It is not often you make new friends through the Internet, but I have made several, of outstanding character, over the last couple of months. Robert Pearl is one such individual. Robert reached out to me via this blog and we have exchanged a vast array of emails on several topics and talked about the state of affairs in IT. Robert owns Pearl Knowledge Solutions, Inc., a managed service provider of DBA services.
As CIOs, we must make smart budget decisions everyday that cut costs without impeding business operations. Database management is one such area where costs savings can be achieved. For those of us who have worked with databases, we know how difficult and costly it can be to successfully manage them. One way to help is to consider fixed cost managed database services, where we could save thousands of dollars and pay a flat-monthly fee, while the MSP (managed service provider) takes care of your database servers. Once such provider is Pearl Knowledge Solutions, Inc.
Here is more about Pearl Knowledge Solutions, Inc.
So if you are looking for a fixed cost managed database service, I would recommend giving Robert a call.
In addition, Robert has written a very good white paper on Fixed Cost IT Management. A great read for any CIO trying to maintain costs.
Fixed Cost IT Management
By Robert Pearl, 10/15/2008
Has your company considered using Managed DBA Services? (Remote DBA)
Fixed cost IT management, remote DBA, managed services, 24x7x365 support, SLA – what do all these terms signify in the trend to having your technical infrastructure managed by an outside third-party vendor. Managed Services is the new buzz word that’s catching fire across all size enterprises – small, medium and large – as MSP’s (managed service providers) compete for your business and trust, to hand over the keys to your company’s kingdom, in exchange for expert services, 24×7 guaranteed support, rapid response and solid SLA’s. While we’ll talk about IT Managed Services in general, we will focus on the growing trend in the IT industry – the Remote DBA.
As stated in one article, a good primer on the SLA for the DBA, ‘Understanding Service Level Agreements’, in order to ensure that your systems are reliable, secure and available, one must understand the client’s requirements, which are conveyed through the SLA (service level agreement). According to the article, far too many DBA’s are NOT aware of the customer’s SLA, or if they can be met. Conversely, the Managed Service Provider, cannot conduct its business without executing an SLA with the client, nor measure its success. The very first thing that an MSP will do is establish an SLA based on your company’s needs, so that your expectations can in fact be met.
The MSP will promise for a flat monthly fee that they will take care of your technology while you take care of your business. They promise they’ll manage everything in your environment, remotely, from your network devices, appliances, servers, desktops, to your electric toaster – for the right price, offering a tremendous savings and cost reduction in the overall IT budget. Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum – no we’re not talking Olympics here; we’re talking what is the right package for your company in terms of managed service offerings. We’ll take a closer look and examine if indeed this is a viable option, a passing trend, or the wave of the future.
With increasing pressures on businesses to grow revenues while driving costs down, outsourcing has in fact become viable practice for many leading organizations. In many cases, managed services are becoming the norm in small and middle sized businesses, and no doubt that upper management has already heard the news and is very likely considering this as an option in some form or another. It can be a total overall managed service solution for one’s entire infrastructure, or supplemental services to assist in-house staff. There are several factors for considering managed IT services, and as always, a major consideration is the bottom line. How much savings can be derived from allowing another firm to manage your IT assets? If such services can obviate the need to dilute the company’s core business by hiring IT specialists, maintain an expert body of knowledge without worrying about knowledge transfers and turnover, or just spread existing staff thin, why not consider giving managed services a try?
One such company Mithril Technology, a managed service provider headquartered in Long Island, NY, prides itself on its slogan, “Let us take care of technology, so you can take care of business.” Indeed a catchy phrase (I think I used it earlier), but not at all jingoistic. Think about it, do you keep a plumber on staff to fix your “facilities”? Does the VP of Sales, roll-up his sleeves and grab a wrench? No, you call in an expert in the field to take care of the problem. It may sound a bit simplistic, but aside from the traditional break-fix model, MSP’s are seeking to offer you proactive services as an insurance policy before things go wrong.
With the advent of technology, especially the Internet, it is becoming a very popular and cost-effective way to manage your tech-infrastructure remotely. Many vendors are finding that this space offers a great way to expand their company’s business, as they are moving away from the traditional break-fix, reactive model, to a more preventive and proactive approach. Some vendors have been more successful at this transition than others. The ones that have succeeded have won their clients’ confidence as “Trusted Advisor”, a role coveted by all MSP.s Basically, being considered one’s “trusted advisor” gives credibility to the expertise demonstrated by the vendor, and the ability to deliver and meet SLA’s.
