Choosing the right database for your application

Date
April 13, 2023
Hot topics 🔥
AI & ML InsightsTech Insights
Contributor
Dmitry Ermakov
Choosing the right database for your application

Dive into the critical task of selecting the perfect database management system to anchor your data-driven business for long-term success.

Key Takeaways

  • Foundation Decision: The choice of database is fundamental for business infrastructure, impacting growth and scalability.
  • Database Importance: Databases centralize and manage critical data, supporting informed decision-making and operational efficiency.
  • Types of Databases: Explore hierarchical, network, object-oriented, relational, and NoSQL databases, each offering unique advantages.
  • Cloud vs. Server: Consideration between cloud databases for flexibility and server databases for control is vital.
  • Choosing Factors: Integration capability, budget constraints, scalability, and specific data usage are key in selecting a database.
  • Use Cases: Each database type suits different business needs, from hierarchical structures for organized data to NoSQL for dynamic, scalable applications.

How do you choose a database?

Choosing the right database management system is not a simple task. As it is considered a long-term commitment for any modern, data-driven business, the choice of the database management system will lay the foundation of your entire business – so getting it right the first time is essential.

Developing new tools and applications within a distributed system results in data needing to be stored and categorised to make migration easier when the time comes. 

Taking time to evaluate your options for database technology early on is crucial for steady business growth. You’ll need to choose between cloud vs traditional databases – or both.

In this blog, we discuss the importance of databases for modern businesses and explain the different types of database management systems that you could use depending on your specific business requirements.

Let’s get started.

The importance of databases

Databases are structured collections of digitally stored data. They are how organisations maintain, evaluate, and organise essential information. Database management systems provide access to this data allowing organisations to manage different data sources using a single tool. 

Every successful business in our digitally-powered global society relies on data. Almost all technology-enabled business processes generate essential data that is gathered, stored, and analysed to inform crucial business decisions, strategies, and products. This is why being able to gather, store, analyse, and use data is crucial for all digitally-powered businesses.

  1. Databases provide access to essential data across entire organisations from a centralised system. They are structured so that information is searchable, sortable, and easily modifiable. Most importantly, database structures can be extendable and modified according to changing requirements.
  2. Databases ensure that data is correct, or has integrity. This is because information must adhere to a set of rules to ensure it is good. The ACID rule ensures the data has atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability.  
  3. Databases ensure that information is kept secure. Access to certain information can be controlled, ensuring that data security is consistent.

For businesses, databases are essential for storing and managing important information from a centralised system. Better HR management via automated employee data saves time and resources. Additionally, customer data and relationship management are housed in databases providing ways for businesses to ensure customer satisfaction from gathered data in a CRM system. 

Databases are vital for business growth as key strategic decisions are informed by gathered data. Business leaders are able to access important information that shows how a business has, is, and is forecasted to perform which enables strategic pivots when needed according to the data.

Types of databases

Different types of databases offer different functionality according to your business requirements. After all, data is dynamic and so the way it is stored varies considerably.

There are many database management systems available to choose from. However, the most commonly used databases are:

Hierarchical databases

Hierarchical database models display the progression of data formulated in levels, meaning information is categorised based on a common point of linkage, known as a parent node. The result is two data pieces will rank lower/below (child nodes) and the commonality will rank higher. Relations between data records are one-to-one and the structure resembles a tree. 

Network databases

Network database models are similar to hierarchical databases with the main difference being that child nodes are able to link with multiple parent nodes. The result is a net-like network structure where database files are linked with multiple threads operating in two-directional relationships. Due to its complexity, the network database structure is unalterable. 

Object-orientated databases

The object-orientated database model allows stored information to be identified as an object that responds as an instance of the database. This means objects can be referenced and called immediately, resulting in a dramatic reduction of workload in the database.

Relational databases

In the relational database model, each piece of information has a relationship with every other piece of information in the database. This is made possible by each data value being given a record – a unique identity – which individualises each piece of information. All data is tabulated, meaning each row and table is linked to another. This structure means scaling and sorting data is simple.

