Businesses used to compete based on product features and service offerings.
Now, apart from product and service capabilities, customer relationships have come into play.
With this increased significance on the business's empathetic side, website and social media analytics, website content, customer analytics, customer service tickets, and others have started to populate company databases. This is in addition to more structured information such as inventories, deliveries, costs, and others.
This inevitably led to the continuing rise of database softwares created to help companies manage, structure, manipulate, and access data into usable pieces of information.
With so many options, resources, and experts popping up, it’s essential to understand how these technologies work. Having a grasp of how they can help your company is critical –not just for IT professionals but also for all managers and business owners.
This article will go over the basics of database system softwares and the top options currently available.
What is a Database Management System?
Database Management Systems (DBMS) are ways of organizing, managing, and manipulating data in a database.
Data are facts that represent events and objects in the world. Databases are collections of those data points. Examples of databases are product inventories, class directories, grocery lists, and etc. These can be on simple documents or spreadsheets.
Databases are not limited to huge companies and enterprises. However, the amount of information you’ll need as an individual is hardly equal to the amount that your business will have to keep track of.
Business database systems are often made up of several programs that make up an ecosystem of data and information collection, creation, storage, processing, retrieval, and presentation.
A DBMS software is made to manage and make sense of them and establish synergy among several moving parts.
Benefits of a Database Management System
Here are a few things that a reliable database software can provide:
- Efficient ways to organize and maintain databases
- Easy way to access, update, and manage data among several stakeholders
- Secure storage
- Hassle-free input and retrieval of information
- Automated management of duplicates and inconsistencies
The way you manage, retrieve, and store your data affects your business massively. Because of this, it’s essential to consider using database softwares. These’ll help you implement the data management system that’s optimal for your business’ specific needs.
Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Database Software
Choosing the best database program for your needs is a tricky subject. There are so many factors that come into play. Consulting an IT expert is usually the ideal course of action.
As a business owner or manager, however, you’ll need to equip yourself with foundational knowledge so you can effectively bounce ideas off and make better decisions on this.
In this section, we’ll go over some things you’ll have to consider when making a decision with your IT consultant or in-house expert:
- Integrations and Access Management
- Data Model
- Consistency and Availability
- Security and Protection
- Others: Scalability, Hosting, Cost, Usability
1. Integrations and Access Management
Before deciding on your company's best data software, first assess your existing systems, pending needs, and relevant stakeholders.
Where does data come from?
What existing applications need to be integrated into your system?
Who are the users who’ll need access to your data?
If your business has been running well for a while, you probably already have existing systems and tools that work. The database software will help you manage all of them and make your data more useful to your stakeholders.
While the standard database software is versatile, some work better with specific operating systems and SQL languages.
When it comes to managing access, you’ll also need to check on isolation levels. Isolation levels determine how conflicting data is resolved in the case of inconsistent changes in similar transactions.
For example, if two users enter conflicting data, does one get overwritten? Which one? Do they both reflect in the database?
Overhauling a whole data management system can be expensive and tedious. In case this is what you’re planning, be sure to weigh your pros and cons.
If you already have an existing system available, it’s recommended to work with it rather than against it.
2. Data Model
Data models define the way your data is structured within your database. This is important to consider because it determines how your information is stored and retrieved. It’ll also influence your system’s processing time and cost.
The most common data models are the hierarchical model, network model, relational model, and NoSQL.
2a. Hierarchical Data Model
In a hierarchical data model, data is arranged in a tree-like structure.
This means that, similar to how a tree is formed, there’s a root, a trunk, and several branches. In this data model, these equate to a data’s root, parent, and child, respectively.
Data organized in a hierarchical model has a one-to-many relationship. This means that a parent may have many childs. Childs, however, can only have one parent.
The hierarchical data model supports one-to-many relationships.
For example, when organizing your sales representatives and their respective customer lists, a customer can only have one sales representative. In contrast, a sales representative can have many clients.
This database can be efficient for sales managers who want to assist their teams in managing client relationships. Customer service representatives will also benefit from it because it’ll help them know which sales rep to notify when a client calls with concerns.
