Database Administration (DBA) is at the heart of business processes. Many companies find it challenging to recruit and retain the in-house expertise that is required for good database management. It can be hard to find a DBA that is good at what you need or too expensive to hire the level of expertise required or the business simply does not require a full time DBA on their team. A DBA consultant can provide the exact expertise that your business needs and get the work done quickly and right. Therefore, finding a good DBA consultant, one that has the expertise that you require, is important.
So when choosing, what should you look for?
- Do they know their stuff? Make sure to ask specific professional DBA questions. If you have to, hire someone to conduct the technical part of the interview, but don’t rely solely on a resume and client references.
- Who is my point of contact? How available are they and what happens when they are not available? Is there a well-defined protocol that they follow when you report an issue or have a problem that needs to be resolved?
- Who does the actual work? Avoid shell companies that sell you DBA services and then send the job to a subcontractor. Look for companies that supply “in-house” talent.
- Talk about your specific database project with each prospect. Get a sense of how closely their database experience matches your project requirements. You don’t want to hire a DBA who will be learning on your bill. You want to find a DBA who has experience in the tasks you need help with.
- Are they able to see the big picture and get aligned with your company’s business goals? Do they think in terms of ROI and saving your business money? Get a sense of how business savvy they are. It’s not enough for a DBA consultant to be a good technologist.
- Prices: Check and recheck the costs and get a guarantee that there are no hidden costs such as higher after-hour fees. The small print can sometimes lead to big problems.
- Do they offer an SLA? It’s difficult for DBA’s to promise project success from the get go. But what can they guarantee? And what happens if they fail to deliver?
- Do they work methodically or is their approach more ad hoc? Ask them about the work processes they use. Is everything logged? How do they handle version control? A scientific approach with a clear methodology is much more likely to lead to a successful outcome.
- Trust! If you don’t feel at ease, there is probably a tangible reason. Feel comfortable and confident? There is likely a tangible reason for that as well. Trust your instincts. You can check references but they can be bogus. Still, you should check. So dig deep to feel how sincere the recommendations are. Don’t be shy to interview the references and ask pointed questions such as how long they worked with the vendor, did things go smoothly, what problems did arise (no one is perfect!), etc.
- The human factor: Everything always goes smoother when the people working together get along. A good DBA doesn’t need to be your best friend, but you will interact quite a bit. So pay attention to the chemistry you have with one another and choose someone with whom you believe you will have a good and pleasant working relationship.