We live in the age of data. Information has become our most valuable resource, allowing businesses to streamline, refine and improve their services and, as a result, their profits. One of the main benefits of data is that it is infinite — you can always collect more of it, and as your customer base grows, it develops too — however, this can also cause some issues when it comes to organizing and analyzing it, which are two essential tools in your arsenal if you want to maximize the potential of your collected information. That’s where relational databases come in.
Also known as RDBMS or SQL databases, these are tools specifically designed to store, manipulate and retrieve data. While they may look like a simple table with rows and columns, their function is far from ordinary. In fact, they allow users to define rules that let the software link and cross-reference information, creating relationships between different data elements.
The benefits that relational databases can provide for businesses are countless. If you’re not yet convinced, here are eight of the most important reasons why your enterprise should start using them.
Collecting data is all well and good, but there also does need to be some accountability regarding the accuracy of the information that is processed. Unfortunately, regular databases are prone to errors such as duplication and redundancy, which don’t only take up much of your valuable time, but may also result in serious inaccuracies. In a relational database, multiple tables can be connected to one another, making the data non-repetitive and therefore more precise.
For example, all the information about a particular customer will appear as a single entry in a table, so if an order is placed, their address can be pulled directly from there. If their location changes, instead of the data being updated in one table and forgotten about in all the others (leading to further issues down the line), in a relational database, you can always find the most updated information without duplication.
Another major issue that databases often face is the integrity of their information. A relational database has data typing and validity checks that ensure the input is entered correctly based on predetermined criteria. It also warns when data is missing, making sure the information is complete. The relational element is a great fail-safe, too. As tables rely on one another to function, it encourages record-keeping to dodge imperfection and isolation. This guarantees accuracy and consistency.
Instead of requiring that data be inserted into one big file, relational databases rely on multiple tables. This means certain information can be viewed by whoever needs to see it, while access can be restricted for those who don’t. For example, a sales manager may require the figures for their colleagues, but not necessarily for the product design team. Alternatively, a personal assistant might have access to the employee list, but not their salaries. A relational database will allow users to retrieve data from tables that are relevant to them, while keeping irrelevant or privileged data private.
In other words, creating data segregation can increase security: some tables can be confidential, whereas others are deemed public to anyone within the business. When an employee enters their username and password, the relational database determines which tables they have access to, keeping sensitive information safe.
Relational databases allow multiple users to access data simultaneously, even while it is being altered. This can be crucial in business situations, where multiple employees need to retrieve or refresh information at the same time. Unlike other models, there is no hierarchical pattern or pathway for obtaining data. Anyone with access to the database can easily navigate it, querying any table and combining information from multiple tables to fetch and analyze exactly the details they need.
When it comes to storing data, there is arguably nothing worse than anomalies. These can be due to how information is inputted, for example. This is why a normalization process is vital for an accurate and effective database. By providing a set of rules, characteristics and purposes for the design and structure of the RDBMS, it can be guaranteed that it will be robust and reliable.
While every directory can be normalized, a relational database can do it more quickly and efficiently. This is due to the extra level of protection that comes with creating rules and objectives for the links between different tables. This can secure data, ensure its dependency, and make it easier to use. For instance, normalization will transform an order table from one that shows a row for every single order, to one that presents a row per customer, showing every order as a different column. That way, instead of a repetition of the client details, they are only shown once and can be accessed more efficiently.
Databases are more than just a fleeting idea — they take a long time to set up and maintain, so they should be able to sustain future modifications. The segregation of tables according to categories in a RDBMS adds another important layer to a database, rendering the required future updates to records and structures painless.
Not all businesses are created equal, and the purposes your database serves are different. If you sell goods, you’re going to use data in a specific way, unlike a company that provides an online service or manufactures products, for example. A relational database allows for maximal flexibility — you can create exactly the tables that work for you, and link between them according to your particular needs.
What’s more, once you’ve implemented a relational database, you can still edit and refine it. This can be done even while the tool is working, enabling you to change things as you go without interrupting your business processes. So, if your business expands or evolves, your database can too, and you’re not bound by rigid structures that were decided by someone else or a long time ago. There’s no limit on the number of tables, rows or columns, so you can make the database you need — and update it when requirements change.
Although relational databases are robust, they are not complex. While other types of databases may require years of training or an ability to write code, the relational structure is free from query processing and complicated, hierarchical architectures. Simple SQL queries will retrieve what you require, while the table structure is familiar to most people. It is far more natural for users to get to grips with, which means it’s easier to create and use.
It’s clear why relational databases are great, but the problem starts to arise when you already store your data in a different way. Many companies use spreadsheets, such as Excel, to store data and vital IP. On its own, the Microsoft software has many issues that relational databases can erase altogether, however, it can be a nightmare to transfer large quantities of information into a new system.
With EASA, you can transform your Excel files into a web page, automatically transferring individual spreadsheets into a central, relational depository. This effectively makes your existing Excel database into an RDBMS, providing actual database functionality at the back end, while still preserving the ability to continue using the spreadsheets as is.
Contact us to learn more about how EASA can work for your company.