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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.

 

5 Database Design Mistakes to Avoid

Proper database design is always important, whether you’re building a large database with millions of records or a small database with a few hundred records. The proper database design allows you to find the information you need quickly and efficiently while also making it easy to expand your database in the future. However, there are a few easy design mistakes that can hurt your database.

Here are five database design errors to avoid and why.

1. Adding More than One Information Piece into a Field

Each field should contain one piece of information. If you add more than this, it’s going to be much harder to query the database for information.

When creating a database, be sure that all fields contain only piece of information. We also recommend watching the formatting for each field. For example, people input phone numbers differently, so if you rely on a specific format, a query may not pull up all of the information you need.

2. Choosing a Poor Primary Key

Primary keys should never change. Usually, people assign incrementing numbers as primary keys because they are automatically generated, unique and non-changing.

You don’t want to use things like addresses, phone numbers or social security numbers as primary keys. Also, it’s not recommended to use real information as your primary key, even if it appears to be a good identifier. Keep it simple – incrementing numbers are best.

3. Repeating Fields in a Table

When designing your database, you should recognize repeating data and put the repeating columns in their own table. Otherwise, you might stuff repetitive data into a single table, making it difficult to run accurate reports. Usually, this problem happens when going from spreadsheets to databases, but databases are relational and don’t need repetitive data.

4. Embedding a Table in a Table

Another database design mistake to avoid is embedding a table in a table. All data in a table should be related to itself. When the data is related, it pertains to that individual person or order, making it easy to keep the information updated and accurate.

If you embed a table, you will have to update a whole set of data when one piece of information changes. You want to avoid this and also allow for new information to be added quickly and easily.

5. Improper Indexing

Indexing can be a difficult thing to do right, but it must be done, otherwise you won’t see the full potential from your database. All primary and foreign keys should be indexed because this is what links tables together.

You should also index other fields, such as “where” fields, because you might want to search for information related to “where.” While it’s a good idea to put an index on commonly used fields, don’t overdo it. Again, we suggest placing an index on all primary keys, all foreign keys and fields that are used in “where” clauses.

Good database design is the key to running accurate reports. To ensure that your database is set up correctly, or to have a new database designed for your organization, contact Arkware today at 877-519-4537.

 

How to Choose a User-Friendly Database for Your Business

When choosing a database for your business, the options are plentiful: Oracle, SQL Server and Microsoft Access, to name a few. Since implementing a database into your organization will require resources and a learning curve, you want to make the best decision from the start. Otherwise, you could be looking at having to replace your database in the near future.

Below are some helpful tips for choosing a user-friendly database for your organization.

Define Your Needs

The first step in selecting a database is to know what your business needs to be successful. If you run a small business and handle customer orders, inventory, etc., a desktop database like Microsoft Access should be sufficient. It’s not too confusing, and it has all of the functions you need to run a business.

On the other hand, if you are part of a large corporation with thousands of users, a server database will probably be best. Server databases are more powerful, but they come with a higher price tag and require high-performance servers.

Evaluate Desktop Options

If you choose a desktop database, you’ll have many simple, cost-effective options at your fingertips. These databases handle less complex storage needs and are able to run on a desktop or personal computer. A few of the benefits to desktop databases are:

  • Inexpensive. Most desktop solutions are around $100. Microsoft Access is usually a great database to start with because it’s already included with a Microsoft Office subscription.
  • User-friendly. Desktop databases are generally straightforward and easy to use. Microsoft Access has a similar look and feel to other Microsoft programs, including Excel, so most beginners are able to jump right in and feel comfortable using it.
  • Web solutions. With recent upgrades, most database programs allow you to publish data on the internet to share with other users.

Evaluate Server Options

Some organizations need more than a desktop database to run their operations. If you need something more scalable, a server database is probably best. Examples of server databases include Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle. The benefits to server solutions are:

  • Excellent performance. Server-based databases are powerful and do nearly anything you request of them. They can manage high-speed processors, storage technology and clustered servers.
  • Flexible. One of the reasons why organizations opt for server-based databases is because they are flexible and support many users at once time. All data is updated simultaneously as well.
  • Scalability. Server databases are able to handle expanding users or data with no problems. This makes growing an organization more efficient.

Today’s businesses have a number of user-friendly databases to choose from. The best approach is to define your needs and choose the solution that supports them without going overboard. If you need assistance choosing the right database for your business, contact the Arkware team today.

 

5 Tips for Keeping Your Database Secure

Keeping your database safe and secure is one of the most important things you can do. Hackers tend to target databases that hold a great deal of sensitive information, such as credit card numbers and social security numbers. The more profitable information your database holds, the more attractive it will be to hackers.

Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to ensure your database is secure. While no one is ever fully protected from a cyber attack, criminals look for easy opportunities. Robust database security is also important to help prevent database corruption.

Here are five ways to secure your database.

1. Store Your Database and Web Server Separate

It’s recommended to store your database separate from your web server. If a hacker is able to crack the administrator account for the web server, they can also access your database. When setting up your database, put it on a separate server that is located behind a firewall. This is more complicated and time-consuming, but it’s worth it in the long run.

2. Encrypt Stored Files

Encrypt all of your stored files, as these files contain sensitive information that hackers can use to access your database. Too often, default installations store these files in plain text and users aren’t aware. Take the extra step to encrypt these files. You should also encrypt your backups for the same reason – sensitive information can be accessed by people within your organization.

3. Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF)

Web application firewalls are firewalls for HTTP applications. By protecting the web server, you’re also protecting your database. A WAF is different from a traditional firewall because it’s able to filter the content of specific applications. Standard firewalls are a safety gate between servers.

4. Limit Third Party Apps

Apps and plugins come in handy for certain applications, but do limit your use of them. Interactive widgets and sidebars pull from the database and open you up to potential problems. Use only the apps and plugins that are necessary to run your database, and be sure that they are updated as necessary.

5. Avoid Using a Shared Server

Lastly, it’s best not to use a shared server. Yes, it’s the cheaper and easier option, but it opens you up to security issues. When you share a server, you’re counting on your hosting provider to keep your data secure. If you have no other choice but to share, choose a reliable hosting provider and ask about their policies and what happens if your data is compromised.

To fully protect your database, you need a firm strategy in place that may include additional staff and resources. It’s worth it to protect your data, manage your reputation and comply with the security laws in your state. Find out how secure your database is by calling Arkware today.