Sizing Up the Costs of Remote Database Administration Services

eWEEK talks to three U.S.-based providers of remote database services to discover the cost savings and profiles of customers. In the IT department, the CIO does not want to hear about how the company is losing revenue due to poorly managed technology. eWEEK finds out how remote database services keep these providers' technology running smoothly and cost-effectively.

In this economy, IT departments are being asked to do more technology management with less manpower while still keeping things running smoothly 24/7/365.

When a database process gets caught up, flutters and freezes, many businesses stand to lose customers' loyalty and their greenbacks. The last thing your CIO wants is a call from the CEO about lost revenue due to poorly managed technology environments. At the same time, your chief financial officer is telling IT executives on a quarter-by-quarter basis to slash cash from the budget.

How do you cut highly specialized, but required, database administration costs from a budget while still keeping services and systems running optimally?

Sometimes it means getting help outside the company. eWEEK talked to three independent, U.S-based providers of remote database services to get a feel for the cost savings to be found in one segment of technology management.

For another look at outsourced remote database services, click here.

"In some cases, our customers have seen cost savings in the 75 percent range," said David Wolff, CEO of Database Specialists, a Bay Area provider that has been focused on DBA services since 2000 and touts having only senior-level Oracle DBAs with over 10 years of certifiable experience.

"When you look at full-time senior Oracle DBAs, you're talking about an annual salary range of $100 to $120K-nearly $160K with benefits," Wolff said. "That works out to be about $13K a month ... We can do it for about $3K a month, an instance."

Similar pricing was validated by another remote database services provider, Bluewolf, based in New York, though Bluewolf put the savings rate at closer to 40 percent off full-time, in-house database staff.

"We tie our services to agreed-upon tasks per month, not the number of hours, in a range of $3,000 to $6000 a month depending on the work and instances," said Rick Boccard, a director at Bluewolf. "We don't do code development at all, which keeps us focused on monitoring and administration. We will help with migrations and reviews, but we draw the line at code development."

With 44 customers, and 24 full-time DBAs on staff managing all the major platforms-Oracle, Microsoft SQL and MySQL-Bluewolf sees its strength in being more regionally focused than some of the larger players in the space, Boccard said.

Click here to see 12 tips from Bluewolf for making remote database administration easier.

"Seventy-five percent of our business is within a 100-mile radius of our operations centers in New York, San Francisco and North Carolina," said Boccard. Bluewolf's customers include Heineken, Levolor Kirsch and PDI Pharmaceuticals. "We like it that way because we put a serious value on visiting our customers on-site regularly. We think it's good for business, and it allows our team to become more closely integrated with the customer's internal team ... You can't underestimate the value to our customers of knowing the names and faces you work with regularly, even if they aren't a full-time staffer."

Being nearby might seem to have value for companies that want the personalized touch, but additionally, it makes a whole lot of sense for those companies that are forced to comply with government regulations requiring stateside-only labor. But it raises the question, Are remote database service providers restricted by the region in which they are based?

"The bulk of our client base is in the Eastern half of the U.S. in financial services," said John Bostick, CEO of dbaDirect, a larger remote database service provider with 135 employees worldwide; more than 80 employees in the United States, 40 in Bangalore, India, and 10 in Schenzhan, China. "We're not a regional provider, we're global, but we have a large presence in that part of the U.S. because 1,237 of the Fortune 1500 are east of the Mississippi."

dbaDirect, whose customers are dominated by financial services companies such as regional and community banks, is based in Florence, Ky., not far from Cincinnati. dbaDirect has a major payment processing business as well as a data infrastructure management business, but organizes its services across the data spectrum from data automation (Onguard 2.0), continuous service assurance and legacy mainframe data management.

"We see three types of customers," Bostick said. "The first is the continuous engagement customer who uses us for dedicated DBA services or part-time, supplemental DBAs. The second are those who want only production-tasked DBAs and the third are those who want us for specific capacity projects, upgrades and migrations."

When asked whether going offshore reduced costs for his customers, Bostick said without hesitation, yes. Having a global presence allows his company to compete on price with the companies that are totally offshore, as well as take on U.S.-based projects that need quick turnaround.

"How do you drive rapid-required workloads like upgrades and migrations over a weekend?" he asked. "You use your global presence to make that happen while you compete on price and productivity ... The good thing is that for those companies who don't wish to or cannot, for regulatory reasons, do business abroad, we can customize our network to only work in the States. But, undoubtedly, having the flexibility for those clients who want and need price only, we offer that too."