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Database Software

Database software, also known as Database Management software, stores data in a structured format so it can be easily managed and retrieved. These applications allow greater flexibility to manage, manipulate and combine disparate data from multiple non-relational sources. By combining an integrated, enterprise-wide data access point with the capability for extensive search, manipulation and reporting functions, Database Management solutions enable organisations to make better, broader and more efficient use of key data. Database software is related to Business Continuity software. Find the best database management system for your organisation in Australia.

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Database Software Buyers Guide

Introduction

Database software is designed to store data in a structured format so that it can be easily accessed, organised, amended, retrieved, and otherwise managed by users. Also known as database management software, or a database management system (DBMS), solutions of this kind can be used by businesses to bring important information together in a single place, provide structure to unstructured data, consolidate information from a diverse range of data sources, organise that information in a coherent format, and ensure access is available to multiple users at the same time. A database can be described as an organised collection of electronic data, and database software allows end-users to interact with a database.

Some of the core features found within a database app include data storage management, data dictionary management, and access controls. Using these features, end users can store, organise, access and edit data, view and manage the database's metadata, and control precisely who is permitted to access information, edit information, or add new information to the database. Additionally, most database software will include comprehensive search functionality, making it quick and easy to find the data the user is looking for. Database software can also be used by businesses to securely store information, minimise data redundancy, and conduct data analysis.

Ultimately, database software allows businesses and other users to make more effective use of the information they have at their disposal, manage that information more efficiently, and provide access to all of those who need it to carry out their roles. The very best database software solutions may include database conversion tools, data replication options, and support for multiple programming languages. Some of the software categories that are most closely linked to database software include data visualisation tools and workflow management software.

Buyers will need to consider various factors when seeking out database software, including the type of data they are looking to manage, the amount of data they have, and who requires access to the database. Database software solutions can vary in terms of the precise features they offer, but for a package to be considered a type of database management software, it will typically need to include most or all of the following database tools or features:

  • Store, manage, update, and retrieve data from a central database
  • Manage metadata and provide descriptions of data objects
  • Control who can access the database and who can edit entries
  • Migrate data from one database to another, or convert the file format

What is database software?

Database software is the name given to software packages that store data in a structured format so that it can be easily viewed, retrieved, and managed. Otherwise known as database management software, these tools can be used by individuals and businesses to consolidate important information, bringing data from a variety of data sources together into one location, which can then be accessed by multiple people simultaneously.

Essentially, a database is an organised collection of data—stored electronically—making all of that data accessible from one place. Database programs serve as the user interface for a database, allowing users to explore the contents of the database, add to or amend the data, retrieve or convert data, and gain access to metadata via the built-in dictionary.

Many businesses turn to database software to organise important information so that employees can easily access it when they need it to carry out work tasks. A good database app will allow the administrator to control who has access to the database and who has permission to alter the data contained within it. Access can be provided to as many or as few people as is desirable, and different people can also be granted different permissions.

What are the benefits of database software?

The benefits of database software are primarily centred around its ability to consolidate information, even when it comes from vastly different sources, and then provide structure. This then makes it much easier for people within an organisation to access the information they need and to save important information for a later date. With that being said, some of the most significant benefits that are associated with purchasing a top database management software solution are explained in more depth below in order to further highlight the software's value:

  • Organise important information: perhaps the main reason most organisations decide to deploy database software is to provide structure to the important information they have at their disposal. Creating and maintaining a database allows data to be organised in a logical way, where it can be accessed, retrieved, and interpreted. The collection of important information in a single centralised location can also make comparisons and contextualisation much easier, meaning employees and others with access to the data can build a better understanding of what it means, why it exists, and how it can be used to improve business outcomes.
  • Make data easily searchable: one of the most important benefits associated with consolidating data into a company-wide database is the ability to make that data searchable. Database software will almost always include built-in search functionality, making it easy to find precisely what is required. Meanwhile, the best database tools will be able to process a large number of search requests simultaneously, meaning multiple users can carry out searches of the database at the same time and still receive their results in a timely fashion.
  • Eliminate data inconsistencies: in organisations of any size, data inconsistencies can occur, especially between different departments, but this can be especially problematic in larger businesses or in those with multiple premises. For example, it is relatively easy for one department to update a piece of information but then fail to communicate that change with another department. The result of this lack of communication is then two different departments operating with different sets of data, leading them to different conclusions about the current state of the business or about action that needs to be taken. With this in mind, a major advantage of using database management software is the ability to reduce or eradicate data inconsistencies of this kind. Using a database system, data can be updated from one location and then updated across the entire organisation, in real-time. From there, all departments and all employees within those departments will be using the most up-to-date data at all times.
  • Improve overall data security: finally, the use of a good database app can help to improve a company's overall level of data security. This is primarily achieved by keeping all of the data continually updated and allowing for the frequent creation of backups when storage is being managed on-site. Alternatively, the best online database software solutions will store the data in the cloud, ensuring there is no single point of failure. Cloud-based online solutions also have the advantage of making this data accessible remotely, using any compatible device.

