Database management systems have evolved dramatically over time with changing needs and technological advancements. The early days of data management involved simple mechanical devices used to punch holes in cards. Nowadays, databases are powerful systems that can process information at high speed, empowering businesses with their massive storage capacity, potential for data-driven insights and excellent computing capabilities.
For small businesses, a database is like a filing cabinet that stores important records. For large enterprises, a database is more like a warehouse that catalogues, stores, cross-references and computes critical business information. Because of their size and scope, enterprise databases need to be regularly maintained, organised and upgraded.
Enterprises can optimise their database management to save costs and boost performance. Through strategic partnerships with professional database administrators (DBAs), such as 4C Group, enterprises can extract the most value out of their database systems.
The early days of data management systems
Looking back at how data management systems started, we can see just how far humanity has come in terms of how we record, store and back up information. A strong need for a database arose in the late 19th century when the United States government undertook its 10th census.
Every ten years, the U.S. government collects data about its population. For the 1880 census, it took eight years to gather all the census data. With a rapidly growing population, it was predicted that the 1890 census would take 13 years to complete, meaning that they would still be collecting data for 1890 by the time the 1900 census started. New technologies were needed and the punch card system was invented.
The next big advancement was when magnetic tape was used to store data. One roll of magnetic tape could store up to 10 000 punch cards of data. The only problem with this was that data had to be stored in a sequence. There were certainly limitations with this method. Magnetic tape was not designed to interpret data or handle data in new ways. Another issue was recovering data; you had to know where to find it on a long roll of tape.
The next generation of database management systems
Fast forward a few decades and we see the introduction of hard disks in the 1960s. This solved many of the issues related to magnetic tape because data didn’t need to be stored sequentially. In the 1970s, Edgar Codd developed a new database model which made data abstraction possible. For the first time it was possible to hide back-end processes from the front-end, thus simplifying the representation of data for the user.
Current day database management systems are based on these technological advancements. Modern databases include multiple user interfaces. Users with different roles can interact with the database in different ways. Modern databases can be scaled to add new users and access can be granted or revoked as needed. Using the Principle of Least Privilege, users only have access to the data they need for their jobs. This improves security as it minimises the risk of data breaches.
Enterprises that contract the services of experts get much more out of their databases. DBAs are able to define constraints (which data can be pulled and how), permissions (who can pull which data) and standards (standardising data according to company policies).
Database management systems in the digital age
From the 1990s onwards, databases have become more complex. New tools have been developed to exchange data on different systems and websites. Huge data sets can be processed in a variety of ways to give enterprises insights into their internal operations and processes, their supply chains and all stakeholders.
A primary function of a DBA is to control data redundancy, which optimises the database. If the same data is duplicated in multiple locations, this takes up space and might impact data integrity. For example, if changes are made to a particular piece of information stored in one location, will it automatically be updated elsewhere?
Data redundancy management serves to reduce the overall cost of the database because less storage space is needed. Through the services of an expert DBA, enterprises can improve the response time of their databases. Updating and modifying data more efficiently, improving accuracy and making information instantly available to the designated user.
Database management systems in Africa
African enterprises tend to rely on on-site databases. These systems require a lot of maintenance and cannot be scaled quickly. DBAs must forecast future business requirements, planning four to five years in advance.
It can be expensive and time-consuming to upgrade or scale up an enterprise-grade database. Capacity planning and forecasting is essential for enterprises using on-premise databases to ensure costs are kept to a minimum and that their system can cater for future needs.
Optimise your database management with 4C
4C Group’s team of certified DBA experts is highly skilled in the field of database management and data science. We assist our clients by optimising their databases, providing guidance and support on how to improve efficiency and save costs. Database administration and support offers an excellent return on investment.
Our team has years of hands-on experience and extensive knowledge in database management systems. Working with some of the biggest databases in Africa, we offer our expertise and institutional knowledge with database consultation, administration and support. We can help enterprises achieve their business potential in developing African markets. For more information about our database management solutions, please contact us today.
At 4C Group of Companies, we strive to effect operational changes and cost savings for customers through our iNSight product and associated services. This product’s main function is to re-purpose and deliver business-critical information to a variety of systems and stakeholders.
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