The Most Important Thing You Do as a DBA

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If you’re a DBA, you know that your role comes with a seemingly endless to-do list. The average DBA performs a wide range of duties: designing databases, optimizing performance, backing up data and handling security are just a few of the typical items on a DBA’s plate. While all of these tasks are critical in their own way, there’s one that stands out from the pack– managing the backup and recovery of data. Some DBAs may be reading this statement and nodding in agreement, but others might say this opinion is way off-base. Let’s take a closer look at this issue and discuss why we feel that maintaining recoverability is the most important thing you’ll do as a DBA.

Backing Up is Still the Most Important Task

Many DBAs are likely to rank “optimizing performance” as their most essential task. There’s no doubt that good performance is important, and optimization is probably a task that most DBAs find themselves working on pretty frequently. However, recoverability is even more critical. After all, what good is speedy access to a database if you’ve lost all the data in it? For a DBA to ensure both accuracy and accessibility of an organization’s data, they need a solid understanding of the kind of data availability the business needs. In the case of a disk drive failure or a corrupted database, how quickly would you need to recover from this failure? Once you have this information, you can start working on your backup and recovery strategy.

Do You Have Backups and Recovery Down Cold?

The first thing you’ll want to do is to take a hard look at your current backup and recovery system. How often are you currently backing up? It’s possible to be backing up too much, which can have an impact on application performance. Imagine the worst case scenario where you lose data– how much could you reasonably lose? These questions can help lead your thinking when you develop your backup and recovery plan. If you haven’t actually tested the action plan you’d take in the event that you have to restore data from a backup, you should make this task a top priority. You should have your recovery process written out and memorized. Know how long it would take to run through the process from start to finish. Try to think through all the various ways your organization’s database could fail– how would you react to each of these scenarios, and how can you test them? Taking the time to prepare for these possible scenarios in advance will pay off many times over if one of these events ever occurs.

Approaches to Backing up and Recovering Data

Although we won’t be getting into the technical details involved with backup and recovery in this article, it’s good to keep in mind that there are different approaches you can take to meet your business’s recovery needs. For example, some organizations make use of redundant hardware to prevent a single point of failure from causing an outage. This kind of hardware setup can be costly, so it won’t be the right approach for every organization; in addition, backups are still necessary even if a strong failover system is in place. Some organizations maintain a “hot site”– this site would be equipped with an exact copy of the database, which would then be updated in tandem with the primary database. In the event of a failure with the main site, it would be quick and easy to fail over to the hot site. A setup like this will work well in the event of a hardware failure, but what if the failure was of a different nature? Let’s say some incorrect data got into the database– the bad data would make its way from the primary database to the secondary one as well. Without a reliable backup to restore from, how would you get this bad data out of your system?

If your database is working in a cloud environment or is a database-as-a-service (DBaaS), the provider will usually provide backups for you; however, you should still take the time to understand how the process works and make sure that backups are taking place as frequently as your business needs.

The Final Word

Backup and recovery may not be the most exciting task on a DBA’s to-do list, but there’s no doubt that it’s the most critical one. With a regular backup schedule and a solid recovery process in place, you can make sure that your organization’s data remains accessible, safe, and accurate. This is by far the most important thing you can do as a DBA.

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