I spend a lot of my time with data. Too much time, really. An almost unhealthy amount of time.


I read about data. I write about data. I tweet about data.


I'm all about the data, no trouble.


And because I spend so much time immersed in data I see a lot of mistakes out there. A lot of issues that are avoidable. Data breaches caused by a lack of adequate data security. Disasters made worse by not having backups. Data centers offline but nobody being alerted because the alerting is not configured correctly.


Avoiding these issues is simple: Hire someone with a working knowledge of data, databases, and data administration. Of course, good help is hard to find. In the absence of finding good help, you need some guidance about what you can be doing better.


So that’s what I want to do for you today. Here are seven things that you can do to love your data, starting today. Not all the items listed here can be done in a day. Some will take longer than others. Review the list, build a plan, and get started on making your data the best it can be.


Automation – As a data professional you need to spend time thinking of ways to automate yourself out of a job. I would even suggest that you must be thinking about ways to “cloud-proof” your job. GUIs, and people, don’t scale. Code does.


Security – Data is the most critical asset your company owns. Without data, your company would not exist. All that hardware your company owns? Yeah, that’s there to move bits of data back and forth. When you consider the value and criticality of your data, you will understand that it is necessary to deploy data security and privacy tools.


Maintenance – In an unscientific study I did last year, I found that the bulk of database performance problems was related to the lack of proper maintenance. In some cases, there is no maintenance being done at all, or it is the wrong maintenance (such as VM snapshots instead of database dumps).


Alerting – Many folks lump alerting together with monitoring, but they are different. You use monitoring to decide what you want to alert upon. Alerts require action; everything else is just information you can collect and use later.


Monitoring – Here’s the most important thing you need to know about monitoring: If you create inbox rules for your monitoring system, then you’ve already lost. Monitor and measure what you need, but only send emails when action is needed (see above).


Analytics – While we are talking about alerting and monitoring, here’s your reminder to learn some basic data analysis and use it against the monitoring data. Learn to spot outliers. Stop guessing about what happened and start learning about what will happen.


Backups – It’s 2017. Do you know where your database backups are? But it’s not just backups. Last month the cloud went down. Be prepared. Have a proper business continuity plan in place and test the process twice a year.


Successful data professionals use these seven items to exercise proper control over their enterprise. Further, many of the issues I read about all fall into one of these seven buckets.


The difference between being prepared and being unprepared comes down to your willingness to make sure you have each of these seven items covered.