Photo: Emma McGrattan, SVP of Engineering at Ingres

Government organizations are facing information and data growth like never before. All this data must be continuously tracked, managed and protected properly for the success of various agencies.

To do this, organizations turn to databases. Analysts predict that the worldwide relational database management systems market will continue growth through 2010 as data management and integration become more strategically important in organizations across all industries.

Emma McGrattan, senior vice president of engineering at Ingres and a leading authority in database management, knows it can be difficult, especially for government bodies that don't employ database administrators in-house. But data volumes keep growing and government organizations have no choice but to find a way of managing it all, while also ensuring data is safe and secure. To shed some light on how to better manage the database environment, Emma shares with us her top ten tips:

1. Secure Your Data Against Internal and External Threats

When securing the data in your database it's important to think about internal as well as external threats. To prevent external intrusion you must safeguard database accounts, ensure that you have applied the latest security patches to your IT environment and make sure that the database is secured inside a firewall. You should also think about the internal threats posed by employees who may be considering moving to another line of work, setting up their own companies, or otherwise considering leveraging your information to their benefit and your detriment. Ensure that you restrict access to the most sensitive data on an as-needed basis, and consider auditing all data access.

2. Audit Data Access

What would be the impact on government if information fell into the wrong hands? How many of your employees have their own personal copy of your data? Do you trust them with that data? Consider restricting access to the most valuable information that you store on an as-needed basis. Audit attempts to access this information whether those attempts are successful or not. You can set alarms within the database that can be triggered if an employee attempts to access information in the database that is not pertinent to their role or position so that you can question their motives.

3. Benefits of Encryption

Consider password protecting and encrypting all database backups so that if the backup media is lost or stolen it is impossible to access the data within it. In more sophisticated IT environments you also may want to consider encrypting all database traffic to protect it from prying eyes.

4. Protecting Off-line Copies of your Data

In environments where users need access to data while on the road, they'll often store local copies of the data in spreadsheets on their laptops. The security of this data needs the same level of consideration as the data that is stored in the database, so at a minimum consider implementing a policy that mandates password protecting all files containing sensitive data. It may surprise you to learn that 12,000 laptops are lost each week in US airports, so the chances of government employee laptop being lost or stolen is higher than you may think

5. Maintain One Version of the Truth

Assume that all off-line copies of the data are stale as soon as they are written to your laptop and always make important decisions using the data in the database. Discourage the practice of storing the data locally as there should only be one version of the truth. Also consider the security implications associated with having versions of your data in unsecured environments and the cost to the government should this data fall into the wrong hands.

6. Secure the Database Administrator

Emma McGrattan  |  Senior Vice President, Ingres Corporation
Emma is SVP of Engineering at open source database company Ingres Corporation. A leading authority in DBMS technologies, Emma is a popular speaker at technology conferences around the world appearing at events such as Linux World, OSBC, OSCON, CA World, HP Technology Forum, Red Hat Summit and Comdex. Emma joined Ingres as senior vice president of Engineering from CA where she held a similar position responsible for the Ingres family of relational database management products.