What are the features of database software?

The features of database software can be divided into core features, which are seen in almost every software solution on the market; common features, which should be expected in most programs of this type; and optional features, which are less common and which will often help to separate one solution from the next. With this in mind, when searching for database software, the majority of options generally offer most of the following features:

  • Data storage management: oversee, organise, update, amend, retrieve, and store data with the use of a centralised database. A wide variety of functions can typically be carried out using the database software, from viewing information, adding new data to the database, or editing existing data, through to organising the data into a logical structure and exporting information into other applications. Multiple users can typically access the database at the same time, and information that is updated or added will then be visible to all users. Ultimately, this functionality allows for a business or individual to store a large amount of data in a single location, organising it in a logical way so that it can be accessed and used for a variety of purposes.
  • Access control/permissions: control who has the ability to access the database and the information contained within. Using access control features, it is possible to make the database accessible to everybody in an organisation or select individuals or departments. Different levels of permission can also be established. For instance, all users may be permitted to view the database and retrieve the information they need, but restrictions on who can actually add new data, or update existing data, can also be created. This then allows the database to be kept secure and protected from third parties or malicious actors. Permissions can also be adjusted over time—if more people require access—or if it is beneficial to allow a greater number of people to make changes to the data contained within the database.
  • Data dictionary management: manage the database’s data dictionary, which contains metadata explaining the structure, properties, and/or content of data, or providing important contextual information and descriptions. Examples of the information that may be contained within a data dictionary include the properties of specific data elements, such as the size of the data or the type of data; the relationship between one data entry and another; reference information, classifications, or descriptions that help to provide further information about what is contained within the database; and business-specific rules, such as approved definitions and vocabulary. All of this can assist with understanding and interpretation, and may also improve communication and decision-making. Database software allows those with permission to add to the data dictionary, make changes, and otherwise manage the contents of the dictionary.
  • Database conversion: utilise the database software to transfer or migrate data from one database to another, or convert the database to another format so that it can be opened in other applications or on other operating systems. Making use of these features can help to improve overall accessibility and can help to make it easier to share important information with others, regardless of the applications and devices they may be using.
  • Data replication: replicate data entries or create a duplicate of the entire database so that it can be easily distributed. This can be extremely useful in situations where individuals or departments do not have permission to access the main database but where they require temporary access to carry out specific tasks. Moreover, the ability to replicate a database in this way opens up opportunities for people to work with the database—or even make changes to the data—without affecting the people who rely on the main database as part of their job. Another benefit of this is the fact that the replicated database can be used for experimentation or to see the ramifications of making changes without causing any permanent problems.
  • Backup and recovery: keep information safe and secure through the use of built-in data backup and recovery tools. Generally, this will include options to regularly back up data or automatically back up every change that is made to the database. This means that the most up-to-date information can always be easily retrieved, even if the database is deleted or data becomes corrupted. Furthermore, recovery options included within the database software may allow the database to be restored to how it was at a previous time or may allow for instant data recovery in cases where entries or information was deleted accidentally.

Capterra's software directory makes it much easier to find the ideal software solution. Using the tools provided, sort the available software options based on the features they include, ensuring only the options that offer the elements required—which are going to deliver on the company's specific needs—are presented.

What should be considered when purchasing database software?

A number of key considerations must be taken into account when purchasing database software because different options on the market will be the most suitable option for different purposes. Some database programs are ideal for small and medium enterprises, with a need to organise relatively small amounts of data, while others are ideal for larger corporations, with data from a wide range of sources and more intense demands in terms of the number of users accessing the database at the same time. One of the best ways to approach this is to ask the following questions before making a decision on which software to purchase:

