How to choose a database for your business.

There are a lot of options and considerations to go over when deciding on an SQL database for your business. Unless you know exactly what you need (and we’re assuming you don’t, if you’re here), it’s easy to get lost in the jargon and complexity of SQL databases.

In this article, we’re going to try and explain simply how SQL databases operate and benefit your business, so that you can be better informed when comparing options.

How will an SQL database help my business?

What an SQL system does is enable you to better put data into better context, to transform data into information. There’s a difference. Data is just raw numbers, information is what informs you when data is important.

For example, a piece of data that says a customer purchased something 2 months ago. That tells us nothing by itself. But with a database that tracks customer purchased, you could see that the customer was traditionally purchasing bi-weekly, so maybe you need to reach out if they haven’t bought anything in a couple months.

That’s just a small example, it goes a lot deeper. For a more complex operation, you could do a filter search for all customer accounts that have been inactive for a month, then use deeper search queries to try and figure out a pattern.

The main purpose of SQL is database management, and while the collection of data is incredibly important for any business, the data serves no purpose unless you have a way to organize the data into usable information. That’s exactly what an SQL database does.

It’s not only for information about your customers, as you can organize any set of data you want into information. For example, let’s say you wanted to see the monthly salaries of all the employees in a specific division of your company.

Coding and maintenance

For the most part, an SQL database is rather easy to work with, and is one of the least coding dependent languages. Initial setup for the software can be a little complicated, but the IT or programming department will handle it, and its nothing an individual can’t quickly learn for much smaller businesses.

After setup, there’s all kinds of ways to fine-tune the performance of your SQL server, and you can consider specialised SQL performance monitoring like that offered by SentryOne and other leading companies within the industry.

What is an SQL server?

You may hear the term “SQL server” instead of SQL database, but SQL server can be used to refer to both relationship databases, and popular SQL server types. This includes products like Microsoft SQL Server (MS SQL).

SQL is the language that interacts with relational databases, so the SQL server is the actual SQL database, and SQL is the language used to interact with it. In other words, SQL ‘server’ and ‘database’ are synonymous, and relational database software is the most commonly used database management system, in 7 out of 10 instances.

There are different types of SQL databases, which we will summarize.

Traditional relational databases

These were the first commercially available databases, and of course are still widely available today. Their roots go back to IBM’s System/R, which was developed in 1978. IBM replaced this with numerous IBM relational databases, such as IBM Db2.

Relational and SQL databases host information that will be delivered via online apps, and as back ends for applications. The database is integrated with front-end clients requesting information. But there are other purposes as well, such as businesses using the database to present useful information, such as customer trends, based on data collection.

Hybrid SQL databases

For additional functionality and storage capabilities not found in traditional SQL databases, companies have more recently been turning to hybrid SQL/NoSQL databases. With NoSQL databases, users can store and retrieve information which is stored in forms that do not rely on key-value stores for the purpose of organization and identifying data.

These hybrid database systems commonly combine the technology of relational databases, with the technology of object-oriented database software, graph database software, and document database software. These are all different database storage formats, so a hybrid database is useful as a multipurpose database.

Choosing the right database for your business

There’s a lot of jargon to understand when deciding on an SQL database for your business, so it would definitely help to consult with your IT or programming department and review options together, to see what they are familiar with and can recommend implementing.

Aside from that, you can review a list of the highly rated SQL databases for business purposes, such as this list on G2.