I have experience as a user but am new to geodatabase management from an administrators perspective. I took on a new position and my initial task is to create a usable geodatabase for 4 users (including myself). The company had a GIS program approximately 5+ years ago and there is a patchwork of data located on the server. Any advice on the most efficient process to build the database? Attempt to salvage many of these unknown datasets or simply start from scratch and acquire datasets as I build the database?
A point in the right direction and some words of wisdom is greatly appreciated.
A couple thoughts to begin with: you mention "a usable database for 4 users". Does this mean they all will be editing data? If so you need to get familiar with some flavor of enterprise geodatabase. See: Types of geodatabases—ArcGIS Help | ArcGIS Desktop it gives you an over view of all flavors of geodatabases.
A second thought is about the data: use it if you got it. You can just set up a file geodatabse on your local machine and get all the various 'patchwork datasets' in one location so you can better asses their value.
What sort of data do you see your organization needing? What sort of analyses do you see your organization performing? Do you have access to a reliable source of data? Do you foresee creating your own data for various projects? These are just some more questions to ask yourself....
Will you need all four users to edit the same data at the same time? You may need to utilize enterprise geodatabases. You could even take advantage of the Desktop license which utilizes SQL Server Express as the RDBMS...it's free
Using this method will provide you out of the box administrative tools to back up your geodatabase, add users and manage permissions that more robust organizations might usually do via a SQL Server database administrator, using applications like Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio.
Create a desktop or workgroup geodatabase—Database Server (Desktop) installation guide | ArcGIS Desk...
Once you have your geodatabase created, whether you choose enterprise or file geodatabases, you can just copy and paste the old data into the new location. Copy and paste will keep your Esri maintained values the same (for example, object ids). Import/export tools will recalculate those values to be sequential (so if you have objectids as primary or foreign keys in relationship classes you don't want them recalculated).
Once the data is imported into your new geodatabase you will just set any functionality needed, for example, in an enterprise geodatabase you will need to register the data as versioned after the data transfer in order to allow for multi-user editing.
I hope this helps!