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Relational vs Non-Relational Databases: What’s the Difference?

In the world of databases, there are two main types: SQL and NoSQL – or relational and non-relational – databases. There are clear differences between them, including how they are built, the type of information they store and how they store it. By understanding what SQL and NoSQL databases are and the distinctions between them, you can make the best choice for your business or organization.

Let’s learn more about relational and non-relational databases, how they differ and how to choose the right one for your operational needs.

What is a Relational Database?

Relational databases are structured. They contain two or more tables with columns and rows. Each row is an entry, and each column sorts a specific type of information, such as a name or address. In order for relational databases to be effective, the data needs to be stored in a structured manner. Some of the most popular SQL databases include Microsoft Access, MySQL and Oracle.

Businesses and organizations rely on relational databases for the following reasons:

  • Data can be organized in a simple manner
  • Information can be easily retrieved using queries
  • Structured format leads to reliable, accurate data  
  • Highly scalable to accommodate growing businesses
  • Database can be normalized for consistency

What is a Non-Relational Database?

Non-relational databases are far more flexible than relational databases because they contain unstructured data. You can think of them as being large file folders that contain all types of information, such as photos and online activity. There is organization to these databases in the form of storing information in documents. The difference is that these documents are not categorized into fields.

A major benefit to NoSQL databases is that they offer a greater ease of access. Users can execute queries without having to learn the basics of SQL. Non-relational databases are also intuitive, fast and efficient. They are ideal for large businesses and organizations that hold a lot of data. If the database needs to be scaled, it can do so without much headache. Popular non-relational databases include Oracle NoSQL, MongoDB and HBase.

What Database is Right for Your Business?

The best way to know what type of database is right for your business or organization is by speaking with a database management company such as Arkware. Start by defining your strategy, the types of data you’re looking to store and the analytics you plan on running. Unless you are a large business with lots of big data to make sense of, a relational database like Microsoft Access should be sufficient for your needs.

For your free consultation, contact Arkware today.


3 Things to Know About Databases

At first glance, a database looks almost like a spreadsheet. It has arranged columns and rows and holds data just as a spreadsheet does. However, things get a lot different from this point forward. Databases are far more powerful than spreadsheets, allowing you to do a lot more with them. This is why businesses and organizations large and small use databases to efficiently run their operations.

Below are three important things to know about databases.

1. Databases are relational and can cross-reference records in different tables.

Most databases are relational, which means you can create relationships between tables to compare and contrast data. For example, if you linked a Customers table with an Orders table, you could bring up the entire order history for a specific customer. You could also refine this data based on a certain time period or purchase total.

Additionally, databases have broad search functionality that allows businesses to pull up all information in a matter of seconds. This helps people make smart business decisions. Databases are also capable of updating records in bulk so that users don’t have to go through and update everything manually. In the end, databases are incredible tools that offer far more functionality than traditional spreadsheets.

2. Databases have a structure that is made up of columns and rows.

Databases contain tables and rows, and all data is separated by categories to avoid duplication. For instance, a retail business might have a database that contains a Customers table, an Orders table and a Products table.

Within each table, the rows are called records and the cells are called fields. Each field holds a specific type of data, such as a number or date that is formatted consistently. This allows users to pull up accurate, consistent information.

Furthermore, the tables are linked through a key, which is an ID that identifies each row. There is a primary key for each table, and any table that needs to link to that table will have a foreign key. You can read more about choosing a good primary key in an earlier post.

3. Microsoft Access is one of the most popular database programs.

Microsoft Access remains one of the most popular and reliable database programs on the market. It’s affordable, easy to implement and can be scaled to accommodate growing businesses. If your business needs something more powerful than Access, you may want to upgrade to a server database that uses SQL, such as MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle.

No matter what your database needs are, Arkware can help. We get businesses set up with databases like Microsoft Access as well as upgrade them to server databases. Using the right database ensures efficient, productive operations and the ability to make smart business decisions. Contact us today for your free consultation.


What Does it Mean to “Normalize” a Database?

Normalization is the process of organizing data in your database into tables and columns. The idea behind normalization is that a table should be about a specific topic, and the columns should support that topic. When you limit a table to a single purpose, it prevents duplicate data from showing up in your database.

Let’s learn more about the reasons for database normalization and why it’s important for your data quality and accuracy.

Overview of Database Tables

A database consists of one or more tables. Each table is made up of rows and columns, with data being entered into the columns. The data has to be specific, such as a number or date. Each row is identified by a primary key.

The idea of database normalization is that each table is limited to one purpose, thus avoiding duplicate and redundant data. When you need to generate reports or compare numbers, you can refer to the specific tables you need and that’s it. You don’t have to worry about related numbers trickling in from other tables.

