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Jaroslav Cerny

Jaroslav Cerny

Jaroslav Cerny founded RDB consulting in 1995, an outsource and consulting company that specialises in five areas: Relational Databases, Operating Systems, Database Security, Monitoring and Enterprise Resource Planning. With over 25 years experience in this field, Jaroslav embarked on his career after he graduated with his Honors in IT at the University of Belgrade in Serbia.

He gained extensive experience in Oracle Database Administration and IT, working in South Africa, Asia and the Middle East (Indonesia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia) as an Oracle Database Consultant. His international experience gives him the edge in the industry and his exposure to different countries and cultures allows Jaroslav to have a deeper understand of the business. Jaroslav leads a team of 35 employees and his goals are to further grow the business and build on the success they have accomplished thus far.

RDB Consulting's clients include some in the Top 200 companies in South Africa.

Website URL: http://www.rdbconsulting.com

Wikileaks - information site where confidential Goverment and Company information has been leaked to the public

Economic conditions are a very pressing challenge for organisations of all sizes around the world, resulting in squeezed budgets. One such area is IT. As a result, many organisations are turning to outsourcing as a business model, as it offers savings, flexibility, scalability and the ability to access resources on demand rather than having to hire them full time. However, as a result of the unique conditions in South Africa which include a massive skills shortage, and in an effort to further save money, some organisations are turning to temporary staffing solutions to fill critical posts. This can be a costly mistake.

While temporary staffing are often cheaper in the short term than an outsourced provider, and can help to fill gaps in the IT environment, there are certain areas where temps are not the ideal solution, typically mission critical areas such as the database. When it comes to the database, knowing the difference between outsourced and temporary resources and choosing the right one for your business could make all the difference.

In areas such as the database, it is simply not possible to assign a nine to five value for tasks such as database administration. The IT environment does not stop working at five in the evening and over the weekends, like people do, and many organisations do not realise that temporary staff members may not be available after hours. If they are available, they need to be paid after hours rates, which are generally a lot higher than normal rates. In critical areas such as the database, organisations will be left with little choice other than to pay the 'after hours' rates, since the consequences of extended downtime are undesirable. Temporary staff may also call in sick, or even leave the organisation, which means that these staff will have to be replaced – a significant challenge in a skills scarce environment.

An outsourced provider, however, is contracted by a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to deliver a certain level of support, irrespective of the time of day, the day of the week and so on. These providers stake their income and reputation on being able to provide the services organisations need, when they need it, which is a far better option in mission critical environments. Outsourcing also provides a service, as opposed to a staffing solution. This means that even if the usual resource handling an account is unavailable for any reason, the service will still continue as there is a pool of resources for the outsourcer to draw on.

Outsourcers can provide 24/7/365 support for critical IT applications and infrastructure, and their business is built on delivering these services to the highest standards, whereas the loyalty and commitment of temporary staff can be low as they have no incentive otherwise. Furthermore, temporary staff are often not included in company training due to budget pressures. If the employer does not invest in upskilling temporary resources with additional training, there is little opportunity for growth. Their key performance indicators may not necessarily be aligned with those of the business but rather aligned to the temporary contract.

Outsourced resources are highly trained and are exposed to many different environments from which they are able to learn. Their training is kept up to date by the outsourced provider, and certifications are also of the utmost importance, since it is in their best interests to maintain the highest levels of skill. Outsourced providers, through SLAs, will also ensure that the key performance values of the outsourced resources are aligned with the business, since outsourcing at its core is a business service.

When it comes to the IT environment, not all areas are mission critical. Not all aspects of IT require the high levels of service delivered by an outsourced provider. Some areas work well with temporary staff, particularly in areas such as web development where the task at hand is not a 24 hour job. The database is not one of these areas. It is critical to the business and it needs to be secure and maintained. A database administrator must be able to access all of the data contained within a database, which could prove dangerous if this task is handed to someone with no loyalty to the company, as the Wikileaks saga proved.