The hierarchical model is often used for assembly plants, corporate organizational charts, and family trees. It allows easy access to data at the top of the hierarchy and quick addition and deletion.
Many database softwares have stopped using this model, though. Because nowadays, data points tend to have more sophisticated relationships.
These’ll be discussed in the next sections.
2b. Network Model
A network model is a bit more sophisticated than the hierarchical data model because it allows a child to have multiple parents. It has a graph-like structure which allows a many-to-many relationship.
Imagine that the “product” is a condominium property that the client is leasing out.
This means that the client won’t just be related to the sales representative. Her property will be under the care of a property manager. Leasing engagements will be managed by a leasing officer. If she has concerns, she’ll be received by a customer representative, who’ll address minor administrative issues along the way.
The network data model supports many-to-many relationships.
Data in the network model is more comfortable to access than the hierarchical model. It’s also more reminiscent of real-life relationships. Data integrity is another advantage because all points exist in connection with others.
On the other hand, the network model also poses several disadvantages: complex and inflexible data structures and operational irregularities.
As relationships are governed by pointers, records can tend to look messy and hard to understand. It also makes it hard to manipulate data because inserting, deleting, and updating it will require several adjustments.
For this reason, the next two data models are often considered as alternatives.
2c. Relational Model
The relational model is the most used data model today. You’ll see more of it when we tackle the database software examples later.
Suppose hierarchical was tree-like, and the network was graph-like. In that case, the relational data model is organized into two-dimensional tables related to one another through standard columns.
Expanding on our real estate example again, we’ve tackled how one client can be part of several tables:
- Sales Clients (for the Sales Manager)
- Unit Owners (for Property Manager)
- Lessor (for Leasing Officer)
- Concern related to customer service corresponds to a ticket number
Relational data model supports relationships through connected 2D tables.
Suppose this customer decides to sell her property, and he’ll have to be archived in the system. In that case, a relational database model allows instant and organized adjustments for all tables involved.
The same goes if the client gets married and has to change her last name.
Less organized data models may have difficulty handling this. Some lists will retain the client’s maiden name, while the others will be successfully updated with her new last name. This results in duplicates and incomplete information for stakeholders.
Relational database management systems (RDBMS) organize data in 2D tables. In contrast to the previous models mentioned, RDBMS captures the complexity of relationships in the real world while retaining efficiency in managing data integrity and processing.
SQL is short for standard query language. This is used by relational databases to establish tables, columns, and their relationships to one another.
Shifting away from the organized architecture of the RDBMS are NoSQL databases. While structures are beneficial for many types of data, this isn’t always the case.
They’d work well with client directories and product inventories. But when it comes to chat messages, log data, videos, images, and others, establishing relationships and connections may not be the most optimal option.
For unstructured data like these, NoSQL is the best way to store them while maintaining flexibility and accessibility. It also helps save storage requirements.
2e. Other data models to consider
Suppose none of the mentioned data models resonate with you and your business. Below are a few other schemas you can explore to see if any of them would fit your needs.
- Entity-Relationship model
- Object-Based Model
- Object-Relational Model
- Entity-Attribute-Value Model
- Document Model
- Star Schema
Assessing the kind of data you’ll need to handle and finding the most optimal way to organize them is crucial in choosing the types of database softwares you’ll need.
3. Consistency and Availability
When thinking of database software, you’ll need to think about your requirements for your data’s consistency and availability.
Data consistency can be equated to the accuracy of data’s quality and format, whenever it’s retrieved. This is of utmost importance for eCommerce and other transactions where finances are involved.
On the other hand, data availability is the timeliness and reliability of access users have to data. For time-sensitive issues such as day trading, bidding, and contests that rely on time constraints, this should be a high priority.
The same goes for more static information: consistency won’t be too difficult to maintain, while availability is paramount.
When appropriately configured, databases can generally cater to both securely. By default, however, some management databases lean more towards one or the other and will require more effort to optimize for both. Because of this, your priorities should be crystal clear.
4. Security and Protection
Databases are goldmines. They can spell the difference between success and failure in highly competitive business environments.
Data management database softwares are used to protect these valuable assets, along with the integrity of your data infrastructures.
Protective routines include, but are not limited to, protocol authentication, database audits, creating backups, encryption, application security, and others.
