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Choosing your Oracle Remote DBA support package

By Donald K. Burleson


The quality of your database management often translates directly into customer satisfaction and your database may be one of your most important competitive advantages.  Hence, companies go to great expense to carefully protect their mission-critical data resources.  As database administrator (Remote DBA) staffing costs rise, many companies realize that they cannot justify a full-time database administrator, especially when senior Remote DBA salaries approach $120k year. 


In today’s connected world, it can be fiscally prudent to hire Remote DBA specialists.  But more important is the potential for loss of institutional knowledge.  The average attrition of a database administrator is less than 5 years, and using a Remote DBA provider ensure continuity of coverage and no loss of database support. 

Choosing your Remote DBA vendor

It’s very easy to be taken-in by flashy advertising and hyperbole for Remote DBA services on the Internet, especially when companies that hire “plants” to seed message boards and chat rooms with phony praise and recommendations.  Many of the highly marketed Remote DBA offerings are nothing more than hopeful beginners with a web site, and it’s very difficult to find a Remote DBA vendor with a proven track record.  Also, a good Remote DBA vendor will perform a database healthy check, identifying all database vulnerabilities and deficiencies before starting remote support.  A good provider will also publish their monthly rates, and if you have to ask, you can’t afford them.  As an IT manager, your due diligence is critical when choosing your vendor and support package:

  • Check Credentials – I’ve seen many Remote DBA websites that look respectable on their web site, but a close examination reveals lies and deception.  A respected Remote DBA provider will have full disclosure, publishing the names, resumes, and books published by their support staff.  You should also check the vendor’s record in the Better Business Bureau and check their Dunn & Bradstreet records to see how long they have been in business.  Sub-standard companies avoid the BBB and D&B.
  • Avoid foreign Remote DBA providers – It’s critical to choose a Remote DBA provider within your home country or a country that enjoys strict data privacy laws.  Laws vary widely between countries, and you must have the full protection of your countries copyright and data privacy statutes.  I’ve seen firsthand how choosing a bargain Remote DBA provider has lead to widespread data theft, leaving the customer with little or no legal recourse.  Many Oracle shops choose their Remote DBA provider within the USA because of our strict data protection statutes.

Creating your Remote DBA service portfolio

Once you have made the decision to go with Remote DBA services, it’s time to choose your services.  Many Remote DBA vendors offer a basic support package which includes all of the basic services including monitoring, support and supplemental support. 

Remember, Remote DBA services are selling you their monitoring software and human resources and you should take special care to evaluate the quality of their software and the quality of your Remote DBA staff.  Let’s take a closer look at these standard Remote DBA services.

Standard Remote DBA Monitoring

Your Remote DBA vendor should possess a full suite of monitoring software with guaranteed alert mechanisms to ensure maximum availability.  Your support should also include guaranteed response time to requests for service and guaranteed response time for production outages.  Your provider should also guarantee that all of your support is from vendor-certified database administrators.  Oracle has Oracle Certified professionals (OCP) and Microsoft has Microsoft Certified Remote DBA (McRemote DBA) credentials.  Your basic Remote DBA support services should include these automated services:

  • Predictive analytics – All good Remote DBA providers offer proactive management software that monitors your database and alerts you when you exceed predefined thresholds.  This is especially important for monitoring external components such as disk space and network response time.
  • Scaling alert mechanisms – Your emote Remote DBA vendor should have sophisticated exception reporting that notifies you whenever a database event has occurred.  These should include e-mail alerts for non-critical issues to telephone and pager alerts for issues that effect end-user access.
  • Proactive management scripts - Many of the Remote DBA vendors have invested decades of work in developing proactive database monitoring tool that will detect issues before the database experiences a problem.  My company monitors hundreds of database metrics, with very sophisticated alert mechanisms.  Ask for customer references and ask specific questions about the proactive mechanisms that they use to maintain high availability.


Optional Remote DBA Support

In addition to fast response to problems, your Remote DBA support package should include a smorgasbord of optional Remote DBA support services for maintaining your environment and software. 

  • One-time reorganizations – Many companies have one-time database reorganization requirements, usually to eliminate fragmentation and to cluster related items together to improve throughput.  All databases have mechanisms to prevent ongoing maintenance once the data has been optimized for the application.
  • Software Updates – Many companies have different philosophies about database upgrades, falling into the “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” and the “I have a duty to apply all software patches” groups.  If your database is stable and secure, negotiate with your vendor for upgrades on an ad-hoc basis.  You standard package all database software upgrades and the application of Critical Patch Updates (CPU). 
  • OS Support – All good Remote DBA vendors offer support for the operating system software, including Linux, HP-UX, Solaris and Windows.
  • Application Support – If you run a vendor application such as SAP, Peoplesoft or Oracle eBusiness suite, you should be able to contract for specialists to support your application, both at the software and end-user levels.



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