How To Choose A Database For Your Business
Choosing the right database isn’t always easy, but getting it right could prove critical to the future success of your business. But how do you decide on which database?
If you’re new to databases, it’s best to get things right from the outset as it may not be simple or cost effective to move to a different database later. Equally, if you’ve an existing database that needs updating, it’s usually best to bite the bullet and upgrade to a system which is fast, secure and resilient.
Look at any successful business today and you’ll find a business that operates efficiently and knows how to organise and process information. In fact, businesses are increasingly relying on more data-driven decision-making; the databases are increasingly interconnected and there is increasing complexity in the systems themselves.
So, here’s your quick guide to choosing the right database for your business:
Define your goals
Are you looking to run your business and keep on top of sales and inventory? Do you plan to do marketing research? Will you be looking to increase leads and customer engagement?
- Knowing the type of information you plan to collect and how it will be organised and stored will help define the goals you expect to achieve with the database software.
- Understanding what you want to do with your information will inform the process of designing your new database system – and narrow down the best choice for the job.
Of course, it’s possible that you can achieve everything you want with an off-the-shelf packaged software program rather than a custom-built solution. But you won’t know this until you’ve defined your goals and examined the features you need from your new system.
If you do go for a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) system, make sure you compare the financials with a bespoke solution, as good COTS systems can be expensive and incur ongoing costs.
Know your databases
Microsoft Access is often the starting point for many database systems in smaller companies or work groups and it can work well for smaller systems. The database file (an MDB) is placed on a shared drive, and all users can access it via Access forms and reports.
Where many people will be accessing your database, server-based systems like SQL Server and Oracle are best suited for organising large amounts of data that can be updated and shared simultaneously. These systems use a dedicated server to hold the database. This makes the whole system faster and provides effective protection against data corruption as it allows the data to be easily backed up.
Comparing database systems
There are three main reasons why server-based database systems are better than the shared file approach:
Microsoft Access provides relatively little protection for data corruption. For example, if one of the programs writing into the Access database crashes, or is powered off at the wrong time, the Access file can be corrupted.
By comparison, server-based database systems have built-in protection against this type of corruption.
Shared-file databases are much slower than server-based systems, because each user is directly reading the whole data file over the Local Area Network.
With a server-based system, the user’s program sends a query to the server, which then computes and returns the answer instead of pushing large chunks of data over the network.
Ease of maintenance
Maintaining Microsoft Access databases can be time consuming, as they’re not designed for large projects. What happens is that as more requirements are added to the system, the query becomes increasingly complicated for the database to solve – and this complexity becomes hard to track and maintain. In addition, if a developer has implemented their own programming solution, rather than a standard known solution, it makes it difficult for new people to understand any quirks arising from the custom Access code.
In contrast, server-based systems like SQL have standard solutions, which means new developers only have to know the design of the database to maintain the system.
Finally, ensure your prospective database is secure from attack – in particular the theft of intellectual property or personal data. Ensure you use data encryption, and follow established industry standard guidelines for database configuration and security settings.
Never forget we live in a complex threat environment of malware, spyware, disgruntled employees and aggressive international hackers! No matter what you do, you can’t assume you’re 100% secure so, as a final note, have a disaster recovery plan in place in case your database is ever compromised.