Most people deal with data on a daily basis that would need to be managed effectively. The owner of a supermarket has to keep track of the inventory, an editorial manager has to keep an eye on all assets and a hairdresser has to manage the appointments of his customers. In almost all professions, data plays a role. The best way to manage this amount of data is in a database. But what is a database and why is a simple table not enough in most cases?
What is a database?
Basically speaking, a database is nothing more than a logical collection of data. "Logical" because, in general, when you have a database, you're trying to bring order to the multitude of that data. When we say data, we mean all kinds of data here. Be it mail addresses, images, text, code or any other data you can think of.
There are many ways to structure databases. Below we briefly explain the 5 types:
- Hierarchical database: The hierarchical database follows a ranking order to structure the data
- Network database: The network database is similar to the hierarchical one, but it allows the child record to connect to different parent records, so relationships are possible in two directions
- Object-oriented database: Here, information is stored in an object-like manner.
- Relational database: It is table-oriented, where each data bit is linked to every other data bit.
- Non-relational databases (or NoSQL database): A No-SQL database uses a variety of formats such as documents, charts, wide columns, etc., which provide great flexibility to a database design.
Advantages of a database
Now that you understand what databases are, you're probably still asking yourself: why a database? What makes a database so much better than a list of information?
- Databases can easily handle multiple users
- Databases are very reliable because they store information accurately
- Databases avoid redundant information
- Databases process information in powerful and interesting ways
- Databases are scalable
- Databases can process huge amounts of data
Even though you may not need to process huge amounts of information yourself (yet), databases are useful even for smaller amounts of data. Because of the possibility to process so much data, a well thought-out and designed database can serve you for many years, because it virtually grows with you.
Where the table reaches its limits in contrast to the database
Lack of storage capacity
Imagine you have started a business. In addition to your brick-and-mortar electronics store, you've now decided to sell your goods online. Initially you get 2-4 orders a day, so it's pretty easy to enter the order information into a spreadsheet program. You start advertising online and your business suddenly booms. Order volume increases and you also decide to add even more merchandise to your product line. The sheer amount of information you have to process on a daily basis can overwhelm the simple spreadsheet program. The spreadsheet becomes sluggish or freezes because the storage capacity is simply too small. Databases, on the other hand, as learned above, have a much larger storage capacity and can easily grow with your business. So they are much more scalable than simple tables.
Dealing with multiple users at the same time
As your order volume increases, so does the number of employees you need. Wanted and found, you directly hire 5 new employees. Unlike most spreadsheet programs, databases are designed to allow multiple users to work together simultaneously. Simultaneous scrolling, searching and editing of the database is easily possible without changes made by different people colliding with each other. This is ensured by built-in mechanisms in the database management systems. In addition, access rights and editing rights can be assigned according to the competence or area of responsibility of the corresponding employee. Although newer cloud-based spreadsheet programs can solve some of the problems, they usually lack the granular access control that a database management system provides.
Reliability and the avoidance of human input errors
We are all human - and humans are known to make mistakes. The lack of schemas in a simple spreadsheet makes it more prone to human-caused input errors. In a database, on the other hand, there are certain rules that must be followed when entering new data or making changes to existing data. For example, you can predefine the character length of a numeric code, which avoids forgetting a digit when entering product codes, for example.
Protection against accidental deletion of data is also built in. Databases can display change histories and undo data deletion with a few clicks.
We use databases to make information easily accessible for future use. To guarantee this "simplicity", we should make sure that each data unit exists in only one place at a time. If the same data exists in different locations, it is redundant data. If a database has redundant data, it speaks to poor database design. Not only does redundancy ensure clarity and simplicity, but it is also useful when a change needs to be made to the data. Suppose the address of one of your customers has changed. Now you don't have to change it for every order, but it is enough to change it once centrally in the customer database, because the orders are assigned a unique customer number.
In some cases, however, redundancies are also useful. Especially in relational databases, such as in the data warehouse or in the business intelligence area, redundancies are deliberately built in to improve time-consuming SQL queries.
Since database are there to facilitate the retrieval of data, they also allow you to process that data in a very powerful way. You can create database queries to get answers to very specific questions. For example:
- From which area do customers who buy product xy come?
- How much of product xy was sold in the month of December?
- How do customers get to my website?
You can save the results of such queries as a view, which is a subset of the database in the database world. These special views help certain groups of people working with the database to find the data relevant to them more easily.
Databases are becoming more and more user-friendly
Whereas in the past you had to learn specific computer languages to create the above data queries, today there are many database systems - including SeaTable - that come with an intuitive graphical user interface. These allow even beginners to use databases right away to improve your workflow.
You can easily create your own database
Do the benefits shine through to you, but the idea of building your own database still puts you off? Good news: Today, you don't even need any special skills to create it. With SeaTable you can easily build your first database.
Take a look at many examples for the use of SeaTable in our template section. Here you will find examples from the areas of marketing, sales, project management, software development and many more. We have even prepared a 7-part product introduction on our YouTube channel for you, where we guide you through the entire process of creating a SeaTable base.
Use the advantages of a database and say goodbye to confusing tables today!
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