The type and level of security you’ll need will depend on your data structure. An expert (in-house or third-party) will be able to help you secure protective procedures and access rights to ensure the safety of your precious data.
Once deployed, constant interaction is expected from your DBMS. Apart from a robust and secure infrastructure, equally important is a reliable support system.
After setting it up, maintenance and troubleshooting are the next things you’ll have to consider. Be sure that you have experts that you can contact if you’ll need something fixed efficiently and effectively.
Will this expert be in-house?
Will you avail of the database software programs’ own support team?
Will you hire a third-party company?
Is comprehensive documentation regarding updates available for your reference at all times?
Software database programs commercially available usually have paid support. Meanwhile, third-party companies now specialize in providing assistance for clients that prefer open-source database software options.
When choosing support providers to partner with, be sure to look at their portfolio and the extent of their expertise. It’s best if they have experience in things that are aligned with your needs.
5. Others Considerations
While the things mentioned above are significant considerations, there are other things you’ll have to look into as well:
- Scaling requirements
5a. Scaling Requirements
As a business widens its scope –be it vertically or horizontally –it starts to accumulate and work with more data. Scalability refers to a database system’s capability to grow according to the company’s needs.
When a system is scalable, it can be reconfigured to handle additional processes while retaining speed and performance.
Some database software is more accessible to scale, given specific systems and hardware than others. It’s crucial to consider the expertise, resources, and costs involved when it’s time for you to upgrade your data processing capabilities.
Think about the pros and cons. Consider where you’re company’s at and where you’re headed.
Your databases can be hosted on-premise or in the cloud.
On-premise hosting is preferred by many big companies because it’s usually more secure and compliant.
Massive growth in the industry of database management softwares in recent years, however, is because of cloud hosting.
While they’re (only) relatively less secure, cloud hosting allows smaller companies to avail of more sophisticated security and scalability features because of economies of scale. This makes it rich with capabilities without being costly to maintain.
Choosing one or the other has their own pros and cons. Evaluate accordingly, depending on what your company needs.
Many of the best database management software examples we’ll discuss later are open source. This makes cost almost negligible in terms of implementing them.
When it comes to setting them up with ample security and stability, however, it’s essential to make sure that you have expertise and skills on hand. This could equate to the costs that you need to consider.
Apart from that, maintenance and troubleshooting need to be taken into account as well.
How much is it to scale?
How much to maintain?
How much are the servers themselves?
Be it commercial or open-source, using a DBMS would incur a cost, although not upfront. As much as possible, apply foresight on future needs and look into how much you’ll need to invest in your chosen system to accommodate that.
One of the reasons why effective management of databases is vital to companies is to stay robust and reliable for all who need to access it.
Typically, not all members of a company are software experts. Some specialize in marketing, operations, management, and others. Nevertheless, they all work with data for growth and efficiency.
Is the user interface provided by your DBMS easy to navigate?
Does it have data presentation and visualization capabilities to make information easy to understand?
Is the process of input data smooth? Or will it add friction to their workflow?
Data management software is supposed to aid a business at the end of the day and not cause additional bottlenecks. A user interface that’s UX optimized could be crucial for companies whose data access needs to be shared with non-programmers.
With these factors in mind, you’ll be more equipped to select the best database software for your needs.
5 Top Database Software to Consider in 2020
Different types of businesses will have their own requirements and priorities.
Here are our top picks on the best database software for small business owners and corporation managers alike:
- Oracle Database
- IBM DB2
- Mongo DB
- Microsoft SQL Server
1. Oracle Database
Most popular database management software
Oracle Database is one of the most used databases in the world. It is one of the most mature DBMS companies in the industry.
It offers a wide array of software and technical services. Still, its flagship product remains to be its RDBMS.
Deutsche Bank, ING Bank, Samsung Electronics, and UnitedHealth Group, among others, use Oracle DB.
Some of the world’s giant corporations that need high data consistency and availability trust this company. This includes Deutsche Bank, ING Bank, Samsung Electronics, UnitedHealth Group, and more.
