What are the Best Practices for Database Documentation?
When it comes to database documentation, you must engage the best practices to make it successful. When it comes to databases, it always starts with a good design. When the design is good, this makes documenting the database a simple task. Though you might not have complete control of the prime design areas in some cases, the following are some of the major components that you should look out for-.
- Naming conventions – In the absence of naming conventions, this will result in cryptic and inconsistent names for tables, columns, and other objects of the database, making it very hard to document them correctly. You should apply the proper naming conventions to the database’s design, as this will promote improved readability of the document.
- Primary keys – Professionals in database management and administration say that every table on the database should have the correct primary key that defines the columns and identifies the record uniquely. However, all databases do not need them. This does not affect its performance and integrity of the data. You should know that the table’s primary key is the key to understanding its data model and is thereby an indispensable part of the documentation of the database.
- Table relationships – There is another key for you to understand the data model: the relationships between tables. Like the primary key, you do not need to define them.
Note, leading experts from the esteemed database management company, state that even if you do not have any control over your database design, just taking a simple and quick review largely helps you to estimate the timeline it takes for the project. You can set the correct expectations for the completion of its documentation as well.
Embed the comments in the database
Not all of the databases give you a mechanism for adding comments to columns, tables, and other objects in the database. The comments that you write are posted and stored as metadata in the database’s definition to maintain them easily as the structure of the database evolves with time.
When you embed comments in the database, you make a self-documenting database that makes it simple for database administrators and programmers to comprehend.
Comment on whatever you can and annotate the rest
Depending on the capabilities of commenting for your database, you should make comments to the following objects of your database-
- Tables – Most of the tables are typically deployed for the storage of logical representations of real-world objects. The comments for the types of tables should make a description of this real-world object. The database should also include tables that are often referred to as link tables as they are deployed to make several relationships between tables. For these tables, the comment should describe the objective of the specific relationship.
- Views – Most of the views represent database queries that are stored for the answer to specific questions. The comments for these views describe what these questions are about.
- Columns – Unlike the tables that deal with real-world objects, the tables in the tables are deployedto store properties related to these objects. The comments in the column describe what these properties are and how the columns represent them.
- Stored parameters and procedures – The stored procedures and parameters are commented in the same manner where programmers comment on the source code. For documentation tasks, the most salient comments are those that describe the stored procedures and each parameter.
- Functions, return values, and parameters – These functions are commented similarly as stored procedures. The key difference is these functions have a return value that needs a description with comments.
When you add descriptions to the database objects, you should ensure they are concise and should comprise just one to two sentences. If you give out extra information, it is very important to document that. You must consider structuring the comments into two phases- the description or the summary that should be followed by a remarks section. This remarks section should be used for including any extra information.
Note that all databases might not have capabilities for commenting that is robust enough to manage the documentation of all the objects of the database mentioned above. Some databases set limits on the comment size. To arrest these limitations, you can seek the services of professionals who annotate your database with comments externally so that they can merge with the embedded comments to complete the documentation.
When you have a self-documented database, it is helpful for your database maintenance and design. There are several instances where you might need database documentation that is mandatory like for instance-
- System documentation – Here, if you are creating a database for your client, you would need a complete set of system documentation that is generally a deliverable that is needed.
- Documentation for the end-user – Here, your database programmer and DBA might have access to the database; however, you might permit some users to have restricted access that aids them to execute queries on the database. These users will not have access or the skills needed to read or comprehend a database definition. You would need to give them some documentation that helps them to create the database queries.
- Reviews of design – Not all of the design review participants will have the same levels of database experience and knowledge. Your team that comprises of some subject matter specialists might not have technical expertise at all. To facilitate the database review, you need to offer documentation that helps everyone read and comprehend. Data review is crucial if you want to iron out the mistakes and give your customers the best products.
DBA experts in data management conclude that when you make database documentation an integral part of the development processes, you will always ensure that it is in sync with the database, even in cases where extreme programming environments with constantly changing databases exist. This can work well for many types of businesses and it can streamline your process.
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