What is DBA as a Service?

By Charles

May 7, 2016

Database, Database Services

There are many ways to get the required database skills your business needs.

Some are cheaper, and some offer better levels of service. It is down to what your business requires and what your business determines as the best value as to which option you should use to fill that skills gap.

The options are pretty limited, so you can hire a DBA full-time, hire a database consultant or use DBA as a Service, also known as Managed SQL Services.

Database skills are required for over 87% of small businesses.

How can that be?

Every application you use needs to store data somewhere. It could be a bespoke application for your industry, a case management system, a CRM application or even an HR system.

In most cases, a SQL Server relational database stores your data which needs to be looked after and certainly needs to be backed up.

Could you run or grow your business without those applications available to your employees?

What would happen if the database was lost and you couldn’t restore it from a backup?

Developers have relied on SQL Express more and more over the years. It gives a solid and reliable database engine.

It is free for applications with small system requirements, such as databases under 10 GB and not needing more than 1 GB of RAM.

It is the perfect partner to store an application’s data as it is easy to integrate and can be bundled with applications. Being a FREE gateway product has helped SQL Server spread and end up on most businesses’ infrastructure.

Once databases grew too big, they would need to purchase, at minimum, the standard edition of SQL Server, making an easy transition for the customer and an easy payday for Microsoft.

This led to specialists needing to look after this database back ends.

Small businesses increasingly rely on software products to increase their growth and customer service.

The importance of these applications has grown with the dependence on them, making them mission-critical.

Basics of DBA as a Service

DBA, or Database Administrator as a service, is exactly what it sounds like. You outsource your database management requirements to a company that agrees to provide you with its database skills for a fixed cost based on the SLAs required.

The support will most likely include remote management and typical DBA processes such as re-build and re-organise indexes, updating statistics, database integrity checks, and backup management.

Processes that should already be in place are often missed out when a business has not been required to manage databases before.

The first signs of these processes being missing are slow applications or the inability to restore a database to a previous state when disaster strikes.

Monitoring performance and the resolution of any performance issues is a great bonus to have. Instead of blaming ‘the database’ and just restarting the server, an experienced DBA can find and resolve performance issues.

No database ever stays the same. Like a child, they grow and change over time. By tuning a database, you can increase its performance.

So a system installed five years ago will most likely not be used as intended – significantly if the application has been updated over time adding new features.

Regarding performance, a DBA can find and resolve the issue or inform other teams about the root cause rather than just saying, ‘the database is slow’.

Benefits of Knowledgable DBAs

Having knowledgeable DBAs designing a backup strategy and monitoring your database backups is probably all the justification you need to use DBA as a Service.

Most of a DBA’s job revolves around backups and restores, so ensuring they are working is paramount.

The other option, of course, would be to hire a DBA full-time, but do you have approximately 40 hours of work per week for that one person to do?

Can you justify paying one person over £35k to look after backups and wait for the next disaster?

If not a full-time person, a contractor could fill the gap temporarily, but once they have gone, will you take over the database responsibility?

If not, then DBA as a Service is likely the most cost-effective business option cost-effectiveness.

You do not have to worry about covering the entire time salary or the training requirements, but by using DBA as a Service, you will have a whole team of experienced professionals ready to show their worth.

They will be available when needed, and you will not pay them to sit around for the next disaster.

For a more in-depth look at whether you should hire a DBA, consider reading our blog post comparing DBAs to managed SQL services.


Ultimately, using DBA as a Service is like having a warranty. You buy it and sometimes forget about it, but when the inevitable happens, they drag you out of the fire and keep your business running with minimum downtime.

These days your business is your data; without backups, you don’t have either, and it requires someone to manage them.

You wouldn’t buy a car without getting a warranty, no matter how old it is.

So why would you leave your entire business open to the possibility of a catastrophic event?


About the author

Microsoft Certified SQL Server DBA with over a decades experience including work for large FTSE 250 companies amongst others. The SQL Server stack has been the focus of almost all of my career in IT. I have experience designing, supporting and troubleshooting large Data Platform deployments.

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