Online Database Software: The Pros and Cons
It is no secret that I'm a fan of online database software. But to help you make your own opinion, this article explores the pros and cons of online database software in comparison with an installed solution.
Cloud computing – the future of data storage
Online database software solutions are a product of the highly-connected digital world we find ourselves in today and it looks like they will also be a part of our foreseeable future too. It, therefore, becomes imperative for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) – that want to stay competitive – to keep up with this popular remote data storage trend and adopt it as soon as possible, if they haven’t already. Initially, when an SMB is still small and just starting out, it can rely on spreadsheets and workbooks to meet their data capturing and sharing demands. But, as soon as it outgrows that stage and it becomes obvious that a data storage system upgrade is required to meet the challenges their growing data size (and the complex demand of the information they require from it also grows), it is time to consider a move to cloud computing. Therefore, although spreadsheets can serve as initial data collection and sharing tools during the early stages of a business, they won’t help a business stay afloat for long, let alone become a leader in its niche market. Running a successful business now requires accurate, up-to-date data to be available round the clock, to help make decisions based on complex (but prompt) calculations and analysis. This is precisely why initial SMB growth plans should always include a move into cloud computing and, more specifically, online database software. After all, it makes sense to make the move to the current data storage technology trend and the way the world is all headed – towards adopting as the client-server configuration of the future.
What is online database software?
An online database software is a tool that allows you to create your own database applications without programming. This probably doesn't mean much to you. Now let's just step back a bit and have a closer look at those three words.
Software can be installed or web-based which is another word for online. Installed software used to be bought in a box containing a CD you would put in your computer and follow the wizard to install the software on your hard-drive. Nowadays, most installed software will be bought online but will still be installed on your computer. Bottom line, if you have to install a program on your computer, the software can be considered installed. Installed software can be used locally on your computer or can share information on the Internet. Web-based or online software will not install anything on your computer. To use them, you need to login on a portal using the Internet. You cannot use online software without an Internet connexion. The data is stored in the cloud and is backed by servers.
A database is the collection of structured data. This one may be better explained by a few examples. Let's say you are working as an administrative assistant for a marketing firm. Each an every day, you are generating a great amount of data without even realizing it. You may be making list of persons to call, tasks to do, emails to send and so on. If you were to use databases to manage all this information, you would probably create a contact database and a task database. Your contact database would an organized list of all the clients, prospects and other contacts important to your firm. Your task database would contain all the tasks not only assigned to you but to all the other members of your team. Databases used to be designed and created only by seasoned programmers since you needed a great deal of coding knowledge to be able to create them. Nowadays, end-users can easily create databases without programming. We call these persons citizen developers.
The software is the program your computer is using to access and manage the information. This is where you will login, create and use your applications to log your data. The actual computer and other tangible components are called hardware. The software is intangible. It is only code that your computer is reading.
Online database software – So, what is the big deal?
Online database software solutions are cloud software suites (a collection of various applications) , that are used to create and administer remote databases that the clients themselves can design (and build) depending on their unique data storage requirements. These database software solutions also allow the clients – who are usually SMBs – to create web-based applications that they can then use to read from, and write to, their customized online databases. Although they seem quite complex affairs, what most first-time users find surprising is the fact that they can do all the database and application creation without them having an in-depth knowledge of database designing or computer programming. Now, apart from the two main benefits we've just discussed, online database software solutions can also help SMBs by allowing them to:
- Collaborate globally: colleagues can work together on the same project or go over it with people from all over the world
- Share across the world: authorized users can upload files and data on the online servers which can then be accessed by anyone else from anywhere around the world
- Communicate with everyone: stakeholders on a project who share or use data can exchange ideas in real-time via comments, for example
- Stay updated: everyone working together or overseeing the servers and data use will stay informed and, thus, on the same page via the use of emails and notification messages
- Automate manual and repetitive business processes: just like with any other cloud computing technology, an SMB that opts for online database software solutions will be able to automate their manual processes which will enhance their overall performance
Finally, should the SMBs not have a tech-savvy employee who can handle the designing of the database and application requirements, or that they simply choose not to get their hands dirty, most online database software service providers have their own professional services and support experts on standby. These professionals take a look at SMBs’ requirements and go on to design the perfect solution that the client will then be able to implement within a short amount of time.
Advantages of online database software - the PROs
I see many advantages of a web-based solution but here are my top three reasons why I think online beats installed by a long shot.
1. No installation required
With an online database software, you create your account and users and you are instantly granted with access. There is no need for a technician to visit your office, no need to install the software on all the computers you and your staff may use. For a rather large group of users, the time and money saved with an installed solution is substantial.
2. Work from anywhere, including mobile devices
Since you don't need the software to be installed on your computer, you can access your account from virtually anywhere. All you need is an internet connection and a computer and you are ready to login into your account and work. Some vendors will have you sign in on their website but many will have a customer portal with a custom domain. For when you are out of the office but you still want to be connected to your data, most online database software works as well on your mobile device or tablet as it runs on your desktop.
