If you want a dry basement, it's really quite simple. If water's coming into your basement, you need to get the water away from your foundation. Here's some information on turning a wet basement into a dry basement. While I wouldn't say that most home owners should take on the job of foundation waterproofing themselves, I do think that an informed home owner can make a better decision and hopefully get a better price on their job when they hire someone to do the work. And if nothing else, you'll be more informed and hopefully feel less stress when the work is being done.
This site goes through what you need done in order to make sure your basement stays dry. It talks about different materials that are used for waterproofing and suggests a complete solution for keeping your foundation waterproof and your basement dry.