Database Activity Monitoring: Why it Matters

Ask any administrator or anyone who runs an organization what they consider to be the most important resource of their organization aside human resource. The answer will almost certainly be unanimous: their database. The reason is simple: very few resources contain as vital information as is contained in a database of each company. This can contain some of the most important information that a company has about customers as well as sales prospects.

To properly manage, organize and even analyze the data contained in a database, database management systems (DBMS) are used. A DBMS is a key cog in the wheel of every enterprise because it provides an efficient system for managing various kinds of data. The kind of data easily managed with this kind of software includes employee records, student information, payroll, accounting, project management, inventory and library books.

However, just having a functional database is not enough, it is what a person does with the database that matters. Monitoring the database is crucial.

What is Database Activity Monitoring?

According to Technopedia, database activity monitoring (DAM) is “the process of observing, identifying and reporting a database’s activities. Database activity monitoring tools use real-time security technology to monitor and analyze configured activities independently and without relying on the DBMS auditing or logs.”

Database activity monitoring is a very important action for ensuring optimum performance and health of the database management system.

To execute monitoring, the database management system collates data from the database and any other connected applications in a timely fashion. In database monitoring, it is important to keep track of things such as database design, roles and permissions, networks, data objects, source code, database operations etc.

Importance of Database Activity Monitoring

Database monitoring is important for a number of reasons. Database Activity monitoring helps to:

  • Ensure compliance and meet the stipulations of regulatory bodies and acts. Various acts such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) amongst others define how data should be handled and protected.
  • Keep track of activities in a database. Knowing what goes on in the database in real-time helps to ensure untoward activities are stopped before they escalate. Also, detailed logs on database activity which can be available for further analysis. Such logs can be evaluated to pinpoint problems in the database. They can also be tendered in as evidence of unlawful activities in the event of a cybercrime investigation. It can be sent to Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems that specialize in real-time analysis of threats.
  • Measure and track database utilization as well as database performance trends. Database activity monitoring helps measure the impact of optimization activities and changes. Also, based on reports from database activity monitoring, forecasts can be made concerning database improvements, for instance, hardware requirements can be predicted based on data usage patterns.

Automation

The secret to success in any development environment is automation and this applies especially to databases. Database activity monitoring tools can be installed as a separate unit or as a part of software modules on the database servers.

For instance, consider MySQL, one of the most common and widely-used database options. A good mysql monitoring software can be installed to provide real-time monitoring and data security by capturing, keeping logs, analyzing and alerting on policy violations without interfering with the systems’ performance.

In Conclusion

Databases form the fulcrum of an effective company. However, without a database activity monitoring system, a database will be subject to poor performance, policy violation, hackers etc. Ultimately automating database activity monitoring with effective tools is the way to go.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.