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This essay will discuss the importance of database management, how it came about, its key principles, its implementation and how it benefits an organisation or society.
What is database management? Database management is simply the act of manipulating and controlling data to fulfil the user’s requirements, usually with the aid of a program.
A database, in layman’s term, is an organised collection of data. A database is a system that allows data to be easily stored, accessed, manipulated and updated. Meanwhile, data are basically facts, events, transactions that have been recorded.
So why is database management important? Due to limited resources, databases need to be managed in the most efficient and cost effective way so as to ensure the continuation of an organisation. If database is not managed properly, it can lead to inefficiencies, misuse or data being lost/stolen or unusable.
In the early days, IBM made a program called IMS. It provided less redundant data, data independence and more. However, it was hard to implement and there was no standards to adhere to.
Then, there was network Database Management System. CODASYL invented a program called COBOL along with the CODASYL approach. Using that approach, it was possible to use DBMS for business use. However, it was still complex with issues in designs and maintenance.
Relational DBMS was thus invented to fill the void. It was a new system for entering data and working with big databases using a system of a table of records. Making things easier to search for or remove and also making the program more intuitive.
So what are the requirements to manage your database properly? Great data management is vital for the correct use of the information resources of an organisation in the entirety of it’s structure. Below are some of the key concepts.
A good foundation in data policy will ensure good data management. Each policy may differ from organisation to organisation but there should be adherence to a standard so that the Data Management can operate. Additionally, in our times data policies should be reviewed every now and then to keep up with current or future threats. It should not be stagnant.
The owner of the data must be clear.The owners are the one who had the data first and has custody of its control, legal rights and financial aspects.The owners has the right to do anything with the data and even destroy them. If the owner is unclear, there are risk to the data being wrongly used, being use for free and even lost. It is therefore important for Data Owners to take action to establish and document:
The following are some models of a data policy statement prescribed by the organisation IGGI, to use and adapt to your own need.
With projects and activities, data will be made and whether it already existed and can be used, or whether new data is needed. Before projects are approved, they must outline how the data received will be used to the fullest, the responsibility for using the data, and how the benefits will be maximized and shared. Proper data handling and storage is needed so as to make full use of the data.
The steward ensures that procedures are followed. Data will be kept in a secure database and stored for maximum life cycle. All data will be checked and quality controlled before being used or stored. The data will be made easy to access by staffs and customers. Data that doesn’t need to be kept will be explored whether it can bring benefits and be justified of the cost in keeping it.
For an organisation to be successful, the best data management practices must be carried out throughout the whole organisation, spear headed by the data management champion along with the data manage and data stewards to help.
The Champion is responsible to:
If the organisation is big, having multiple branches over a wide geographical area will require a data management steering group.
The Data Manager along with it’s local counterpart will fulfill these responsibilities:
Data Stewards are in charge of applying standards to each dataset:
Data on all medias are valuable resources and if the management of it is done right it brings many benefits like these:
It brings increased confidence and trust that the condition of use of the data are met and that there’s no risk of losing data, copyright and IPR. Whilst also getting a clear understanding of the usage of the data in a signed document by both parties and a fair return for it.
It gives increased awareness and understanding of what data are available for current and future use due to good catalog and archiving. It increases access and removes obstacles to data and protects confidentiality or infringement of legal and contractual obligations.
With effective metadata, better quality data and more timely information is easier.
A very recent example would be the compromised IT system owned by SingHealth. It was a very serious breach which resulted in 1.5million patient’s personal data and medical dispensed data being stolen. Even the current Prime minister was affected, with his case showing to be a priority target. These stolen personal data which includes names, NRIC numbers, address, gender, race and date of birth, has a high chance of being misused. They were taken by surprised, complacent and unprepared for future threats. This means that their policies and how they manage it needs an urgent review.
Unusual activity took 7 days to detect and when it did the measures taken was not convincingly enough as they put up temporary defenses. It took them another 5 days to actually realize that it was an actual cyber attack. They also did not report to their superiors at the first sign of unusual activity which should have been a priority. It was said that the attack was sophisticated and planned by a country.
This example may show you don’t need a country’s backing or highly skilled to hack. What happened was a hacker breached the US’s Air force stealing secret files by taking advantage of a router vulnerability. He also tried to sell it on a forum for USD150 with the data he stole which was schematics for the MQ-9 reaper drone worth hundreds of thousands.
So what does this mean? It speaks volumes about the fact that a single hacker with moderate technical skills was able to identify several vulnerable military targets and ex-filtrate highly sensitive information in short time is a disturbing preview of what a more determined and organised group with superior technical and financial resources could achieve.
Technology trends are akin to water, it can happen any time, thus making it vital to keep up with the current and future trends and understanding their impacts. Below are some of the trends that will propel the database management system forward.
Real time data is a must for a company to be competitive . Investing in a single system is expensive, however, you can include systems that allow your business to scale up and manage the database infrastructure.
The demand for real time analysis on transactional data is increasing. Companies are using hybrid database systems to simplify a transact using a simplified technology architecture. This came about based on the demand to intertwine operations with real time data analysis. It could be real-time fraud detection, targeting, or recommendations. Expert analysis says that this trend will have a major impact in the future. Hybrid systems also have an advantage that it comes with an in-memory that allows simple architecture. It’s easier to maintain a database system without data transfer or sharing. More companies will use real-time data for vital business decisions. This will allow for more innovations to advance and a more reliable acute decision making and predictions.
Data security isn’t a trend, but it’s an perpetual battlefield especially for US-based organisations that clearly shows that it’s vital for database admins to work together with IT security counterparts to ensure all organisation data remains safe. Any organisation that stores data is vulnerable.
Database admins must cooperate with the security team to remove potential internal weaknesses that could make data vulnerable. These could include issues related to network privileges, even hardware or software misconfigurations that could be misused, resulting in data leaks.
Finally, I reiterate the point I made in the introduction, which was to manage databases using the best practices whilst also maximising it’s cost and efficiency and at the same time, not trading off security, implementations and policies.
We should always expect an attack in this today’s world and being prepared to the minute details is better than getting caught off guard with your pants down.
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