Reasons for Database Normalization

There are three main reasons to normalize your database:

  • Avoid duplicate data. If you have duplicate data in your database, it becomes tedious and time-consuming to manage data changes. Redundant data also increases storage and decreases database performance. To fix this, database normalization is used.
  • Fix anomalies. When a database is normalized, anomalies are corrected. Anomalies can occur when data is accidentally inserted, deleted or left blank.
  • Simplify search queries. Database normalization makes it easier to search and sort your data. Once a database is normalized and anomalies are corrected, you can perform simpler queries.

Types of Database Normalization

There are three types of database normalization:

  • First normal form. Information is stored in a relational table. Each column has atomic values, and there are no repeating groups.
  • Second normal form. This table is in first normal form and all columns depend on the table’s primary key.
  • Third normal form. This table is in second normal form with columns that are non-transitively dependent on the primary key.

Databases are an asset to today’s organizations, but they can also come with a major learning curve. Before you invest time and money into learning a database, make sure that you are using the proper database solution. For a review of your organization’s current database, contact Arkware today.


How to Improve Database Accuracy

Data is one of the most important parts of your business. In order to have reliable data, you must maintain a high level of data accuracy. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it may sound. With so much data coming in, it’s up to data entry specialists to perform their jobs quickly and diligently. One mistake can cause all of the data to be wrong.

Fortunately, businesses of all sizes rely on databases to keep their data safe and secure. However, the information going into the database needs to be correct. Below we share the most effective ways that you can improve database accuracy within your organization.

Identify Correct Data Sources

To improve the quality of incoming data, your business should identify where the data is coming from. All sources – internal and external – should be reliable. Otherwise, you could have incorrect data entering your database and skewing all of your numbers. Some of the most common places where data comes from are:

  • Government organizations
  • Research institutions
  • Other businesses
  • Self-reported data

Set Realistic Data Quality Goals

To keep improving data quality, it’s important to set realistic data quality goals. Management should understand where potential problems exist and how to resolve them. Generally speaking, data quality issues revolve around data capturing, data entry and effective coding. Management can then pass these goals down to their data entry specialists who can work on improving the issues.

Avoid Overloading Data Entry Specialists

For those who enter data into spreadsheets and databases, it’s easy to get fatigued. When a person isn’t sharp, it’s easier to make mistakes. This is why it’s important not to overload data entry specialists. These employees need time to be efficient and accurate. If there is a lot of data that needs to be entered, the work can split up among employees, or it can be spanned over the course of several weeks.

Double Check the Data Being Entered

Reviewing data is a smart practice that allows for mistakes to be caught. How does your business currently check for the data accuracy? Consider ways to streamline the process, such as by hiring a team of quality assurance professionals who can review your database. You can also use automated software tools that will generate error reports.

Maintain a Positive Work Environment

A healthy work environment results in more productivity and less errors. Maintain a positive work environment that includes regular break times, stress-relieving activities and manageable workloads. Data entry specialists have high expectations, and working under pressure doesn’t benefit this industry. This is when mistakes are made.

If you’re still having trouble with data quality, it may be your database solution and not your data entry specialists. Contact Arkware today to learn more about upgrading your database to something new.


Why it’s Important to Limit User Access in Your Database

All relational databases include some type of security measures to protect the database from unauthorized users. These security measures range from simple password protection to assigned user roles. As a database administrator, limiting access to certain users is one of the most effective ways to secure your database.

In this post, we’re going to explain the importance of creating user accounts for each person who will be accessing your database and assigning the appropriate roles for each one. Because each database management system is different, it’s best to consult with a database support company like Arkware for the right procedure.

Create Separate User Accounts

It’s highly recommended to set up an account for each person who will be accessing your database. Even though there is a way to share accounts between users, it’s not the best idea because you can’t be sure who is using the account and when. Personal reliability is important when using a database, so you want to be able to trace activity back to individual users.

Another reason not to share accounts is because if you want to remove access from a particular person, you’ll have to change the password for everyone. Because people come and go from organizations on a regular basis, it’s easier to give each user their own account. If someone leaves your company, you can simply deactivate access to that user.

Assign Roles to Users

If you have a work environment with a small number of database users, it should be easy to create user accounts and assign them permissions on your own. But, if you have a large number of users, this will probably be more difficult. Not only do you have to create the accounts but also manage them.

To help with this, relational databases usually support the notion of roles. Instead of assigning roles to each individual account, user accounts are automatically assigned to roles, and permissions are assigned to these roles as a whole.

Grant and Revoke Permissions

Once your accounts have been created and roles assigned, you can strengthen security by adding permissions. Not all users need the same permissions. Give users the least amount of permissions they need to do their jobs. If someone leaves your organization, or you want to revoke their permissions, you can do this on an individual basis without disrupting any of your other users.

To make your database more secure by limiting user access, reference your database management documentation or consult a database development and support company like Arkware. Schedule your free consultation today at 877-519-4537.