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Keeping that Oracle DBA job

Got mentors? What about a backup plan? For rookie DBAs and experienced pros alike, Oracle guru Robert Freeman has tips on how to look good on the job.

Keeping your Oracle DBA job may be as simple as following 10 easy tips.

Robert Freeman, author of Oracle9i New Features and Oracle 9i RMAN Backup & Recovery, is currently working on a book about the Oracle 10G database, which will be unveiled at OracleWorld in September.

He recently talked with about the most common Oracle DBA job mistakes he sees while working as a technical consultant for Lombard, Ill.-based TUSC, which provides consulting services to Oracle clients.

Freeman repeatedly sees DBAs make mistakes that could have been avoided by paying attention and taking nothing for granted. In this interview, he offered his top 10 suggestions for achieving success as a DBA.

Make backup and recovery a top priority. Without good backup and recovery systems, DBAs can be guaranteed two things: IT disasters and unemployment. DBAs need to make data recovery their primary focus.

Lock out unused Oracle accounts. When you create a database, Oracle creates a number of ancillary accounts for a variety of Oracle Enterprise Manager (OEM) functions. Remember to lock out these unused accounts to outside users. If Oracle 9i is installed manually, then the ancillary accounts could remain open and create a hole in the system.

Put the production database in archive log mode. Running the database in archive log mode allows hot backups to be performed while the database is open and available. It also allows recovery of the database in the event of a failure. To avoid loss of critical data, an archive log is absolutely necessary.

Set privileges on data files. Unless the files are encrypted, someone knowledgeable in how Oracle stores data could access the files. Only those who need access to the data should be given privileges. In Unix, Oracle data files will allow anyone read/write access, unless DBAs set specific privileges.

Follow a prescribed set of standards when creating and administrating the database. Often a DBA will create a database without any standards for setting objects and creating a set of schemas. A lack of standards usually lands DBA jobs in a mess.

Don't use new features before they're ready for prime time. A lot of the newest database features often need time to prove themselves. A good DBA is versed in new features but knows when and when not to use them. Any bugs in the new feature could cause the loss of valuable information.

Always be on the lookout for trouble. It's important to set up a robust proactive monitoring program. For example, DBAs need to watch how much space they have free in the database and, as that number shrinks, they need to go in and make a planned change to increase the space.

Find a mentor. This is very important for new and midlevel DBAs, because the Oracle database encompasses so much technology. Find someone who is experienced and really knows what they are doing. Look for a mentor online, in DBA forums, or find one at work.

Read everything. Educate yourself as best as possible by keeping up with the latest technology and practices. This means knowing relational database technology, online transaction processing and data warehouse technology.

Trust nothing (at the outset). Don't trust everything you read at first glance. No two Oracle installations are the same.

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