The history of databases and database software is neatly intertwined with the history of computing in general.
As the cost to purchase and maintain computers dropped, organizations began to utilize the immense power they offer for storing and sorting data. Once it became easier and cheaper to hold more data, it naturally became necessary to maintain the data in easily accessible ways. Database software was born.
Compared to the pioneers of the 1950s and 1960s, your options for database software are nearly limitless. Rather than mail order a room-sized cabinet from IBM, you can peruse an endless amount of offerings on your phone. Even if you’re familiar with early tools like Microsoft Access, you might be surprised to learn how far database software has come.
Two of the most important factors to focus on are the functionality offered by different database software tools and your personal requirements for the tools. No two databases are the same, so make sure you know the types of database software tools available—and what you need it to do for you.
Database software exists to protect the information in the database and ensure that it’s both accurate and consistent. Data is only as good as the way it’s stored and maintained — a messy database reduces the utility and effectiveness. Some of the benefits of database software are listed here:
If you're part of a small team with limited time and resources, you’ll need a platform that gives you the power to quickly pull reports, access data, and easily manage user access. Think of it like buying a turn-key house—you want to move right in without having to worry about little details.
If you're part of a more robust organization with more defined requirements around maintaining data, you might prefer a database software platform that offers more customization and power to define your needs. It’ll take more time and careful planning, but you’ll end up with a perfectly designed system that fits your team's every requirement.
Online database software allows users to develop customized web-based applications without coding experience. It often includes editing and collaboration functionality, so that teams can easily discuss projects and share files.
Depending on the platform, users may also be able to build forms that can be housed on a website and deliver data directly to a database. Most online database software platforms also have advanced reporting capabilities.
On-premise database software is implemented at an organization’s physical location. It uses the hardware and support of that organization, and the company’s IT department and infrastructure typically maintains and solves problems related to the software.
Hosted database software, or software-as-a-service (SaaS), is owned, delivered, and managed remotely through the cloud by a provider separate from the purchasing organization. Hosted software can be customized to the individual company’s needs more easily, and generally allow users to scale up more quickly.