Although it took them a while for the company to get into the Cloud compared to their competitors, they now offer both on-premise and on-cloud storage with flexible settings. Since its move, it has proven to be a strong competitor against the leading provider, Amazon Web Cloud.
- Object-relational DBMS
- Reliable and efficient
- Secure and scalable
- Works well on-premises and on cloud
- Good support for integrations
- An abundance of specialists and experts
Object-Relational Database management systems (ORDBMS) provide a middle ground between the most widely-embraced RDBMS and the Object-Oriented DBMS (OODBMS).
The latter is a favored structure in the financial and telecommunications industry because it enables applying object-oriented programming for data management.
Object-oriented programming allows for more complicated procedures. Combining it with RDBMS provides for more sophisticated and capable architecture.
Oracle Databases use PL/SQL language. This stands for Procedural Language extensions to the Structured Query Language.
While SQL can be used to write queries, define, and manipulate data, PL (procedural language) follows a set of commands in a particular order. Combining allows the engine to process multiple SQL statements at the same time, as one block. This results in better performance with reduced network traffic and an overall reliable database system.
The company’s databases use partitioning, compression, and encryption even for pluggable databases. This makes it reliable and secure, even when scaling to large databases.
Whether you prefer to host your databases on-premises or in the cloud, you can be sure that it’ll be as efficient as reliable. Integrations are widely supported with tools and experts abundantly available for many platforms.
Oracle Databases also supports data warehousing and is available on Windows and Linux.
Pros and Cons
Great features come at a price. This, unfortunately, makes it unavailable for new companies and startups. Huge enterprises with available resources are more expected to maximize on their offerings.
Prices are customized according to the type of business and their existing data infrastructures.
2. IBM DB2
Easiest database software to use, install, and set up
IBM DB2 was initially released in 1983 as tech giant IBM’s first commercially available relational database. Like Oracle, it’s one of the mature players in the relational database market.
This commercial database software was designed primarily to integrate with the company’s 64-bit operating system for their mainframes z/OS. You can host it on-premise or on the Cloud with any provider.
To this day, it remains to be one of the most popular databases because of its stability, scalability, and AI-infused data management system. It’s also built with a standard SQL engine, making it flexible and scalable.
- Relational database management tool
- Wide integration
- AI-powered insights
- Elastic scaling
IBM DB2 is a relational database management software. This architecture does well in maintaining consistency, data integrity, and availability. It also has authentication checks to make sure that only sanctioned personnel have access to company data.
Setting this up is a breeze with automated tools. It also integrates with over 10 programming languages and multiple platforms.
Resource allocation, optimization, diagnostics, and other processes can be automated with this database system. Equipped with a Task Scheduler, you can gather statistics, organize indexes and tables with little to no effort.
Financial institutions like Morgan Stanley, Citi, and Visa, along with data-driven lab Lawrence Livermore all trust IBM DB2.
Today, customer insights play crucial roles in strategy and day-to-day operations. IBM DB2 supports companies’ insight gathering with machine learning, predictive tools, and AI, with reduced costs.
IBM DB2 can be scaled for up to 128 machines in multi-Cloud and hybrid environments. Data on the cloud is also automatically encrypted for added protection.
Pros and Cons
You can download a full-featured Community License for free, but with the following limits:
- 16 GB memory
- 4 core
- 100 GB database size
This allows for guilt-free exploration and trial, backed up with code samples, events, and community.
IBM DB2 on Cloud’s standard version starts at USD 99/mo.
Most popular open-source database
MySQL is the world’s most popular open-source relational database system software because of several factors.
Apart from being reliable and cost-effective, it’s usually bundled in web hosting provider packages, making it the first known database for many non-programmers.
MySQL is used by streaming, social media, and eCommerce sites to facilitate content and transactions.
It’s suitable for any company size because of its low barrier of entry. With MySQL, you’ll get high performance and reduced costs in a reliable and user-friendly package.
Established in 1995 and purchased by Oracle in 2009, data from MySQL can be easily moved, copied, or transferred, to or from Oracle databases without much scheme changes.
- Relational database management system (RDBMS)
- Easy to use
- Can be run on-premise or on cloud
MySQL is a relational DBMS that you can download for free. It integrates with many development tools and is owned by Oracle.
