The cost of database DIY – are you really saving money?

The database is the heart of the modern organisation, keeping business alive by supplying applications and people with the information and technologies they need to do their jobs.

August 20, 2012

By Jaroslav Cerny, CEO at RDB Consulting

The database is the heart of the modern organisation, keeping business alive by supplying applications and people with the information and technologies they need to do their jobs, in much the same way as the human heart keeps the body alive by supplying vital organs with blood to keep them functioning. The database, like the heart, needs to be kept healthy and functioning at its best for optimal productivity, and when something goes wrong we often seek expert advice to find out how to fix the problem. When it comes to the database however, organisations may then take this expert advice and try to implement it themselves, which could have negative consequences for the entire business.

In a tough economic climate, where IT budgets are always being squeezed, and in an effort to save money, organisations often opt for an approach of asking database experts for advice and then attempting to implement changes themselves. However, developers are often not highly skilled in database administration and support, and herein lies the problem.

Seeking a second opinion to validate the recommendations of an in-house resource is good business practice, but in order to preserve their own business the experts may not give the developers step by step instructions on how to achieve what they need to achieve. There are also certain industry best practices and guidelines which expert providers will be aware of and well versed in implementing. These may not fall under the scope of recommendations and thus will not be put into practice by your resource trying to implement recommendations. This includes areas such as creating a backup of the database before any changes are made, something which an expert will be aware needs to be done, but which in-house resources may not be aware of or think about at the time.

Getting expert advice and ‘running with it’ can be detrimental to the database, because of a lack of background understanding of the issue. While organisations typically take this approach in an effort to save money, the long-term cost implications of getting it wrong are far higher than any small savings they may achieve. Database infrastructure does not come cheap, and this investment can amount to millions of rands. Risking this for savings of a few thousand seems illogical, and this is exactly what attempting DIY on the database is – a risk.

The consequences of getting any aspect of the database wrong could be dire. Any downtime on the database causes loss of business and loss of productivity as a result of people being unable to perform their jobs. The data itself can even become corrupt in certain circumstances. This leads to further downtime and requires an external expert resource to come in and address the problem. These issues both add up to additional expenses, as the more things go wrong, the more complicated and expensive they are to fix.

An expert outsourced consultant who handles the project from consulting, to implementation and sign off, will give organisations the assurance that the job will be done correctly the first time, with minimum downtime and disruptions to normal business proceedings. This means that risks are mitigated, which is important for corporate governance, and ensures that any database issues are handled with experience, according to the highest standards and international best practices.

If a person experiences a problem with their heart, this affects the rest of their body and could kill a person. If there is a problem with the database, the entire organisation is affected. However, if a doctor told a patient they needed open heart surgery to fix a medical problem, the patient would hardly attempt to do this themselves. The database should be no different. With critical information and applications at stake, which could kill the business if the database fails, it makes better business sense to leave fixing any problems to the experts. The cost of DIY with the database could well be higher than any money saved by implementing recommendations without help.