Database as a service (DBaaS) is somewhat similar to software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS), in that all of these products are hosted “as a service.” Additionally, organizations of all sizes have many things to consider before selecting the best provider for any of these services.

A quick web search for DBaaS providers will reveal a litany of companies vying for your business; from startups with a handful of employees to organizations with large teams of experienced database administrators (DBAs). Some companies may be in such a bind that they rush to partner with the company that appears at the top of the search engine results page, a decision which can be dangerous for several reasons. Many others inadvertently omit critical questions or simply fail to properly plan for the transition and their future.

When it comes to evaluating mission critical service providers, you need to have a firm understanding of the prospective provider’s experience, history, size, financial viability, and compatibility with your needs. Leveraging years of experience and domain expertise, we want to share some valuable insight that will help you make smart decisions when choosing a DBaaS provider.

The Critical Question — Cost

For many managed services providers, it’s quite common to charge different rates based on the resources assigned to the account, the time of day activities are performed, and the overall skill set required for service delivery.

Augmenting teams or relying on the comprehensive service of a DBaaS provider can certainly be the perfect solution for many organizations around the world. It is however critical that you know the associated cost of these services at all times. Generally, it’s going to be in your best interest to go with a provider that charges a fixed rate for all services. Failing that, a percentage rate tied to another managed cost (like your AWS or Azure infrastructure cost) can be a smart way to keep your spending on DBaaS services in check. The last thing you want is to be surprised by an unpredictable invoice at the end of each month.

Prioritization & Integration

In order to ensure a smooth transition and integration, fully managed DBaaS providers should assign a dedicated onboarding team that follows a standardized and proven integration practice. This should include the participation of a support team that will be responsible for monitoring critical implementation activities including provisioning, installation, migration, connectivity and utilization reports.

Top-level support teams should provide thorough documentation of all large projects and address security procedures, change management and problem resolution processes. It’s imperative that your chosen DBaaS provider is quickly integrated into operations and clearly understands the prioritization of projects and activities.

Security and Safety

Security breaches are a huge concern today and DBaaS providers must provide top of the line protection. For example, consider whether the prospective DBaaS provider requires new-hire background checks, credit checks and/or drug screens. The provider should also have a program for continuous security training to ensure their service personnel are trained on the latest data protection practices. Of course, the vendor's work request portal should only allow authorized users to request changes to the organization’s systems.

Additionally, as your DBaaS provider will have direct access to your organization’s data, their technical safeguards should include firewalls, intrusion detection systems, security event log aggregators, two-factor authentication and a robust password vault. To provide verification that the provider's environment is secure, there should be regularly scheduled vulnerability scans and penetration tests.

Complying with industry security and service delivery quality standards is an extremely important behavior to look for in a DBaaS provider. Confirm that the vendor has the processes and products in place to protect your data while providing high-quality support. Your DbaaS provider should ensure that your data is secure in transit, at rest and in use while also protecting you from the risk of malicious outsiders and insiders. They should also be able to demonstrate data management practices to ensure confidentiality, integrity and availability of personal and business-critical information. The vendor should also be willing to comply with the organization’s specific regulatory requirements.

A final key attribute that many organizations inadvertently omit from their list of security requirements is the continuous investment in your security. When it comes to the security of your data, you need a managed service provider that invests in value-add technologies and best practices to stay ahead of emerging risks in an ever changing environment.

Does this high bar disqualify many smaller or newer DBaaS providers? Possibly, but not necessarily. Many of the smaller DBaaS providers may be a bit more agile in their ability to meet these requirements as a way of winning your business. Either way, don’t cut corners on security to save a dollar. It may end up being your most costly mistake.

Support Assurance

Continuous high-quality support is critical for any organization and while most everyone expects great support, not every DBaaS provider can offer it. How “expert” are your potential DBaaS provider’s experts? Is support limited to a “help line” or a single point of contact? Are the least skilled and experienced technicians not on duty during the overnight shift when you might need them most?

Not only should the vendor's support engine be architected to ensure service continuity, the support team itself needs to work cohesively and without knowledge gaps around the clock so that you can tap into the team’s collective knowledge base whenever needed.

Your DBaaS provider's response time should also be well-defined. Different organizations offer different Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for different issues. Make sure any potential service provider is clear about when you can expect an acknowledgement of your issue, how frequently you can expect updates, and what typical resolution times are for the most common issues. Being comfortable with your DBaaS provider’s SLAs is one of the best ways to ensure a productive working relationship.

Premium DBaaS providers foster a high-quality support environment by utilizing ITIL support libraries and process documentation, as well as supporting business intelligence products. Other important technologies such as data warehousing, HA implementations and third-party applications can help increase the value of a DBaaS solution as well. Additionally, a small percentage also provide dedicated subject matter experts in order to help the organization maximize their database investment and take full advantage of their database's advanced features.

Finally, consider a DBaaS provider that deploys and supports several databases and/or operating systems to make sure that you can maximize the benefit of your business relationship. A “one size fits all" DBaaS provider is often not an optimal partner for most companies, including yours. Organizations should also look for a provider that will customize the support packages to exactly what you need — from a supplemental relationship with a small scope of support activities and services, to total ownership for the support of your operational environment. Make sure that your DBaaS relationship is a good fit for your organization’s needs first and foremost.

Premium Expertise

More likely than not, the fully managed DBaaS providers you speak with will claim that their teams are indeed “experts,” but you need to know exactly what their definition of an expert is. No matter whether your organization is looking for a provider to extend the capabilities of your current team or to serve as your entire virtual IT team, you need more than basic DBAs.

Partnering with a provider that has cloud expertise, especially with AWS and Azure, combined with database expertise can provide you with the winning combination you need to be successful now, and into the future.

Non-Standard Event Monitoring

Multitasking is a skill that numerous organizations embrace to stay competitive in today’s business environment. As a result, many systems - including databases - require multifaceted monitoring. However, even the smallest of organizations have numerous application events that need to be monitored to ensure workloads are being processed and time-sensitive, mission critical projects are marching in a timely manner toward completion.

Ensure that the provider's monitoring system is able to monitor any event that occurs in your system, standard and non-standard alike and that their personnel will be trained to resolve any event based on your instructions. Again, your needs may be unique but that doesn’t mean they are not important. Your DBaaS provider should be flexible and accommodate your needs, not the other way around.

The Established Answer

Finding a DBaaS provider that encompasses a professional atmosphere and provides the entirety of offerings and services described above would be the ideal solution for many. A one-stop-shop that works to ensure that the client’s database needs are met on a consistent basis within agreed SLAs could be the difference between a great partnership and one that fails to meet your expectations.

Get flexible, scalable and fully managed database administration (DBA) support for ALL major platforms including Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MongoDB, IBM DB2, MySQL, PostgreSQL, AWS, Azure, and Oracle Cloud.

At RDX, our service packages give organizations of every size the same full range of options — from supplemental services designed to augment your internal staff to assuming total ownership of your entire database environment. Our team not only strives to provide the exact support package you require, we aim to exceed expectations on a daily basis. RDX is the leading global provider and pioneer of remote DBA and data infrastructure managed services for a reason.

From your initial system design and implementation to the critical ongoing support and 24/7 monitoring from your dedicated team, RDX is your trusted digital partner for Database as a Service.

Contact us for more information about our services, supported technologies, and expertise. We have the answers you’ll want to hear as you confirm for yourself why so many others trust RDX to provide the expert services necessary to run a successful business more efficiently.