Why would your business need a database?

Anthony Caruana
7 July, 2014
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Database, business, mac, macworld australiaWhile the variety of off the shelf program and cloud services is huge, there are times when they don’t meet your business needs. You might have some specific data that you want to store and see in a specific way. That’s when creating your own database is worth considering.

Why choose a database?

Many people really mean a list when they say database. They want to extract specific information from that list. A spreadsheet will often suffice in those situations. A list in an Excel spreadsheet that uses Pivot Tables and lookup formulae can be used to store data and produce reports.

For example, you can create an asset register of all the computers, tablets and other devices in your business. You can then use Pivot Table reports to find how many or each device type you have, when they are scheduled for replacement and where the devices are located.

As long as you capture the information in your spreadsheet you can report on it.

This approach delivers lots of flexibility. If you need to capture a new piece of information then all you need to do is add another column.

But do you really need a database?

If a spreadsheet isn’t going to work for you then it’s time to consider a database application.

If you’re new to creating and using a database you shouldn’t worry too much. Although these tools started as being complicated and hard to use, most come with a bunch of pre-configured databases that are ready to use but can be modified relatively easily.

Some applications, such as FileMaker Pro, have an iOS version (they call it FileMaker Go) so you can remotely access your data on a mobile device. Like many other database programs, you can also securely publish your data to the web so it can be accessed from any computer.

This can be handy if you want to send data to clients or staff outside the office.

You’re not limited to running your database on your own server or computer. Many internet service providers offer database solutions that you can run remotely. Many web site hosts offer MySQL as a free service.

MySQL is an open-source database so it won’t cost you anything although you will need to engage someone with the expertise to create your database and an application that can access the data it holds. This is a more complex solution but it does offer you lots more flexibility.

How do you choose a database solution?

There are a few simple questions you need to ask yourself to help you choose the best database solution for your business.

  • Do you really need a database or will a list in a spreadsheet suffice?
  • How will the data be accessed? Will I need it made available over the internet or on mobile devices? Will the data need to only be accessed inside your network or remotely?
  • If you choose a commercial database program, will one of the templates in a commercial system suffice or will you need to pay a developer to assist?
  • What budget do you have? Remember, even free, open-source software may require support that will cost.

If you can answer those questions, you’ll be well on the way to make a smart decision for your business.

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