Database administration requires a trusted, skilled resource who will document processes according to best practice, who has the necessary skills which are kept up to date, and who will be available whenever needed, whether this is after hours, on the weekends or during the course of a normal business day. No single resource will be able to provide this, but an outsourced service provider can.

An organisation would never hire a temporary security guard, as this represents a huge business risk – the guard may not be loyal because he has no job security and he needs to sleep and have days off. Even hiring an additional security guard does not solve this problem, as one guard may get sick, both may leave and so on. Security is not a one person job, it should be a service. The same is applicable to database support, where the modern business is hit hardest if something goes wrong. Business solutions such as outsourced services are critical to keep the database, and the business, up and running optimally at all times.

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

Monday, 20 August 2012 10:27 Published in Software
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, 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.

Big data – do you really need it in your production database?

Big data is all the buzz, as organisations scramble to leverage their mountains of data to drive business insight. The question that begs, however, is how much data does a business actually need? Organisations sit with terabytes of data, many several years old, and all of it kept in the production database for instant access. The reality is that this is often not required for everyday business operations. While governance and regulations may require that certain data is kept for legal purposes, it is not necessary to store this data in expensive, 'instant access' databases. Historical data can be archived, saving money and time and helping organisations to use the right big data to make better business decisions.

As content generation continues to explode, data storage strategies have become increasingly important for businesses. Effectively managing this data should be a top priority, for greater cost effectiveness and efficiency. When it comes to big data, not only is it not cost effective, it is also impractical to store all data up front in the production database, and can in fact decrease everyday server performance. Organisations need to have a strategy in place to reduce storage costs in the face of exponential data growth, optimise performance according to the needs of the business and mitigate the risk of lost data and information.

The production database should contain only the current data that is needed for the day-to-day business and operations of the organisation. This database should feature high performance capabilities to deliver this data to users quickly and efficiently. However, if it is being used to store data that is not needed for everyday use, and becomes 'heavy' or bogged down with data, performance will inevitably be compromised.

Data cleansing and consolidation can assist with reducing data volumes in the production database, but this is often not enough to deliver the required performance gains. Strategy needs to be put into place to ensure that data is archived, removed from production and stored in more cost effective options. This strategy, however, must be linked into the business and its needs, including its daily operations. If data storage, retention and archiving strategies are not in line with the needs of the business, users will not be able to access the data they need when they need it and as fast as they need to. It is vital to first understand the needs of business and then put rules into place around archiving. This means that archiving is not simply an IT decision, but a business decision as well, and database administrators need to understand the business in order to provide advice for a better strategy.

With data maintenance plans and archiving strategies in place, data can be moved out of the production environment onto archive servers, which will still enable the data to be easily accessed by users but will not affect the performance of the production server. This will make searching faster and increase performance when accessing or creating data. Historical data will take longer to access, but since this is not needed as often the performance gains on daily data outweigh the minor inconvenience.

Partitioning data in this way will bring down the costs of hardware, software and licensing as well, saving organisations money. Production databases must deliver high performance, which means higher cost. Database size, server memory or CPUs and licensing are interlinked. Those companies who have historical data residing on the production server will need to spend more on ensuring high performance and licensing that is based on CPU's. Archive servers do not need to provide the same levels of performance, so lower cost and lower specified servers can be used for this purpose. This approach also means that maintenance on the production environment is easier, rebuilding indexes is quicker and backups will run faster. In general, performance and uptime will be maximised. The archive server can also be used as a quality control environment to validate data integrity in a safer manner, since doing this on the production server can have a negative impact on business performance.

Ultimately the rules of data storage strategy are simple. The production database should contain only the data needed for day-to-day operations, and all historical data should be moved onto an archive server. This will allow for the production server to be streamlined and deliver the best possible performance, and will optimise the cost of maintenance and running of storage. This in turn will allow organisations to deal with big data in a more intelligent fashion, comply with regulations around data retention, and make more agile decisions based on current data thanks to optimised system performance.

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