Managed Database Service VS Internal DBA: Which is Right for you?

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Deciding whether to opt for a database managed service VS internal DBA can be a difficult decision.

On the one hand, an in-house DBA is a known factor. You can bring in an individual you’ve formally approved of in the hiring process.

On the other hand, hiring an in-house DBA is expensive. And, unless you’re willing to budget for an entire team, it could significantly limit your coverage, putting you at risk of costly downtime.

A database managed service gives you access to that desired team of database experts, and certainly offers a great value proposition. But perhaps your internal team already knows your systems inside out – will the outsourced team have the same knowledge?

We’ve pulled together some of the pros and cons for both database managed service VS an internal DBA. Plus, we’ve included a surprise third choice you may not not have considered.

Reasons to Outsource your Database

1) Cost-Efficiency

The skills shortage in the IT sector is a challenge most people are aware of. However, when it comes to database services, this shortage is only exacerbated. There simply are not enough experienced DBAs to go around.

Because of this, and because it’s a highly skilled role, people are willing to pay big money for database administrators.

The average full-time salary for an entry-level database administrator in the UK is not too far short of £40,000. But if you require a seasoned, experienced DBA? That’ll set you back roughly £70,000 – £80,000 per annum

And that doesn’t include the associated recruitment and training overheads.

A database managed service is often better value than a team of internal DBAs.

You cannot simply hire one DBA either. Regardless of the size of your database estate, a single DBA cannot manage your estate round-the-clock – it’s logistically impossible.

So, once you’ve factored in round-the-clock support you’re looking at over £200,000 per annum on salaries alone.

Perhaps you can absorb this cost, but many organisations cannot. They end up hiring one or two DBAs and take their chances when it comes to downtime. 

It’s far more cost effective to outsource your database services to a dedicated database managed service provider. This is a fraction of the cost of internal hiring, for access to a pool of knowledge, which brings us on to our next point.

More Reasons to Outsource your DBA Function


2) Depth of Experience

The perk of having access to an entire team of database experts at the end of the phone – at any time of day – cannot be overstated.

Being able to speak to a team, all with their own specialised knowledge, results in a far quicker resolution time. This means peace of mind, knowing that no matter what issues you face, there’s typically someone on a managed service team who has seen your issue (or similar) before.

Faster resolution time means sharply reduces the risk of database downtime. And with database downtime costing businesses an average of £73,000 per hour, that’s a significant mitigation of risk.

You can’t get this level of database expertise in-house for a comparable cost.

3) Reduce Retention Anxiety

An unfortunate byproduct of the database services skills shortage is retention.

With so few experienced database administrators looking for work, the sad reality is that some businesses will seek to poach talent from other organisations. Higher salaries, additional training in new technologies, and other incentives are placed on the table to encourage DBAs to leave their current role.

What is more prevalent is that a database administrator simply gets bored of their day-to-day role. If they’re stuck maintaining the same databases, performing the same role, without the opportunity to acquire knowledge, it can become monotonous. DBAs want to learn – they want to work with new technology and gain new skills.

What this means is that businesses already heavily investing in their staff need to allocate additional resources to help a DBA realise their goals. If this cannot be done, the chances are that the individual in question may have their head turned by a more lucrative offer.

At Xynomix, our database administrators are amongst the best in the business. We invest in our staff, and the team is always working on new accreditations and technologies.

Common Objections to Managed Database Services

1) Risk Aversion:
Will an External DBA Know my Systems?

Some businesses opt to keep their database services in-house on the basis that an in-house team has been properly screened and approved during the hiring process. A straightforward manner of identifying known factors.

There’s a train of thought that goes along with this, saying that if senior management is happy with the individuals hired, then that’s the end of the conversation. There’s also a belief that an internal team knows a business’s internal systems better than an outsourced team. 

This isn’t necessarily true – proximity does not equate to experience. Just because an internal team works closely with a database, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t novel, innovative ways to approach database management. 

By keeping your database services purely in house, you risk a lack of perspective afforded by an outsourced team that works on a whole host of database environments on a daily basis.

97% of our managed service customers renew with us. We become more and more familiar with customers’ systems as the days, months, and years go by.

2) Scepticism over Cost Savings:
The Belief that they can 'get by' with a Single DBA

Because DBAs are costly to hire, not every organisation can afford to hire a fully-staffed team, and instead opt to hire one person to do the role.

And if a disaster doesn’t happen in the short term, it can lead businesses to fall into a false sense of security, believing that only a single DBA will suffice.

Depending on the size of the business, and the level of reliance on the availability of data, maybe they will get by with a single DBA. But it isn’t recommended. Especially when you consider that 40-60% of small businesses won’t re-open again following data loss. 

Businesses relying on minimal staff must be mindful of the risks of this approach – one-man bands are rarely a good idea. Especially when there are other, more affordable options, such as a managed service.

If you are currently running a technical team with only one or two DBAs and have no plans to either hire more, or take out a managed service, you must mitigate against the potential risk of downtime.

For example, examine your contingency plans for the following situations:

3) Lack of Control:
Can I rely on my Managed Database Service Provider?

Some business owners are reluctant to let go of a physical presence on-site. After all, a managed database service is an agreement based on trust that not all organisations feel comfortable with.

It’s a point of view that often comes up now and again when cloud migrations are discussed. There’s an anxiety towards the movement from the tangible to the intangible, whether it’s on-site tin to off-site cloud, or from internal DBA to outsourced database services.

It’s not an unreasonable or irrational fear, but it’s not wholly representative of the facts. 

These fears can be easily allayed by choosing the right managed database services provider. And much like employees, not all outsourced database service providers are created equal – some are far more experienced than others.

There are a handful of differentiators that you’ll want to look for – experience, strong partner relationships, and industry certifications (including ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials), just to name a few. Also consider looking for partner and customer case studies related to managed services for a fuller understanding of the service on offer.

It’s natural to feel uncomfortable about outsourcing, but it’s a fear that could result in an organisation missing out on huge boosts to productivity and risk management.

Getting the Best of Both:
Co-Managed Database Services

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t need to be a simple case of a managed database service vs an internal DBA. You can actually get the benefits of both.

Enter co-managed database services. 

This is where you partially outsource your database services to a database managed service provider, whilst retaining core roles within your business.

As all DBAs know, there’s a lot of maintenance involved with being a DBA. This means that you’re often hampered by trying to keep the lights on, as opposed to being able to innovate.

Outsourcing the basics frees up your team to learn new skills, and implement new technology & processes that deliver a net benefit to your business.

For example, most database managed service providers offer upskilling as a service, empowering your existing internal team. Plus, opting for a co-managed database service takes some of the heat off of your internal team.

Database Managed Service VS Internal DBA:
Which is the best option for me?

Naturally, your final decision will depend on a few factors, including budget, risk factors, and your overall growth objectives.

Both are viable options. However, a database managed service offers superior cost efficiencies whilst minimising risk and opening up growth opportunities.

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