3. Don't worry about upgrades and versions
With an online database software, the vendor is responsible for all the upgrades and versions. With most vendors, you won't even be aware that a new version is live before you receive their newsletter announcing the bug fixes and new features. Worst case scenario, you will have to click "Upgrade" and wait a few minutes just as you would have to do for an app on your mobile device. This represents huge savings in time and money compared to an installed solution. Upgrading each and every single computer takes time and having to buy the new version a few years down the road represents a lot of money.
4. Business advantages of online database software
Any business, and not just SMBs, that chooses to use online database software solutions can expect to benefit from the following advantages:
- Their data is stored in an environment which is much more secure than any sort of storage design that could they could implement locally
- The online database software companies have made it their bread and butter to take care of clients’ data. If they are as competent as they are expected to be, it means they have the best technical and security personnel they can get their hands on working for them
- This commitment to professionalism will also be found in the way the data is backed up and, should there be an unfortunate disaster, restored quickly and correctly
- Data that is stored with such companies will be kept on servers, and accessed through networks, that are supported by the latest technologies
- This, in turn, will help cut costs when it comes to IT budgets as there will be no overhead to take care of and payment is only done to store and access the remote data – nothing else
- When the SMB needs some more processing power, scaling up can be done with a minimum amount of downtime – if any at all
- Issues regarding compliance, upgrades, and license renewals are handled by the online database software company allowing the client to focus on more pressing matters closer to their core business processes
- The best database software always have one thing in common: they make their users’ and administrators’ lives easy with their dashboards and reports that help paint comprehensive pictures using the stored data
Finally, and most importantly, a business that uses a reliable online database company will be able to impress their clients with the efficiency of their services. They will also be able to get ahead of the competition by advertising the fact that they use the latest technology – something that will also catch the eyes of new customers.
5. User benefits of online database software
The advantages of online database software don’t just benefit the SMBs alone but also their staff – on an individual level – as well as their clients and any other end users who get to consume the data. The benefits they get include, but are not limited to:
- Like the SMB that owns the data, they too will be able to access the data from anywhere in the world
- A good online database software company will always have a user-friendly front-end interface that accesses the data, enables users to work on it, and then lets them save their work back on the servers
- Collaboration becomes a breeze as everyone is able to work on data at the same time, wherever in the world they may be
- An efficient data processing system makes the work environment a productive one because the staff will be able to work better and efficiently
Again, we can see that the overall benefit of using database software works toward empowering the SMB itself and is, therefore, an investment worth making.
Disadvantages of online database software - the CONS
Of course, installed solutions also have their benefits. Consider these three points before settling for an online database software.
1. No internet connection = no access
Online means... online. If you don't have a reliable internet connection to support your online database software, you don't have a reliable access to your data. It's sad but true. If you are dealing with very sensitive data and you can't ever be out of touch with it, I suggest having a backup internet connection from a different provider. This is what I personally do. An installed solution sure can be considered, but you won't have access to it unless the software is installed on the computer you are working on. There sure are remote desktop software, but they too need an internet connection!
2. Subscription and per user pricing
In terms of pricing, an installed solution represents one big lump sum when you acquire the software. You sure need to prepare a while in advance to fit this in your budget but once it's paid, you are good until you have to buy the next version. When it comes to online database software, there is no huge initial cost of acquisition but you still have to plan ahead since the fees are recurrent on a monthly or yearly basis. You have to be careful when you price your online database solution since the price is usually related to the number of users and applications you will require. The bigger the team, the pricier it gets. Same for your apps, the more you need, the more you pay.
3. Cost of extra storage
There is one last point to consider in the negative column in terms of pricing if you are going for an online database platform. With virtually all vendors, you will face a cap when it comes to storage space and/or number of items you can create. If you are only creating text items without large attachments, don't loose sleep over this, you will never see the end of the storage your vendor is allowing you. But if you are attaching heavy files such as screenshots or multiple PDF's, you could want to consider linking your account to a file hosting such as DropBox or Google Drive to lower your overall costs.
What can I achieve with online database software?
The main objective of using an online database software is to manage your data. The software will not only allow you to collect and store your information but it will also allow you to work with it in collaboration with your team. Online database software offer data management features such as:
- Data import from spreadsheets,
- Email notifications,
- Calendar with daily, weekly and monthly views that can include multiple projects,
- Role-based security,
- Custom and automated reporting,
- Recurring items,
- Custom dashboard,
- File upload and sharing integrated with Dropbox™
- and so much more.
How to Transfer My Data To Online Database Solution?