As an open-source database acquired by a major corporation, it enjoys the best of both worlds. It has access to resources for innovation and compatibility with Oracle services (e.g., Oracle MySQL Database Service), and a cost-efficient service that’s open to community input.
As it scales, it increases security. It’s a tool preferred for eCommerce sites, designed with Big Data, web development, and cloud hosting in mind.
MySQL is usable, even with no programming background. It’s easy to install and is equipped with a package manager. This readies the command line and allows completion of your MySQL set up with a simple process.
Pros and Cons
Open-source NoSQL database system of choice by top corporations
Steering away from the previous relational database examples, MongoDB is a document-oriented database that uses a NoSQL schema.
This is the database of choice for many eCommerce companies because it can accommodate comprehensive product cataloging. A NoSQL schema also does well in supporting social networking sites that use geospatial application features, manage rich content, and require a significant amount of documentation.
Its client roster comprises corporate giants eBay, Facebook, Verizon, Google, Sega, etc.
- NoSQL database management software
- Distributed and horizontally scalable
- RAM data storage
- Uses simple and easy to understand the syntax
As a NoSQL database software, MongoDB has no predefined schema. This makes it efficient in managing unstructured data. This allows for quick modifications in an environment where change is constant, and the atmosphere is data-centric.
MongoDB’s client roster includes Google, Verizon, Ebay, Facebook, and Sega, among others.
Data in MongoDB is organized as JSON documents (making it great for JSON projects) with fields. These are then grouped into collections and are stored using the BSON format (binary serialized JSON).
Reliable horizontal scaling is another critical attribute of this open-source database system.
Written in C++, it’s cross-platform, highly available, distributed, and has built-in geographic distribution. This means that it can manage databases that are physically distributed across computer networks.
MongoDB uses RAM instead of a hard disk to store its data. This results in fast query results because data is kept accessible. It also uses syntax that’s simpler to understand than SQL. Coupled with comprehensive documentation, it gives way to easy onboarding and learning.
Pros and Cons
Cloud and mobile service has free packages for commercial use and has subscription options for more features. If you’re considering deploying it on-premise, you’ll need to get in touch with their Sales team through the website.
5. Microsoft SQL Server
Commercial relational database system by Microsoft
Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database management system developed by Microsoft. It’s one of the top contenders in the market, along with Oracle and IBM DB2.
It can be hosted on-premise or in the Cloud. It can also provide other services, tools, and applications on top of its database.
This DBMS is made with SQL with extended proprietary features, through Transact-SQL. It supports transactions, business intelligence, and analytics for corporate environments.
- Automation and security routines
- Additional tools and applications
- Flexible editions
As an ACID-compliant RDBMS, you can expect Microsoft SQL Server to deliver high performance when you store, process, manipulate, protect, and retrieve your data. When it comes to data accuracy and consistency, you’d have very little to worry about.
Stack Overflow, Microsoft, Accenture, and Intuit are some of the companies that trust Microsoft SQL Server for their database management needs.
Security routines are solid with this database software. Backing up and restoring data for entire databases can be automated. You can also set up scheduled tasks for it to self-activate health checks or data updates. All you’ll need to do is receive reports of the accomplished procedures when they’re done.
Microsoft SQL Server supports Linux and is available in editions that you can choose from, depending on your requirements.
Online product documentation is available for learning, maintenance, and troubleshooting.
Pros and Cons
Express and Developer editions can be acquired for free. At the same time, standard and enterprise come in various subscription packages you can check out here.
Conclusion: What’s the best database software for my company?
Before trying to pick the most applicable management system DBMS software for your company, it’s important to first discern if you need one.
From selection, deployment, to maintenance, you’ll need a considerable amount of effort and expertise (be it in-house or outsourced) to make the most out of them.
When it comes to data management, simpler architectures are always easiest to maintain.
Only avail of a management system DBMS if it’s absolutely necessary. The criteria discussed above should be useful in your search. It’s highly recommended that you consult an expert to make sure you’re covering all bases in tailor-fitting one for your requirements.
All management softwares has strengths and weaknesses. But with good insight on your needs and priorities, you’ll surely find one that'll be most suited for you.