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Post by Rich Moy on Oct 8, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Database administrators (affectionately referred to as DBAs) are the gatekeepers to all the information that keeps your business moving. They work hard to make sure that a business’ valuable data is properly stored and protected, while also staying up-to-date on the latest trends in software and hardware to give your organization a leg up on keeping all that information out of the hands of anyone who shouldn’t have it. Because they are so crucial to your entire organization’s success, it can be difficult to find and hire database administrators. To help you kickstart your search, here are a few things you should know about DBAs that will make you stand out in front of top candidates.

Know Where to Find Database Administrators

Knowing where they spend their time online is a great way to give yourself a head start when you’re looking to hire a DBA. Based on how frequently the “database” tag is used, it’s clear that database administrators are very active on Stack Overflow, making it an obvious place to start your search for your next DBA. However, database administrators also turn to more specialized forums, depending on the database type and programming languages they use. For DBAs that primarily use SQL Server, Microsoft Developer Network and SQL Server Central are popular forums for users to share information and network with each other. Database administrators who use Oracle can often be found on sites like DBAsupport.com and dBforums.

DBAs are also particularly interested in sharing knowledge and challenges on their personal blogs. While the authors themselves might not be interested in new positions, you’ll find that the most popular bloggers receive lots of comments from other database administrators. These blogs make for great places to join in the conversation, whether you’re currently looking to hire a DBA or know a role will be opening up in the near future.

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Know the Challenges Database Administrators Tackle Everyday

TechRepublic once joked that database administrators have three responsibilities: protect the data, protect the data, and protect the data. That might have been a bit facetious, but surprisingly it’s actually not that far off. Here are three things database administrators are responsible for ensuring on a daily basis:

  1. Hardware installation and maintenance. Although it’s common to hear someone say that their data lives on the cloud, the truth is that all that information lives on physical hardware, which a database administrator is responsible for installing and upgrading when he or she determines it to be necessary.

  2. Data security. Since databases contain sensitive information including anything from confidential business documents to employee salary data, a database administrator is responsible for making sure the right measures are in place so these details don’t get into the wrong hands.

  3. Data backups. Just as important as making sure your company’s data doesn’t get into the wrong hands, database administrators are tasked with ensuring your data is backed up—and able to be recovered quickly—in the event of a hardware or software failure.

While it’s a good start to have a basic understanding of what their responsibilities are, educating yourself on more specific challenges will make conversations with DBAs flow more naturally. Here are three things that database administrators are always looking to learn more about to help them be better at their jobs.

  1. MongoDB vs. Cassandra. These databases can be difficult for a DBA to choose between for data migration purposes. However, it’s good to know that MongoDB is typically used when handling a single server, whereas Cassandra is often the choice when organizations are concerned about scaling in the future.

  2. The best way to store passwords in a database. It’s typically accepted that simply entering passwords into a text field in a database is a big no-no. To make password storage much more secure, database administrators use what are referred to as salts, which help defend against attacks against a list of passwords.

  3. At what point does a MySQL database begin to degrade? It’s a common assumption that the size of a database affects its performance over time, but MySQL databases are more often affected by how many queries their indexes can handle at a time.

Know What Gets Database Administrators Excited About Coming to Work

Employer branding goes a long way in making yourself attractive when you’re looking to hire database administrators. However, you can really set yourself apart by knowing what gets a DBA excited about coming to work. We spoke with Justin Ong, a database administrator with nine years of experience, who told us about what he and his colleagues have valued when they’ve considered new roles in the past.

  1. Opportunities to work with new technologies. Some of the newer and more popular languages database administrators like to play with include Hadoop and NoSQL. Additionally, DBAs get particularly excited when they get to build MySQL customizations on Amazon’s cloud.

  2. Work/life balance. Historically, DBAs at larger companies have been required to participate in on-call rotations. This isn’t a complete deal-breaker, but if your company prioritizes a work/life balance for everyone, this is bound to get a DBA’s attention quickly.

Although the top candidates won’t expect you to know everything about what they do, knowing the basics about what a database administrator’s work entails can really help you set yourself apart from hiring managers who haven’t done their homework. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to memorize all these talking points, but when it comes time to hire a database administrator, you’ll find that having these on hand throughout the entire interview process will pay huge dividends.

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