What is Database Administration and why do companies need it?

Companies store a mass of information such as customer details, images, brochures, spreadsheets, video and more on their computers, and sometimes not in a very efficient way; but what is Database Administration and why do companies need it?

Database Administration 1As a company grows, so too does their data – new customers mean new customer details, more content added into spreadsheets, new marketing material – companies need to organize their data effectively to be able to add value to the business.  With this growing data, most companies use database administration for their most critical data.

What is Database Administration?

Database Administration is making sure that a company’s data is always available.  This entails ensuring that the data is, first and foremost, protected.

In addition to protecting the data, Database Administration involves managing and maintaining the database management system software, maintaining the performance of the software, making regular system backups and ensuring the data is reliable and error free.

Database Administration also means creating or updating existing databases, of which there are a number of different types available depending on your needs.

Type of databases

Databases, back in the 1960s, were like spreadsheets with simple rows and columns able to store text or numeric data.  Databases of today allow you to access, update and search information based on the relationship of data stored in different tables, even run queries that involve multiple databases.

There are numerous types of databases used for different reasons.  Here are the types of databases available:

  • Relational

Relational databases store data in various data tables.  Each table has a key field which is used to connect it to other tables.

This the most common type of database that you will find, and includes Microsoft SQL Server.

  • Operational

This type of database is used in an organisation to collect data for its day to day operations such as inventory management, purchases, transactions and financials.  The data contained in this database includes information such as customer details, personal information as well as company product information.

  • Database Warehouses

Data that is kept for a length of time is usually stored in this type of database.  This data can be used for analysis purposes, to compare current and past years data, and identify any trends.

  • Distributed

This type of database is used by companies with offices and manufacturing plants in different locations, each with their own database, which together will form the main database of the company.

  • End-User

There is a variety of data available at the workstation of all the end users of any organisation.  Each workstation is like a small database in itself which includes data in spreadsheets, presentations, word files, note pads and downloaded files. All such small databases form a different type of database called the end-user database.

  • External Database

These are privately owned databases meant for commercial use, which you can pay to use on a conditional and limited basis.

  • Hypermedia Database

This database, as the name suggests, is where all of the media are stored.  Most websites have various pages which might include text, video clips, audio clips, photographs and graphics, which will be called from this database.

  • Document-Oriented Database

Data in a document oriented database is stored in the form of text records instead of in a data table.

  • Real-Time Database

This type of database handles data which is constantly changing, like a stock market database where the value of shares change every minute and need to be updated in the real-time database. This type of database is also used in medical and scientific analysis, banking, accounting, process control, and reservation systems – any industry that requires access to fast moving and constantly changing information.

  • Analytical Database

An Analytical database is used to store information from different types of databases for analysis purposes.  The data in an analytical database cannot be changed or manipulated.

In addition to the types of databases, there are different database management systems.

Database management systems

To access information from a database you need a database management system (DBMS) –a collection of programs that enables you to create, read, update and delete data in a database.

These programs interact with end-users, other applications and the database to capture and analyse data.  The DBMS serves as an interface ensuring that the data is organized and accessible in a controlled way by many users in many locations.

A DBMS can also limit what data can be seen by end-users.  In addition, because the DBMS handles all the requests, the end-user does not need to worry about where the data is physically located or any other technical queries, as it is all solved by the DBMS.

A general DBMS should allow for the definition, creation, query, update and administration of databases.

Some database management systems include:

  • Relational Database Management System (RDBMS)

The most common database management system is an RDBMS.  An RDBMS sorts data into unique fields and allows users to retrieve that data by each field and by linking fields between related records.

Relational databases can sort the fielded data any number of ways and generate reports in a matter of minutes. Data can often be output in any form the end-user desires. In addition, a RDBMS can serve as the front-end program that brings data together from several individual databases and produces data tables that combine the information from the various databases.

  • Hierarchical Database Management System

Database Administration 2Data in a Hierarchical Database Management System is organized in a tree like structure.  The relationships among data in a hierarchical database are when one data item is subordinate to another – also referred to as parent-child relationships.  Data is stored in records that are connected with links, with each child record having only one parent, but each parent record having one or more child records.

  • Network Database Management System

If the relationships among data in the database are many-to-many, then it is considered a network database.  This type of DBMS allows each record in the database to have multiple parent and multiple child records.  When the database is viewed, it looks like a web-like structure of interconnected records.

  • Object-oriented Database Management System (OODBMS)

This type of DBMS stores data types such as graphics, photographs, audio, and video.  Unlike hierarchical and network databases that are designed to handle data in fields, rows, and columns like names, addresses, product numbers, object-oriented databases can be used to store data from a variety of media sources, such as photographs and text, and produce work, as output, in a multimedia format.

Advantages of a database administration system

Some of the advantages of using a DBMS to store and manage data include:

  • end users and application programmers can access and use the same data while managing data integrity
  • because data is shared (and no new iterations of the same data are created), it is better protected and maintained
  • a central store of data can be accessed by multiple users in a controlled manner
  • central storage and management of data within the DBMS provides:
    • Data security
    • A locking mechanism for concurrent access
    • The ability to swiftly recover from crashes and errors
    • Robust data integrity capabilities
    • Logging and auditing of activity
  • a logical, structured organization on the data is ensured. A DBMS delivers economy of scale for processing large amounts of data because it is optimized for such operations.
  • many views of a single database schema are provided

With all these advantages come a few minor, but obvious setbacks – overhead.  Also, a DBMS will require more memory and system resources.

Choosing a database administration system for your company

Before buying a database management system, consider what you want from the database management system – what reports will you be needing, what information will be gathered, what fields will need to be created in the database  Knowing the output will help you decide on what type of database your company requires.

Most databases are one of two types—transactional or warehouse. Transactional databases are easier to build and are ideal for tracking simple things, such as the availability of a product or part. Warehouse databases collect company data of any type, such as sales histories or hiring statistics, and produce reports that can identify trends or group information in new and relevant ways.

Once you know what you need, you can select the database management system.

Why you need Xpedia’s DBA services

  • Peace of mind knowing that data is secure and stable
  • Database performance improvements
  • Reduced system downtime
  • Early warning of potential database problems

Xpedia’s team of Microsoft Certified Technology Specialists provide the kind of data security and performance improvements that have a direct impact on availability and performance of your business applications and will deliver these benefits to you.  Xpedia’s Database Administration Services are available on ad hoc basis or as a fully outsourced service. These services typically include proactive database and server monitoring, early warning notifications and alerting, routine database maintenance, performance tuning, security audits, data replication and/or mirroring, data migration, backup and disaster recovery.  Xpedia’s primary focus is on Microsoft SQL Server, but they also deal with other databases required by you.

Can a company afford not to have Database Administration?

Most, if not all companies have records of one type or another to maintain.  This means that most, if not all companies are affected by DBMS in some way or another.

Ensure that you have at least considered the following when looking at a DBMS:

  • proactive database and server monitoring
  • early warning notifications and alerting
  • routine database maintenance
  • security audits
  • backup and disaster recovery

These will keep your data secure and always available, and your database management system running smoothly and performing well.  Can you not afford this?

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