Gauteng Business News

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INFOTECH: Protect Your Data with Proactive Monitoring


Recent Gauteng Business News

It has been said that the 21st Century has marked the change from the 'Age of Things' to the 'Age of Information'. From a business perspective, the value of an organisation's information has increased tremendously - and the wellbeing of the databases that contain this crucial business information has become a priority says Jaroslav Cerny, CEO of RDB Consulting. Proactive monitoring of databases has gained traction as organisations aim to ensure reliability and uptime. In fact, it's become an imperative for organisations rather than a 'nice to have'. The challenge however lies in deciding whether to outsource this very specialised function, or not.

Organisations are faced with either utilising or employing in-house resources to manage their database requirements, or outsourcing the function, which creates further complexity. Whatever the decision, it is vital for businesses to think carefully about how they manage their database requirements, who they entrust with this responsibility and how they structure their contracts with service providers.

Proactive vs reactive monitoring

The changing business environment has meant that database availability has a direct impact on an organisation's daily operations and, ultimately, its bottom line. While reactive monitoring entails solving problems once they have been identified (usually resulting in some amount of downtime), proactive monitoring is geared towards preventing downtime from occurring at all by identifying preventable issues before they become problems. Of course, not all issues are preventable - for example human error and hardware failure. But for the majority of typical problems, such as running out of space, degradation, security backups, performance and frequency issues; proactive monitoring ensures that potential issues are identified and resolved before they impact the smooth running of operations.

There is no doubt that the 21st Century has also witnessed an increase in customers' service expectations, putting pressure on organisations to completely eradicate downtime. As such, organisations are expecting more and more from their database administrators (DBA) or outsourced database services providers. For this reason, proactive monitoring has become a 'standard' offering in outsourced contracts, typically packaged with the core support function.

Why outsource?

The increased importance of data means that organisations need to be discerning when deciding whether to outsource, and which provider to select.
There are many well-known advantages to outsourcing - such as the potential to cut costs, mitigate risk, and gain benefits from improved economies of scale. However, when it comes to an organisation's database requirements, there are other important factors that should influence the final decision.

Firstly, organisations need to consider the scope of their database requirements. For example, proactive monitoring entails critical alerts being sent to the DBA, or to the outsourced consultant - day and night, seven days a week. If an organisation's site is particularly volatile, the frequency of these alerts - and the accompanying workload - could be overwhelming. The nature of the site must inform the number of DBAs the organisation employs, or whether outsourcing the function is a more viable option, allowing the workload to be spread across a pool of specialised resources.

Another reason why outsourcing database services differs from other typically outsourced industries has to do with the level of specialisation required to fulfill the position of a DBA, and the scarcity and cost of these resources, particularly in the local context. The criticality of ensuring database reliability and uptime in the modern business means that it is a task best left to the 'experts'. Just how serious organisations are now taking this aspect of their business is highlighted by the fact that many large organisations with extensive database requirements that employ in-house resources to manage day-to-day tasks, often also now have an outsourced contract in place to ensure additional support when necessary, as well as a 'second-opinion' when crucial issues and decisions are addressed.

Setting up a proactive monitoring environment is also expensive and a resource and time intensive exercise. Getting everything running smoothly also often entails 'trial and error' (as each database environment is unique), making the process much longer and more tedious than simply outsourcing the function to specialists.

As mentioned, it has now become common for outsourced database service providers to bundle proactive monitoring services in with the database support at no additional cost. Proactive monitoring also has benefits for the adherence to Service Level Agreements (SLAs), as it allows the organisation to establish precise parameters, specify exactly what needs to be monitored, regulated and prioritised. As such, current outsource contracts tightly couple proactive monitoring with a comprehensive SLA.

And lastly, another benefit of the database outsource contract of the 21st Century is not having to pay licence fees. While in the past this was acceptable, organisations are now expecting vendors to supply their own solutions and are not willing to pay expensive licence fees.

The simple fact is that in today's business landscape, downtime spells disaster. The time when database downtime of up to a few hours - or days - was tolerated is long gone, and today even a few seconds or minutes of downtime can impact the bottom line. For this reason, organisations are increasingly looking to specialised database service providers for their monitoring and support needs, providing them with access to a pool of experts, maximum uptime and peace of mind that their database requirements are in the best possible hands.

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