Why You Need to Track Database Changes

by May 22, 2020

Change is a constant that all IT professionals accept as part of the job. There are many different concrete manifestations of the abstract concept of change that can be seen in an organization’s computing resources. They range from small modifications that affect system performance to complete paradigm shifts such as the introduction of public cloud services.

Keeping up with the changes that impact their databases is the responsibility of enterprise DBAs. Usually, database administrators will be the ones initiating and performing the changes and updates to their systems. In the complex and multi-platform environments that dominate the computing landscape, attempting to manage these changes haphazardly is a losing proposition. The team will soon be hard-pressed to remember what they did last week, no less the changes that were implemented six months ago to resolve a sudden performance problem.

IDERA’s DB Change Manager is a tool designed to help organizations address the many changes that affect their databases. Let’s look at some of the reasons that database changes need to be managed and how DB Change Manager effectively performs this important task.

Reasons for Managing Database Changes

Change management is important in all areas of enterprise IT. The increased focus and value of data assets have resulted in databases assuming a position of enhanced significance. This raises the stakes where database changes are concerned. Several reasons should convince any team of the advantages of managing their database changes.

Avoiding unexpected downtime

One of the most detrimental outcomes of a database change is an unexpected outage. In May 2019, Salesforce had to shut down access to one of its main servers, potentially leading to millions of dollars in losses. The outage was caused by a change in a database script that affected user permissions and inadvertently exposed data to unauthorized entities.

The manually implemented change had not been properly vetted before being introduced to the environment. This example highlights the problems that can be caused by a simple change. In dynamic environments that are subjected to constant changes, teams need the ability to quickly find out what has been done to the system and how to return it to a fully operational state.

Providing evidence for compliance audits

Compliance with data privacy regulations such as the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has become critically important for organizations that collect and store personal information. Compliance certainly has some associated costs, but the financial implications of non-compliance make it imperative that companies enforce data privacy standards. The cost of non-compliance is more than double what it takes to remain compliant.

Change management comes into play in the compliance game when evidence is required to fulfill auditors’ requests for information. The ability to prove when data protection measures were implemented can spell the difference between passing or failing a compliance audit. Everything related to data privacy should be able to be documented and verified to the liking of the audit team.

Addressing performance issues

The ability to track and review database changes can be instrumental in resolving performance issues that seem to appear out of nowhere. A careful reading of logs and reports can point out exactly what was done the day before users started complaining about queries that were taking an inordinate amount of time to complete.

Without adequate change management procedures and tools, it can be difficult to roll back system modifications that impact performance. If the team is reduced to making guesstimates about what they need to correct, they may end up down a rabbit hole that makes things worse instead of better. It’s much preferred to just revert to the configuration before the performance issue was noticed and take a deep dive into why the change didn’t work as planned.

DB Change Manager Features

DB Change Manager is a feature-rich application that can help a database team deal with changes that affect their systems. It supports multiple physical and virtual database platforms including  SQL Server, Oracle, Db2, and Sybase. Here are some of the ways it assists your DBAs to navigate change in a complicated environment.

  • Managing database changes using a live-to-live compare functionality provides DBAs with a list of changed objects. Create a snapshot of a target database before making changes so you can quickly roll back a schema if the modification doesn’t work out.

  • Tracking and reporting on changes including those initiated by vendor patches or customizations. You can create notifications that alert you when specific parts of a database are changed.

  • Regulatory compliance is supported by reports on database changes over time and as they apply to sensitive objects. Database configurations can be audited against multiple compliance standards to identify and correct potential vulnerabilities.

The rate of change that teams need to handle requires them to use best practices and a viable set of tools. DB Change Manager is a valuable addition to the application toolbox of enterprise DBAs.