Dangers of Not Tracking Your Data Properly
Data protection is important for the general public and for businesses. For a professional like a nurse, a breach of confidentiality could cost her her job and career. It is then important to follow all rules on how to handle information related to the treatment of her patients. For the general public, the consequences of not tracking data properly are probably not as drastic but can still cause issues. Mishandling a password could expose the person to spilling personal, or even worse, banking information. For some businesses, not tracking their data properly could have disastrous consequences such as losing the trust of their customers or even going out of business. There are also potential legal consequences of mishandling data. For example, European Union residents and those doing business with the EU must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR. They must follow a set of strict rules on how to handle personal data in order to avoid hefty fines. As you can see, tracking your data properly is extremely important.
Solutions to Migrate Your Database
The first step towards a successful data migration is to inventory the data management solutions you are currently using. Your data migration process is highly dependable on where you are coming from, and on where you want to go. Of course, the best data management method is the one you are comfortable using. In some cases, people are still using pen and paper or word processors. For others, they may rely on their phone. Spreadsheets are an option in some cases. For businesses who already took a step towards online data management, they may be stuck with a legacy system such as Adobe FormsCentral. Once you know where you stand, and how safe is your current solution, you can make an informed decision for the future of your business. The migration process will vary in terms of resources needed, time and cost. In all cases, hiring data architecture professionals is a sure way to smooth the process, and ensure a positive ending. The most affordable and effective data management solution for small businesses is online database. It allows its users to gather all their data under the same roof. It offers an easy to use platform to create and share information. Single users, close-knit teams or multinationals can benefit from its many features. As for data migration, it is quick and easy to transfer data to online database solution.
How to Transfer Your Data to an Online Database Solution - like Kohezion
Data migration to Kohezion is fast and easy. It doesn’t require its users to master programming skills. It can be a DIY project, or some businesses may want to benefit from the peace of mind of a turnkey solution to speed up the project. The general principles are quite simple. Your preexisting data need to be turned into a database readable format. The spreadsheet format is the way to go. To access step-by-step instructions on how to import your data for Kohezion users, skip to this article. It is possible to import a spreadsheet into an existing project, or to create an application and project from your file. The created apps are then easy to customize according to your business’s needs.
How Much Should You Be Spending on Online Database Software?
Of course, all businesses want to keep their expenses to a minimum. Fewer expenses mean more profits, right? My answer is not that black and white. There are many points you should consider when it comes to taking in a new online database software into your business. Ask yourself these questions before proceeding to sign any contract, you could be surprised by your own answers.
How much cost each of your lead or potential customer?
Do you spend a lot of money to acquire the information about your leads? Do you care personally for each of your lead? From my point of view, especially if you are doing B2B, the more money and time you spend on each lead, the more care you want to put on minutely tracking your data about each of them. You sure want to see a return on your investment when spending big bucks on leads.
How much would it cost your business to loose a lead or forget to renew a contract?
Loosing a one hundred dollar sale because you forgot to call back a lead is sad but not deadly for your business. Loosing a hundred thousand dollar sale is a different story. If you will use your online database software to track data related to your leads and further on, your contracts, you are investing in peace of mind. Tracking data such as calls made, emails sent, all tasks and appointments, contract renewal dates and so on will save you money you would loose if you forgot any of the above.
How much can you fit in your budget?
This is the main question. How much your current budget is really allowing you to spend on an online database software? A startup may not have the same budget as an established business. You may not have budget to manage your tasks with an online database software during the first few years of your business. Along the way, sales will be made and the business will thrive. You will then be able to set aside some money for such a software. On the other side, your data may be of such an importance to your business that you need to track it efficiently from Day 1. How vital to your business is your data?
How many users and applications do you really need?
The price of an online database software is often based on the amount of users you will need and the number of applications and projects you will create. Do all of your employees need to access the software? Is this a way you could save to start with and then add the others later on? About the applications, you should know before buying how many you will need. For a small to medium business doing contact management and task tracking, less than five applications is the norm but if you consider using your online database software for more complex database applications, make sure to determine with the sales representative how many applications you will need.
What is the total cost of this investment?
Make sure you set money aside in your budget for setup and support if these are not included in your monthly or yearly fee. There should not be any surprise invoices popping along the way.
These questions should help you discover what are your needs in term of online database software and how critical such a software is to the success of your business. You then have to call your accountant and determine if you have the means to meet your needs' costs!
When does your business need online database software solutions?
Below, we will have a look some signs which could indicate your business is ready to adopt an online database software solution:
- You have too many spreadsheets and even more versions of each one of them
- Despite the spreadsheet chaos, you still haven’t managed to reign in your data as it continues to grow in size
- Your current reporting and updates setup (if you even have one) doesn’t meet your growing demands for timely and accurate information
- As your business grows there is an ever more increasing demand – which you struggle to meet –for collaboration on projects and information sharing
- You realize that you need to expand your IT capability without having to spend time on the administration of personnel and hardware as well as having to pay for any overhead costs that come with them
Any of these signs occurring in your business environment should be taken as a clear indication that you need to make the move to the best, cost-effective, and efficient online database software solution you can get your hands on. The good news is: you have got absolutely nothing to lose because, believe it or not, there are free trials for online database software so you can try it out