Several recent studies have revealed that more organizations are looking to outside help to manage aspects of their IT systems. That includes database-as-a-service.

DBaaS enables an organization to test drive multiple solutions and only buy the licenses and hardware that it needs to be successful.

Almost every business these days is data-centered. Whether the data is for internal applications and systems, or for other services that are offered, let’s face it … managing that data is a key to success.

Before listing the pros and cons of DBaaS, we need to explore a few decisions organizations have to make. These include numerous quick decisions about data handling that can set them on a path that, if incorrect, are difficult and costly to correct.

Those decisions are:

  • What database type to use, SQL or NoSQL?
  • What are the data storage and query needs? Transactional? Big Data?
  • What database system to use? A few SQL choices might be Oracle, MySQL, MSSQL, and Sybase. A few No-SQL choices might be MongoDB or Cassandra.
  • Do we have DBA (database administrator) talent or do we have to hire?
  • What kind of server or resources are needed? What are my power, server, disk, processing, network, and IO requirements?
  • How do I maintain, backup, administer and otherwise own the database framework?
  • What is my cost of ownership?

First let’s explore which database type to use, SQL or NoSQL.

Traditional database types classified as SQL have a significant place in businesses and are a mainstay for business choices. However, as companies start to create applications that drive decisions based on significant database analysis of large, almost unfathomable amounts of data, they migrate to NoSQL solutions like MongoDB or Cassandra.

The architecture of NoSQL makes it a good choice for big data solutions while the built-in protections of a transactional based system like Oracle make it a better choice for banking or similar solutions.

When it comes to picking a specific system, businesses tend to stick with what they know. In other words, if they already have Oracle, and Oracle talent, then when management asks those individuals which database system they should use on Project X, it should be no surprise that they pick Oracle.

Matching a specific database system to a set of business requirements is an arduous task that should always be looked at with a fresh perspective. It should not just be based on what talent is already employed or what systems a business is comfortable with.

Let’s face it, if a business picks correctly, all is good. If they pick incorrectly, they have wasted a lot of resources which equates to dollars.

Enter DBaaS. The value of DBaaS is that it gives businesses the ability to test the waters a bit, to try before they invest heavily. DBaaS acts as a stepping stone to total ownership, a cost effective solution to help you figure out your needs prior to investing heavily.

DBaaS has both pros and cons.

First, it is necessary to distinguish between “hosting database systems” and DBaaS.

There are many cloud based solutions that “host” a database system but provide no significant help in configuration, tuning, consulting, and providing the talent needed to actually use those systems.

True DBaaS provides both the system and the talent to help you utilize the database and determine how to store, query, and analyze your data. The value of DBaaS goes way beyond the hosting.

The pros of DBaaS include:

  • No equipment or software licenses.
  • Flexibility. Multiple choices are available to test drive your applications and pick the right platform for your business requirements.
  • Significantly less staffing requirements. The DBaaS provider handles installation, configuration, and in many cases development.
  • Offsite hosting, providing protection from local power failures or disasters. Many businesses design their system with power redundancy in mind, but, in reality, rarely meet those goals.
  • SLA agreements that have redundancy, uptime, and backup protections. A DBaaS provider has intent focus on protecting your data.

Meantime, the cons of DBaaS include, and these are by no means insignificant:

  • Limited access to underlying servers. This can present itself as a feeling of no control.
  • Very little knowledge of how your data is protected from cyber security threats. This can be dangerous for sensitive data.

So how do you decide? Is there a transition from one to the other? Yes, almost always, but by following a few guidelines to start with, DBaaS can be used properly.

Those who wish to use DBaaS should adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Do all development using DBaaS. This is your chance to test drive different architectures and features.
  2. Unless you have full disclosure of how your data is protected, managed, and secured by DBaaS providers, it is suggested to consult with database architects to host sensitive data internally. Note, this is typically not big data. When we use the terms sensitive data, we mean just that. Data like SSNs, account details, financials, personal data, etc. Does this mean that you cannot use DBaaS for this? No, it means that you first have to find a DBaaS provider that will show you everything from how your encrypted data gets in their system to storage, access, etc.
  3. When you are not sure of what your database needs really are, use DBaaS first. This lets you try SQL or NoSQL. This lets you explore the encryption capabilities of Oracle versus MySQL. Think of DBaaS like buying a car. You test drive sedans, trucks, and SUVs, and try different manufacturers and features. You may decide to lease or buy.
  4. Always monitor and evaluate the cost of ownership. As your system grows, the operating costs might make sense to drop DBaaS and build an in-house system. By then, however, you have already decided on what you really need.

The goal with DBaaS is to test drive multiple solutions and only buy the licenses and hardware you need to be successful. You can then hire the correct talent to manage your system.

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David Moye

David Moye

David Moye is a principal with Forensic IT, a firm providing big data solutions to companies nationwide.