional. While exact job titles will vary from organization to organization, most Data Professionals fall into one of the following disciplines.
The classic definition for a DBA is the person responsible for the day-to-day tasks of directly managing data using database software. This is the foundation of data management, and includes many specific tasks. Some of these tasks include backing up data so that it doesn’t get lost or corrupted, ensuring that there is adequate storage space for the ever increasing amount of data that is collected, and performing a variety of maintenance tasks to ensure the databases are running smoothly, quickly, and running all the time. In addition, DBAs will frequently deploy new databases, new data structures new code, and are responsible for applying updates to the software as they are released. It is highly likely that these Data Professionals will have to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the event there is a problem with the databases or server hardware.
Many Data Professionals work directly with software development teams and organization stakeholders to create new databases. They are experts in writing queries in a special computer language, called SQL, to quickly store and retrieve information from databases. Their responsibilities can include reviewing the performance of the database, the server, and the software in order to ensure that they run optimally. In some cases, they may know a lot more than the Database Administrator because they’re expected to design and build all of the things that Database Administrator use in their position. On the other hand, they may know less than the typical Database Administrator because they chose to focus on writing SQL code, to the exclusion of day-to-day database management.
Data Professionals filling this role may be very good at writing SQL queries that are used to return the data from a database for reports or other forms of data presentation to end users. On the other hand, they may focus exclusively on creating reports, and rely on Database Developers to help them write the correct SQL queries. In general they will be very knowledgeable about the technical and business aspects of data retrieval and display. They will build simple or complex reports as the needs of the organization dictate. They will be able to combine these into interactive dashboards that business users are coming to expect for viewing management information.
This is a highly specialized discipline requiring a great deal of knowledge of the Analysis Services tool in SQL Server. Data mining is the task of identifying new correlations and relationships among existing data so organizations can make better decisions. For example, Wal-Mart uses data mining to determine which products are to be located on what shelves in their stores in order to generate the greatest amount of profit. Generally, this area of work is only undertaken by people who have specialized training. It’s a very complex subject, but because the tools for data mining are easily accessed through SQL Server, more and more people are getting involved in data mining so they can help businesses put information together in ways that unlock previously unknown relationships.
Data tends to stick around forever, especially in larger organizations. Because there are so many ways to access data and so many sources of data to be accessed, there is a requirement to move these massive amounts of data from one storage location to another as it continues to grow. A specialty has arisen around Data Professionals who are experts with Integrations Services, which is a part of SQL Server. This tool is practically its own development language, and as such, requires a great deal of knowledge to make it work well.
Larger organizations may come to rely on a person who knows all the above disciplines, and more. This person would also have a very good understanding of the business for which the data is being collected and maintained. These data professionals are going to be able to make decisions regarding all of the disciplines, software, and design you’ve read about so far. This is frequently a very senior position within most organizations and there is seldom more than one individual filling the position.
The above are just some of the types of tasks that Data Professionals perform in organizations around the world.
Tomorrow, DBA Brad McGehee will talk about the many different tasks that DBAs typically perform on a routine basis.