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Plan for the future

Thomas LaRock | May 28, 2014
Five things to learn from Government IT’s latest challenge

Data, especially in the areas of healthcare, social welfare and biometrics, has become the centerpiece for government initiatives worldwide allowing many IT administrators to find themselves in the position of becoming an accidental database administrator. To keep up with this abundance of information, Singapore has developed a data portal called Data Gov to manage the demand for data sets from 60 government agencies. However, with its introduction, IT administrators may be stretched to do a job that was not meant for them which may cause issues in the long run. A recent survey conducted by SolarWinds found that most IT organizations haven't added any new headcount in the last two years resulting in many federal IT administrators becoming, by default, accidental database administrators (DBAs).

Maintaining mission-critical databases can be a stressful job. As such, there are five things that administrators should understand and embrace if they're to be successful, especially for those who are new to the role:

1. Grow "soft skills." DBAs' responsibilities are often regarded as "hard skills" - teachable abilities. But, as IT continues to evolve, DBAs will have to hone their "soft skills," such as the ability to understand overall agency objectives and communicate effectively with other teams. They need to soak up what the organization needs as a whole, and apply that knowledge to IT's goals. It's a tricky thing, especially for those who are used to working in siloes, but it's also a necessity, especially for administrators who wish to continue to advance their career paths.

2. Become a security expert. DBAs' roles revolve around accessing the data and keeping track of what happens to it. This is obviously critically important in the government space, where security is paramount to everything. Government agencies are continually monitoring for security breaches, particularly in today's BYOD environment. DBAs need to possess the knowledge to recognize potential breaches and react quickly when a breach occurs.

3. Know how to maintain availability and continuity. Agency employees need access to data at all times, making maintaining data availability and business continuity a priority. DBAs need to understand which systems absolutely need to be available 24/7, and which can afford to have some downtime. This involves knowing Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) - the age of files that must be recovered from backup storage in case of failure - and Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) - how long a DBA has to recover and restore processes after a failure. Deep understanding of each can lead to minimal disruption.

4.  Understand the cloud.  It's not enough for DBAs to understand just data - they need to understand architecture, virtualization, infrastructure, and cloud technologies. This includes working knowledge of the benefits of Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Software-as-a-Service, and more. DBAs need to be more than caretakers; they need to be on the cutting edge, learning and exploring new cloud technologies, which are the future of agency IT and data management.


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