  • What are the features of the database software? One of the most immediately obvious considerations when looking at different software solutions is the range of features on offer, and it is important to prioritise specific needs here, rather than simply seeking out the option that includes the widest range of features. Think carefully about what the database actually needs to do and then narrow down the available apps to those that contain precisely what the business is looking for. There may be options on the market that offer a great range of features and which have excellent reviews from users, but if these software solutions do not contain the precise features needed, they are not going to be suitable.
  • How much will the software cost? Next, give some thought to the issue of cost, and this needs to be considered within the context of the budget available. Beyond this, think about the total cost of ownership rather than simply focusing on the cost of purchasing the software. This then raises a lot of additional questions that will need to be answered before making a decision. How much will the setup cost? How much training is going to be required for employees to become proficient in using the software? How much support is on offer, and what costs are associated with this? Will the business need to pay for updates or new versions? Is payment for ownership of the software, or is there a subscription fee to access a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution?
  • What is the best deployment option for a database app? The preferred deployment option is another consideration that can help to narrow down a search for database software. There are going to be three main options to weigh up here. The first is on-site deployment, with storage that the users themselves are responsible for. The second is on-site deployment, with storage taking place in the cloud. Then, finally, the third option is for a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) model, with a third party taking responsibility for storing data securely and keeping the software up-to-date. There are pros and cons associated with all three models, too, so think carefully about which option works best. The cloud-based approach can reduce much of the hassle associated with managing storage equipment, and subscription services can help to reduce initial costs while making ongoing costs predictable and providing excellent accessibility. However, on-site solutions may provide a greater sense of ownership and control and might be more effective when vast amounts of data need to be transferred quickly.
  • What is the database software going to be used for? It is important to remember that databases can be used for everything from simple data entry and record-keeping, through to financial reporting and customer relationship management. Try to be as specific as possible about what use the database software is intended for. This can then make it a lot easier to eliminate options that are unlikely to satisfy requirements.
  • What are the different database types? While the most common approach to creating and managing a database is to opt for the centralised model, this is not the only database type available. For instance, a distributed database works by distributing data across multiple database systems and then establishing communication links between them, and this can help to break up a single, large database into more manageable pieces. Prior to making a decision about the database software to use, establish the type of database that needs to be created or managed, and then choose an option that suits that type.
  • Is the data structured, unstructured, or both? Data can be separated into structured data and unstructured data, and it is important to know which data type is being dealt with. Structured data is typically organised and specific data, which follows pre-defined data models and is quantitative in nature. Examples of this would include telephone numbers, names, addresses, and dates. By contrast, unstructured data can consist of different types of data stored in different formats. Examples of this would include text files, video files, audio files, images, and emails. Databases can also be broadly divided along similar lines. As a basic rule, relational database software is better suited for structured data, whereas businesses that require a database for either unstructured data—or a combination of structured and unstructured data—would be better served by turning to non-relational database software. Knowing whether software works on structured data, unstructured data, or both will be a major help when trying to determine what the best overall solution will be for the company's needs.
  • Are there any compatibility issues to be aware of? Many of the best solutions on the market will include database management system tools that allow the software to easily integrate with other packages that might already be in use. However, where compatibility problems do exist, alterations to the other tools already in use may need to be made, and this can increase overall costs. Generally, it is best to look for the solution that most closely aligns with the software currently in use, but this focus on compatibility should not come at the expense of overall quality.

The software trends that are most relevant to database management systems need to be given some attention prior to making a purchase too, and these must also be considered within the wider context of emerging and significant technology trends. For those seeking out database software, it makes sense to give particular thought to the trends outlined below:

  • The increased interest in cloud services: As Gartner research highlights, most businesses are currently planning to either maintain or increase spending on cloud computing and its benefits are becoming increasingly realised. This is especially true as remote and hybrid work models become more common and businesses see the benefits of cloud services when operating with a distributed workforce, who need access to software and tools while working off-site. With this in mind, it is worth thinking carefully about whether cloud-based storage is the best approach for database software and whether a fully cloud-based software solution may be suitable.
  • Artificial intelligence in database software: A significant technology trend over recent times has been increased reliance on the concepts of artificial intelligence and machine learning. This trend can be seen within database software, with some solutions including features that can automatically adjust database settings as the database changes, grows in size, or becomes more complex. As a result, the actual management of a database can be made easier, and AI can often help to improve performance too. Additionally, automation can help to ensure that changes are made in a timely fashion at the point in time they are most needed.
  • The growth of non-relational database software: Gartner research also shows that the growth of non-relational database management systems is outpacing the growth of database management systems as a whole, indicating that there is increased interest in database software that can handle both structured and unstructured data. Using the Capterra directory, it is easy to identify whether database software is relational or non-relational, helping to narrow down the available options to those that fit with what is required.