NoSQL databases

NoSQL database models, also known as non-relational databases, provide a way to store and retrieve data in a way that does not use the tabulation relation method of relational database models. NoSQL databases are simple in design with easy horizontal scaling to machine clusters, providing better control over data availability.

Cloud vs server database management systems

Another consideration to take into account is whether to choose an on-site server database management system or one stored in a cloud.

Cloud database systems operate in a cloud environment – information is stored in various off-site servers accessed by the internet. Cloud databases are commonly offered as a database-as-a-service (DBaaS) and are run by in-house IT teams. Assistance is offered by DBaaS vendors should your IT team need help setting up or managing the cloud.

Alternatively, server database systems store an organisation’s data in servers on-premises. This means that data storage and management is self-managed by your in-house IT team and assistance will need to be outsourced.

If this concerns you, we wrote a blog comparing these two options and discussing how to opt for one or the other.

Factors to consider when choosing a database

As there are so many databases to choose from it can make settling on one over another a tricky decision. As with any such decision, your particular business needs will play a major role in knowing which direction to take.

While there is no right formula to help make the choice easier, there are a few considerations you should investigate which will help you narrow down the choices.

Integration

It is important to consider what existing and future systems you will need to integrate with your database management system. Assess your current tools to see whether they are compatible with the database management system you are considering. Overall, it is a good idea to see if all of your systems are able to speak to each other. If not, this can cause major complications down the line.

Will your budget play a role in your decision?

While smaller database management systems are relatively cheap, they do come at the cost of limited functionality and often only allow single-use access. If you require a more robust system, then you will have to pay more. However, if your daily business processes require the use of a database then it is a valid investment. Most packages can be upgraded and scaled according to your business growth and needs.

Are you requirements subject to change?

If your business is likely to scale and increase its service offering then you will need to get a database management system that is capable of growing with your business. Open-source software will allow you to make adjustments according to your specific requirements as and when you need it.

How will your data be used?

Having a clear idea of how your data will be utilised will help you decide which database management system will best suit your business requirements. Your data analyst and business strategist will know how to best leverage your data to make an informed decision.

Use cases for different types of databases

Each database management system has its associated strengths and weaknesses regarding functionality and operability according to various business needs and requirements. Here are a few use cases and examples for the different types of databases.

Hierarchical database use cases

These databases are used when data needs to be represented in a tree-like hierarchy. Examples of hierarchical database models are the navigation file and/or the sitemap of a website. Organisational charts and the Windows Registry are other examples of hierarchical database systems.

Network data base use cases

These databases structure data in a hierarchical style but are represented in a graph structure. An example of a network database structure is a business’s financial graph indicating a one-to-many structure, i.e. sales manager linked to products and customers, invoices and payments.

Object-oriented database use cases

These databases are used in high-performance applications that usually involve calculations to generate quicker results. For example, real-time systems, 3D modelling in engineering and architecture, and telecommunications use object-oriented databases.

Relational database use cases

These databases allow you to search across multiple tables for a single query. For example, patient healthcare data storage is a use case for relational databases.  

NoSQL database use cases

These databases are used a lot in identity authentication and fraud detection, as well as inventory and catalogue management. Additionally, NoSQL databases are used for financial services and payments, and personalisation and recommendations to enhance customer experiences.

Summary

There you have it, a rundown of the various database management systems, their benefits, and use cases. By understanding the different types of database management systems you will be able to better choose which system will be beneficial for your specific business requirements.

Data is the new oil of the modern business landscape and is the fuel that runs modern commerce. It is therefore essential that modern businesses are clued up about how they store and manage their data as it can form the basis of business strategy well into the future.

Dmitry Ermakov

Dmitry is our our Head of Engineering. He's been with WeAreBrain since the inception of the company, bringing solid experience in software development as well as project management.

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