The more data an organization has, the harder it is to function without proper governance. Therefore, selecting the right business database is essential.
A database is an organized store, where users can retrieve information electronically from a computer or server. However, databases are complex structures that come in many forms depending on the types of data they store and their management processes. In essence, all databases collate information into a single digital location. Database software, or database management systems (DBMS), helps users manage databases, facilitate the creation of new databases, and allow users to access data will ease. In this article, we debunk database jargon and discuss how to select a business database that meets your organizational needs.
Breaking down business database jargon
The numerous options for database management systems can be overwhelming. For instance, does your organization need a web-enabled, desktop, or server system? Does the business need Microsoft Access, DB2, MySQL, or PostgreSQL? Moreover, offers in the information management sector have grown exponentially to include specialized options geared towards in-memory, column stores, and unstructured data – all of which bring different types of value. While there are advantages and disadvantages to each system, experts emphasize the importance of selecting a system that best meets an organization’s specific needs. Although analyzing these processes may be time-consuming, it will take even more money and resources to repeat the process if the system does not deliver.
1. Relational databases
Relational databases, such as Oracle, MySQL, MS Server, PostgreSQL, operate using spreadsheet data structure. However, they are but are far more powerful than standard spreadsheets; each row contains a primary key that distinguishes it from other data. Subsequently, the intersection of each row and column contains a data point related to that unique identifier. Together, the rows and columns form a table. Relational databases are composed of potentially hundreds of these structures.
Users generally obtain data in relational databases through a database querying language called SQL (Structured Query Language). SQL requires training, but once team members master the language, it is highly customizable. However, relational databases have been around since the early 70s, and unsurprisingly, were not designed to manage unstructured data. That said, these system’s biggest weakness is also their greatest strength; relational databases excel at handling highly structured data in situations where data integrity is essential.
2. Non-relational databases
Non-relational databases, or NoSQL databases, have recently gained popularity. This is primarily due to companies that are growing at such a rate that they do not have the time or resources to manage programming languages. Therefore, when it comes to NoSQL databases, scaling is a built-in functionality. Furthermore, NoSQL databases tend to offer greater flexibility as they are no restrictions on creating relationships between multiple data points. As such, data that reside in non-relational databases do not have to be structured in order to be stored. The most popular non-relational databases are MongoDB, Apache, Couchbase, Cassandra and Redis.
Subgroups of non-relational databases
- Document databases assess document structures to store related data in a semi-structured way. Generally, these databases lend themselves best to storing unstructured or semistructured data for in-depth analysis.
- XML databases are databases specifically designed to store and retrieve XML documents. One major advantage of XML database is that users do not need specific expertise to read XML documents, making the system more user-friendly.
- Graph databases store and retrieve data based on graph theory. Data points, or nodes, connect via a relationship known as an edge. Storing data involves turning data into nodes and creating edges between nodes.
- RDF databases, or triplestores, store data a concept known as a triple. A triple is a subject-predicate-object relationship; for instance, “Jack knows Jill” or “blue is color”. If data is stored in a triple form, data retrieval is focused on returning the entire triple relationship.
- Key-value stores are the least structured of NoSQL databases. They enable the storage of data by associating a data point to a key value. Users retrieve data by calling a key – however, despite its unstructured nature, no query language knowledge.
- Object-oriented databases store data created by programming languages such as Java, Python, C++, and Ruby. Because of the nature of these languages, object-oriented databases tend to be used to hold more complex data.
3. Databases defined by platform
Another approach to business database classification is to define the system via platform. Broadly, these divide into three groups; desktop, server, and web-enabled. A desktop business database is a simple, inexpensive solution that usually runs on desktop or PCs. Generally, these systems lend themselves best to single users. Furthermore, they often come with web functionality to enable users to publish data online.
The second variety is a server database. These are designed for multiple users, allowing them to organize large amounts of data simultaneously. Their principal advantages are flexibility, powerful performance, and scalability. The most popular server databases include Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and MySQL. However, the downside is that these products are expensive. However, for organizations on a budget, web-enabled business databases are a good alternative. Usually, these products have web integration alongside a desktop platform.
Selecting a business database that is right for your organization
Often, smaller companies will begin with user-friendly database systems like Microsoft Access. These system operate via a database file that resides on a shared drive, which all users access via forms and reports. However, if several team members need access, server systems like SQL Server and Oracle are likely to best suit the company’s needs. This is because these systems are fast and secure, providing effective protection against data corruption.
However, the larger an organization gets, it becomes more and more likely that they will use more than one type of business database. That said, this does not mean that this should compromise organization; instead, it should facilitate better data sorting and retrieval. As a result, the database market is growing rapidly. Whether a business is better suited to a relational or non-relational database, or a desktop or server-based platform, it is essential to choose a database that suits the business’s future needs.