Welcome To The World of Databases–Part 3

Drawbacks of Database Development

database

In this mini series of posts about databases, we’ve already looked at the benefits they offer businesses and the different types of databases that are available.

This time round we’ll look at how they are developed and the possible drawbacks of that development.

Databases will benefit any business that needs to process and manipulate large amounts of data. Because database development tools are designed to make maintaining and managing the structure of data files easier, they impose strict parameters on developers to make sure the data retains its accuracy.

Most modern database development systems use structured query language (SQL) processing. This allows you to analyse large amounts of data and generate reports in a variety of different ways.

As with all systems, SQL will require a certain level of expertise to be used effectively so it is advantageous to obtain the necessary IT training and guidance.

The problems with database development

Relational database management system (RDBMS) technology allows the building of applications that can be tailored to your specific business requirements. But it can be expensive and time-consuming.

Unless you happen to have the specific knowledge it is unlikely you’d be able to develop your own in-house application because you’ll need:

  • An initial consultation
  • Analysis of your requirements
  • System specification
  • Database design
  • Programming
  • Testing
  • Implementation
  • Training
  • On-going maintenance

As you can see that would be a tall order for most businesses to come up with.

You must ensure your database fulfils all your needs for  the daily running of your business. The other option is to utilise an off the shelf solution which gives you the core functions you need and then build your own specific needs into it.

If you do decide to get one developed for you, here are a few questions to ask your potential suppliers:

  • How long have they been an established supplier?
  • What are all the costs involved? (e.g. set up fee, annual renewable licence etc.)
  • How much do they charge for technical support?
  • Is the system scalable?
  • Can they recommend any third-party developers that make use of their RDBMS?
  • Is there an active independent user group?
  • Can they provide references for businesses in your industry using their software?
  • Do they offer training for the RDBMS and what are the associated costs?

As you can see there’s a lot to think about when considering which database solution is right for you. Before you dive in, make sure you know precisely what you need for your business now and in the future. Once you are armed with that information you will be better placed to make sure you get the right system for your business.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Welcome To The World of Databases–Part 2

Types of database systems

database

Our previous post looked at the various benefits of databases. This time we’ll look at the different types of database systems and how to choose the one that’s right for you.

First things first, let’s look at the different types of database systems that are available.

 

In general they come in one of two basic forms:

  • Single-file or ‘flat file’ databases
  • Multi-file relational or ‘structured’ databases

So how do you decide which is right for you? Well  that will depend on a number of factors, such as:

  • The complexity of the data you want to store (e.g. plain text, sound files, images etc.)
  • How much you want to store and process
  • Whether you need access for more than one person to access and amend the data
  • If the data has to be imported from or exported to other IT systems

The best way to look at it is that if your requirements are simple – for example you just need to monitor names and addresses of a 100 or so customers – a standard office tool such as a spreadsheet would probably suffice.

But if your needs are more complex than that, you should consider something more sophisticated such as Microsoft Access, FileMaker Pro, SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase, Informix or MySQL. These programmes are designed to sort and search large volumes of a variety of data types.

Of course we should also mention specialist database products such as contact management packages like ACT, Maximiser and Chaos which are designed to manage and manipulate contact information. Plus there are also database solutions for specific industries such as manufacturing or insurance.

Therefore finding your ideal product can be tricky.

Finding your perfect match

If you’re a small business you probably won’t need a sophisticated relational database management system (RDBMS) as you may well find you can manage perfectly well with a standard spreadsheet.

But if you are a bigger company with hundreds of customers, product lines and suppliers, a RDBMS is your best option.

The other thing you should take into consideration is how you will use the database. Spreadsheets can be viewed by many people but generally only amended by one person at a time. An RDBMS allows several people to access and amend data simultaneously.

Lots to think about then. The best way to find your perfect match is to work out what you want to get from your database, how much information you have to store (and what type of information it is), and how many people will need access to it. Once you know that, it will be easier for you to find your ideal system.

Next week we’ll look at potential problems.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Welcome To The World of Databases

The Benefits of Databases

database

Every business gathers information which needs to be organised, easily accessible and secure.

The humble database is a business’s best friend. It’s there to organise, process and manage information in a structured and controlled manner.

This is the first of 3 posts that will look at databases, how to choose the right one for you and potential drawbacks.

What is a database?

Let’s get back to basics. A database is a collection of data that’s been organised so your computer can quickly select desired items. It could be a customer mailing list or stock codes for example.

In the good old days companies relied on manual filing systems which tended to be unreliable, unwieldy to use and very slow. Plus they can be used to cross-reference information held in different files. A relational database management system uses common ‘keys’ to tie related information together (e.g. a customer ID number can be used to identify an individual customer or link a customer to an order for specific goods).

Database benefits

The more you know about your customers, suppliers and competitors the better so if you can store your information in a structured way you’ll gain a great advantage.

Gathering and processing information is time consuming but it’s also the best way to keep track of how your business is performing.

A sophisticated relational database management system will help you with this. By constantly adding data you can gain a historical perspective on how particular products are performing and help you identify trends.

The use of this type of database technology will help you:

  • Reduce time spent managing data
  • Analyse data in a number of ways
  • Promote a disciplined approach to data management
  • Turn disparate information into a valuable resource
  • Improve the quality and consistency of your information

So as you can see databases can really give your business the edge. The next post in this series on databases will look at types of database systems and deciding which one is right for you.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.