SAS administration and support can be a real challenge for some companies. It all has to do with not having the right resources and skills.
Business analysts are often charged with maintaining SAS. They know data, but they don’t have the IT skills needed to properly support SAS. IT teams face similar challenges because their experience lies in Windows, Linux and Oracle administration.
SAS administration requires specialized knowledge that typical IT teams do not have on hand. Over the last 10 years, my colleagues and I have found that SAS support requires IT skills, knowledge of the company’s data and knowledge of how that data gets applied to solve specific business problems.
Companies that want a world-class SAS environment need to have dedicated resources who can proactively maintain SAS. With a dedicated resource, you'll be well-positioned to increase performance, minimize downtime and ultimately maximize your investment in SAS software.
Once those resources are acquired (either by hiring or training SAS support resources or by outsourcing your SAS administration), we’ve found these five best practices to be essential for managing and maintaining a SAS environment:
1) Be proactive.
Many companies install SAS and then leave it alone until something breaks. It's important to be consistently monitoring for run-time events and checking logs to look for errors, performance bottlenecks and root system problems before they cause system downtime.
A proactive approach to support enables you to deliver continuous system performance improvement over the life of the platform. It also helps you maximize the ROI on your systems.
2) Document your SAS environment.
Good documentation helps institutionalize system knowledge. The architecture of your SAS environment shouldn’t live in someone’s head. If that person decides to leave the company, decision-support knowledge leaves with them.
Having your SAS environment fully documented also makes it easier to bring new resources on board to support or expand the capabilities of your SAS environment. They’ll spend less time learning the environment and more time managing and maintaining the environment.
Good documentation saves you time and money when something goes wrong. It also helps increases internal user productivity, satisfaction and adoption.
3) Conduct frequent reviews of your SAS environment.
Frequent system reviews ensure data security and access. Security breaches and system access issues can happen when people leave a company and no one deletes their user accounts. Every review should include a search for lingering user accounts and connections that could indicate security breaches.
It's also critical to review your metadata access control and security configuration. Use the Access Control Lists (ACLs) to create and maintain task-specific security roles (managing user accounts vs. managing libraries vs. managing connections to external resources). ACLs make the task of managing metadata security more scalable and easier to audit.
Your review schedule should also include regular audits of your software usage against your contractual obligations. This step can help ensure that you aren’t paying for seats that you don’t need, which could save you money.
4) Learn continuously.
As I emphasized in the first best practice, you don't want to install SAS and leave it alone. You want to be continuously working with SAS or a third-party provider to maximize your usage, learn about new features and increase productivity.
SAS software is evolves frequently. To get the most out of the platform and provide your SAS users with the latest analytical capabilities, it’s essential to commit to a continuous schedule of learning.
5) Plan for future growth.
A dedicated SAS administrator can help ensure that IT works with business users to understand future analytic needs so the SAS environment is well positioned for future growth. Planning for the future involves not only helping IT determine its SAS migration plan, but also selecting the right operating systems, hardware, networking and hosting that best accomplish the business goals.
We recommend companies evaluate their needs every 6-12 months. Frequent assessments are not only a good planning practice for IT, they also encourage a dialogue between IT and the business, ensuring that IT is truly providing the analytical capabilities required to work with Big Data and improve the speed and efficiency of decision-making throughout the organization.
If you are interested in learning more, please watch my Google+ event Five Best Practices for Maintaining a World-class SAS Environment.