Since managed databases are an integral service component of managed services, and almost everything the DBA does can be done remotely, it seems a perfectly acceptable option for managing one’s database infrastructure. While there is rapid expansion in the data market, providing a Database Managed solution is not easily done. An MSP will need some level of senior Database Administrators (DBAs) to build and run the Managed Database service. Having a database practice for project work and consulting, as part of your business model will be a distinct advantage to becoming successful in the Managed Database component of any Managed Services practice.
So what is it that managed services providers offer in terms of remote DBA support? With the ability to log on via the company’s VPN, Citrix server or other remote means, the vendor can access the entire database infrastructure, collect data and statistics, assess and audit the environment, and finally make a determination on best practices. What are the some of the “goodies” that you will get from your Remote DBA vendor?
Some of the typical tasks performed by the DBA are monitoring database space usage, memory and CPU utilization, reviewing error logs and responding to alerts, verifying backups, ensuring the latest service pack levels and patches are applied.
More of the advanced types of DBA services include implementing high availability solutions, DR planning, replication, clustering, database design and architecture, SQL server consolidation, migrations, as well as audit discovery and compliance. Although this is more project based work, many vendors offer this on a consulting basis, but no doubt can be accomplished remotely.
As mentioned before, some offer the variety packages, such as Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, which usually include some combination of DBA support hours, monitoring, and maintenance. By far, this seems to be the most common and popular package.
Many offer a Monitoring Only option, which allows companies to supplement their existing DBA staff, and even free up their time to focus on more strategic initiatives and projects. With this option, the vendor will provide a continuous stream of monitoring, and provide alerts to the in-house staff. The package may include simple rapid response resolution, such as restarting a service, or failed job.
The “monitoring only” option may be a great way to build a trust relationship between the company and the managed service provider. In fact, at a recent client, who retained remote services for the first time, started out with this type of package, where the vendor would monitor the server estate, open tickets, respond to alerts, and provide daily and weekly incident reports. The company was so pleased, within a month they then had them do patching and service pack upgrades. Now, they use them on a regular basis and have engaged them in a full-service agreement.
Other types of packages, basically try to tailor different offerings and customize pricing around the client’s size and needs, such as the “per device” or menu options.
As long as the pricing and services are transparent to the client, and can prove the overall costs savings, the prospect of retaining an expert vendor to manage your SQL Servers’ environment is very enticing, as it provides great value and can demonstrate ROI in a short period of time.
You should also make sure that your MSP will provide daily, weekly, and monthly reports on the state of the SQL environment such as trend, performance and incident reports. This is key in demonstrating value of placing your database assets in the hands of a managed service provider. You also get a highly structured level of management and support, with DBA Expertise at your disposal.
Some vendors draw upon a pool of DBA resources. Many of the larger ones will assign a team of at least 2 or more DBA’s to your account. Often it depends on the size of your database environment, and how database servers you need to manage and monitor. You’ll feel confident that there is a primary and a backup resource. In addition, you’ll get to know and work these folks, who in essence become your DBAs, who retain the knowledge of your business processes and technology, that’s not vulnerable to internal IT turnover.
Today’s critical business systems depend on databases to be secure, highly available, perform optimally, and of course have good backups. Many small and medium firms often bring in expensive consultants to deploy their SQL Server systems and related applications, and then forget about them until something inevitably blows up.
Depending on the size of the company and IT savvy, they might not know or care if their databases get regular maintenance. Indeed, they should be aware of the costs of this type of preventative care, versus the potential huge costs of emergency support and repair to fix it. Think of Managed DBA services as an insurance policy well worth the price! But with this policy, you’re getting real tangible services. The last thing any company should want is to be in a desperate situation where fixing the problem at any cost (costs that are not within budget), when simple preventative maintenance could have avoided the situation.
This is why having a manage service provider look after your SQL servers is a definite advantage to proactively monitor and look after your company’s most precious asset – your data!
In this tough economy, small and medium size companies need to ask themselves what is the most cost-effective way to maintain and secure your database infrastructure? Sometimes the decisions to hire a full-time DBA is necessary – but if they cannot, why not consider a Remote DBA service provider to manage your database systems, for a fraction of the cost, and rely on several years of industry expertise to mitigate the risk of downtime, turnover, and corrupt or compromised databases?