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Any data organized in a specific format can be considered a database. There are endless applications for databases depending on what they are being used for and what type of information is being retrieved. If you’re new to the database world, we have a list of things to know before jumping in. The more time you take to understand how databases work, the more productive you can be with them.

SQL is at the Core of Relational Databases

Structured Query Language (SQL) is at the core of all relational databases, including Oracle, SQL Server and Microsoft Access. If you want to be proficient in your database, you’ll have to learn SQL. Fortunately, there are many ways to learn the language, such as with online classes, tutorials, books and videos. Learning SQL will provide you with a firm foundation for using relational databases.

Choose Your Primary Keys Wisely

Primary keys deserve attention. It’s important that your primary keys are unique. Anything that might share the same value for an attribute is not a good choice for a primary key. You’ll also need to think twice about using sensitive values in your databases (i.e., Social Security numbers and email addresses). Use your database management system to generate a unique identifier.

Know that Null is not Zero

Many people think that null is zero, but it’s not. Instead, it means “unknown.” Nulls cannot be compared to any values, so they are not included in reports. So, if you have 300 customers in your database and 30 have nulls in the Email Address column, the report will generate a result of 270.

Convert Spreadsheets to Databases

If you have data stored in Microsoft Excel, as many people do when they upgrade to Microsoft Access, save yourself time and convert your spreadsheets into databases. This can be done fairly easily by creating a database, importing the spreadsheet and choosing a primary key. You can learn more about converting your Excel spreadsheets to databases here.

Database Platforms are Different

There are many different databases out there, and no two are the same. Some large corporations and warehouses need enterprise-size databases with all the bells and whistles. However, most businesses can benefit from a simpler, more cost-effective program like Microsoft Access. It’s effective at keeping track of expenses, inventory, sales, etc. and supports multiple users. Plus, it has a familiar look and feel so there’s not much of a learning curve.

Are you considering upgrading from spreadsheets to a database? Contact Arkware for a free consultation and learn which database is right for your business.