Spreadsheet software is useful for many basic number crunching and other simple business tasks. But if your business manages a large amount of data for customers, staff, inventory, or all of the above, a well-designed database can benefit you in many ways as a powerful management tool.
What’s a Database (DB)?
A database is an organized collection of information, an electronic system allowing data to be easily accessed, managed and updated. The architecture of a database can be conceptual, external or internal.
A database’s external level refers to the way an end-user understands the organization of corresponding relevant date from it. Its internal level addresses the cost, performance, scalability and other matters of operation. At its conceptual level, the different external views are unified into a global view that is comprised of the required generic data of every end-user.
What Features Make a Great Database?
The term “great database” is relative when you consider that each database is different, tailored to a business’s specific needs. There are, however, certain hallmarks of a good database that should be considered.
Storage and the Cloud Database
One of a database’s primary jobs is the storage of data so it’s important to determine your business’s needs.
- Is data being stored efficiently?
- Is the database capable of handling complex relationships?
- Is it capable of handling the estimated volume of data?
- Is it scalable?
- Is the hardware and software used capable of handling anticipated data?
- Is the database being stored offline and if so, is it easy to access?
- Is it secure?
These questions encompass not only the design of a database but the hardware, software, hosting and more. Careful planning should go into the database selection to ensure it will meet your business’s needs and be able to grow with as it does.
There’s a growing interest in implementing a cloud database among businesses. It’s a database service that’s built, launched and delivered using a cloud platform. Using a platform as a service (PaaS) delivery model, the cloud database allows businesses and their end users to manage, store, and access the data from the cloud. Since it’s a service, much of the work is done for you and they are usually already meeting many required compliance requirements like HIPAA and PCI.
To be of use, your database must be accessible to end users during all hours of operation. If yours is an online business, that database needs to be fully functioning 24/7 to satisfy the needs of any user that could potentially access that data no matter when or where they are. Scheduled downtime for maintenance issues is normal and usually not frequent. Any other type of downtime needs to be minimized.
Any and all data within your database must be protected. Security should be an integral part of the database from its conception to prevent unauthorized access to the data it contains. There are a few things to consider:
- Is there security within the database?
- Is the data protected from unauthorized internal and external users?
- Would it be easy for an unauthorized user to gain access to the data?
- Is there a way to limit access to particular groups or specific information within the parameters of the database?
- Is it easy to grant and revoke database access to the users?
Without security, any database is highly vulnerable. Only those who absolutely need access to the data it contains should have any level of access. Those who’ve been given access should be kept to the lowest possible access level. If you don’t have security integrated into an existing database, the good news is that adding such often doesn’t require a complete redesign of the database.
The accuracy of the data in a given database is important. Even with your database protected from unauthorized users, there’s also the matter of protecting the data from those who have authorization to access it. Constraints can be used to help manage allowed data. Normally applied at the column level, the constraints can help verify data but alone they are not enough to get rid of the possibility of inaccurate information. Responsibility for the data entered ultimately falls on the users. A database designed to require a user to enter data in a consistent manner will help protect the data’s integrity and the database from corruption.
The performance of the database, how long it takes for the end user to get the requested data, is vital. There are many factors that contribute to the performance of your databases like the application design, database design, hardware speed and more. If performance is slow, it’s a good idea to study the process from beginning to end, identify the reason, and fix it.
A quality database design helps your business manage data and provides valuable services to your staff and end users. Using the correct approach from the beginning can save you a lot of time and money as business grows.