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The choice of your database does not only affect how efficiently you can employ the data collected, but depending on what you use it for, it could also affect your image. Regardless of the size of a business you are a part of you need to keep track of your business (collect data) so you can make informed decisions about your future plans.
One part of your data might also be employed to interact with your customers. The quality of these interactions determines user experience and thus affects your image.
To make sure you have a purposeful collection of data and a way to progress in your business, it is essential that you make a good choice of the database to use.
Tips For Choosing The Best Database 🇬🇧
Before you look into the most popular databases out there, you need to start by looking into your business. Understand the requirements you have for the database.
It is not only about what is reliable and what most people find helpful, but what works best for you.
Table of Contents:
#1 What Type of Data Are You Collecting?
For you, this is ground zero. What type of data does your business collect and what do you expect to learn from it? Think of the simplest dataset example and decide whether you would prefer to put it in a neat table or write it out as a description outline. Furthermore, what does this data talk about, and how do different pieces of information fit together? Are they even related?
For those of you who can see their data in a well-put-together table and strictly structured, you have likely subconsciously selected a relational database for yourself. If you would prefer to see data that cannot fit in a table cell, if you would like to add objects of different types and prefer more flexibility when it comes to your data structure, you have a great choice of non-relational options.
Once you know the broad type you are likely to select, it will be easier to browse the subcategories of databases and then choose a specific one. If your data is giving you a headache and you are not sure how to organize it, there are database types you can combine and that work well with each other.
For example, you could create a hybrid database of a relational database and a document store non-relational database. The relational database could be storing e.g., details of your applicants, and the document-based database could allow the customization of the forms or any other documents or statements you need to have on file for them. Document-based databases do not have a fixed structure and can easily be adjusted.
#2 Who Will Be Accessing the Data?
In pretty much everything you do, you have to consider who your audience is. Who will end up with your database? It makes sense that there will be data analysts involved, processing your data and helping you create plans for improving your business.
However, will they be the only ones? How is the database populated? Is it populated by employees of your company running CRM software and working with client files, or is it your customers making online purchases? This will also determine how responsive the database should be, that is how quickly you will need to see the data.
The purpose of the data and the way it is collected and handled determines the software or the platform that you will have to work with. Not only that you will have to work with it, but it is also your chosen database that will have to be compatible with the software. This is yet another thing to have in mind when selecting the database.
The purpose also defines some of the performance features you want to focus on, such as availability, querying speed...
#3 How Sensitive Is the Data?
Another question to ask yourself about the type of data you are collecting is how sensitive the data is and how much damage can its loss or leakage cause. You could be a financial institution, a medical provider, or simply someone holding personal details of their customers.
In such cases, there are often external standards you have to comply with. There are databases that work better than others with the rest of your environment to help you protect your sensitive data.
Furthermore, there are databases with built-in features which could prevent data losses such as redundancy which makes provisions to prevent data losses happening as a result of lost nodes.
#4 What Are Your Scaling Requirements?
Maybe you are starting small, but you are in this hoping to grow. Thinking about your future now will make your work easier down the track. Do you expect your database to grow horizontally or vertically? How quickly do you expect it to grow? Different types of databases impose different scaling limitations or, alternatively, open up options.
In addition, apart from basic expansion, open-source databases give you access to their source code which could be used to adapt the database to your needs as your needs change. This type of work requires advanced skills but investing in resources to complete this type of work could prove to be a better solution than eventually having to move data to a different database.
#5 Who Will Be Maintaining It?
Who will be working on building your database and what level of support they will need? Note that some databases require more maintenance than others. It is easier to find help and support for a standardized database using SQL (Structured Query Language) than find someone to work on a customized solution you created.
Also, there is the matter of security and optimization. Bear in mind that even what seems like an off-the-shelf database solution, still requires work done and ongoing maintenance. Unless you have in-house IT experts which can take over the work, you will require technology and a package that includes professional support.
#6 How Much Are You Willing to Spend on It?
Your budget for the database might slightly adjust the criteria you set out based on your requirements. If you need to compromise, be sure to prioritize the requirements correctly.
The prices of database packages vary but so do the features that come along with them.
Depending on what the limitations are, the limited capabilities of some inexpensive databases could affect the overall performance and the processing options. They could also impose certain operational issues by limiting the number of users who can access the database at one time.
For those who are just starting the answer may be the packages which allow license extensions where an additional license can be purchased whenever there is a need to level up. Again, with some professional assistance, open-source databases could be an option. Some of them come free of charge and can be tempered to help you get to a more customized solution.
Relational Database ☑️
By setting 12 rules of strict internal protocols, the mind behind the relational databases, E.F. Codd has ensured that relational databases to this date excel at processing structured data and providing consistency and reliability. Using SQL, data is easily stored and retrieved on demand.
They have built-in features that allow different levels of access thus improving security.
Unfortunately, we cannot have it all, so the strict structure that the relational databases have, imposes limitations on the flexibility which is sometimes required but rarely achieved with this database type. They are not good at all with unstructured data and vertical scalability is the only recommendable (and mainly only possible) way to scale.
Relational databases are an absolute top choice for applications using highly structured data, for those looking to automate a part of their work or looking for tight security features.
Examples of relational databases are Oracle, MySQL, MS Server, etc.
Non-Relational Databases ☑️
Non-relational databases do not imply that there are no relationships between objects, just indicate that their structure might not be as strict. They offer higher flexibility and a great number of data type choices. Even though they have been around for decades, it was only in the last twenty years (particularly the last couple of years) that non-relational databases have been gaining momentum.
The more technologically advanced we are, the cheaper storage seems to be. This is important for the development of NoSQL seeing that storage prices were among their major obstacles in the past. The structure of non-relational databases supports horizontal scaling which is a valuable feature especially now that resources are not an issue.
There are four main types of non-relational databases: key-value store, document store, column-oriented, and graph databases. The beauty of non-relational databases is that they usually serve specific purposes and thus offer specialized solutions.
The Bottom Line
Do not rush into making a decision about the choice of a database you want to use. Assess your needs thoroughly, consider your resources and then browse through options. Don’t forget that you can even work out a compromise that can combine your general data-processing requirements with your specific needs with a hybrid database.
This way you could work out the least complex solution and make provisions to accommodate any exceptions for specific use cases you might come across.