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Understanding the ACID Model for Database Management

The ACID model is one of the oldest database theory concepts. It includes four goals that every database management system must try to achieve: atomicity, consistency, isolation and durability. If the database does not meet these four goals, it is not considered reliable. Databases that do meet these four goals are considered to be reliable and ACID compliant.

Let’s learn more about each component in the ACID model and the strategies used to support it.

Defining the ACID Model

Here are more specifics on the characteristics of the ACID model.

  • Atomicity. Transactions are made up of multiple statements. Atomicity ensures that each transaction is treated as a single unit that either succeeds or fails. So, if any of the statements within a transaction fail, the whole transaction fails and the database is left unchanged.
  • Consistency. Consistency ensures that only valid data is included in the database. If a transaction violates the database’s consistency rules, it will be stopped and the database will be unchanged. This prevents illegal transactions from taking place.
  • Isolation. Isolation means that multiple transactions happening at the same time will not impact each other. Isolation supports concurrency control and prevents transactions from interfering with each other.
  • Durability. Once a transaction is complete, it will remain that way, even if there is a system failure. Durability is ensured through database backups, transaction logs and other security measures.

Putting the ACID Model into Practice

The ACID model can be executed using several different strategies. For atomicity and durability, database administrators may use write-ahead logging (WAL) that places all transaction data in a special log. If the database were to fail, the administrator could check the log and compare its content to what’s in the database.

Another strategy is shadow-paging, which is where a shadow page is created with content that can be modified. Updates are added to the shadow page instead of the actual database, and the database is only updated when the edit has been completed.

The two-phase commit protocol is another strategy, ideal for distributed database systems. When data is modified, it’s split into two requests: a commit-request phase and a commit phase. In the commit-request phase, all databases affected by the transaction must confirm that they have received the request and are able to perform it. When confirmation has been received, the commit phase completes the data.

The ACID model can be difficult to understand at first, but Arkware is here to do the heavy lifting for you! Give us a call and we’ll find the best database solution for your needs.

 

Database Tips for Beginners

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.

 

Why Primary Keys are Important and How to Choose One

Databases use keys to store, sort and compare relationships between records. There are three different types of keys: primary keys, candidate keys and foreign keys. When setting up a database table, the software will ask you to set up a primary key that will be responsible for identifying each record in the table. You might not think much about choosing a primary key, but this is actually a very big and important decision.

Why are Primary Keys a Big Deal?

Designing a new database comes with many choices, and selecting a primary key is one of them. In fact, it’s one of the most important. The purpose of a primary key is to implement a relationship between two tables. Without a primary key, relational databases wouldn’t exist.

Even though a primary key might sound a bit unusual, we use them in everyday life without realizing it. Student IDs are an example of a primary key. Students are uniquely identified by these numbers, but the numbers don’t mean anything outside the school.

Below are the advantages to using primary keys.

  • Serves as a common link field between tables
  • Speeds up queries, searches and sort requests
  • Only valid records will be in your table
  • No duplicates will be added
  • MS Access shows data in order of the primary key

How to Choose a Primary Key

Primary keys should be 100% unique. You can generally turn to your database for the answers you’re looking for. In many cases, people will use the database management system to generate a unique identifier. This way, you’ll have a reliable system for referencing individuals or things in your database, but they won’t have meaning outside the system.

Good primary keys are usually short and include all numbers. They avoid using special characters or a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters. Some things that do NOT make good primary keys are zip codes, email addresses and Social Security numbers. Primary keys should not contain null values and must contain a unique value for each row of data.

Good database design starts by having a good primary key. You can learn more about finding the best primary key for your database in this article, or call Arkware. Our pros will be happy to walk through the steps with you.

 

How Property Managers Can Improve Efficiency with a Database

If you are a property manager, you know how difficult it can be to keep track of your properties. From leasing to maintenance to income, there is a lot to maintain!

To help run their real estate businesses, property managers use databases. But, not all database programs are created equally. Some software is expensive and doesn’t let you customize the program. Other software comes with a learning curve, which means you’ll have to take time out to learn the database.

If your current system is not working for you, consider setting up a database through Microsoft Access. It’s cost-effective, streamlined and powerful. Plus, there are templates designed specifically for real estate professionals.

What are the Benefits of Using MS Access for Property Management?

Microsoft Access is a simple and straightforward database that doesn’t overcomplicate anything. We recommend it to property managers because of the templates available and the ability to track tenants, prices, maintenance and more. Let’s take a more detailed look at the benefits to using Access to manage your rental properties.

  • Efficient leasing terms. When you’re renting out multiple properties, it’s hard to keep track of everyone’s leases. What if someone walks into your office and asks about future rentals? A database allows you to rent out your properties efficiently, serving more customers and reducing vacancies.
  • Updated financials. Need a better handle on your financials? A database will help. Keep track of who has paid their rent and who still needs to. Issue extensions or late payments as needed and stay on top of your financials. The last thing you want is a deficit.
  • Streamlined maintenance. A tenant called with a leaky faucet. Another said their AC wasn’t turning on. To keep track of maintenance requests, use a database. This way, you can send the proper tools, equipment and staff to the right properties to make repairs quickly and accurately. This also keeps tenants satisfied!
  • Accessible contact info. Keep your tenants’ account information front and center. This makes it easy to contact them in a pinch and know who you are speaking to.

Using Microsoft Access to Manage Properties

Whether you lease out a few properties or hundreds, Microsoft Access can help. There are templates available for property managers, so find one that is customized to your needs. When you find a template you like, download it and start updating and organizing your information. Communication and collaboration will be improved, allowing you to run a more efficient property management business.

Your software should be working for you, not the other way around. If you are interested in learning more about MS Access and how it can work for your property management business, contact Arkware today.

 

10 Effective Ways to be More Productive at Work

Do you ever feel that people in your workplace are praised for working fast rather than smart? This is the wrong way to approach productivity. In fact, it can hurt productivity levels because of increased errors and a lower quality of work.

Being productive is more than working quickly. It also means putting your time to good use and making smart, strategic decisions. It may take your coworkers longer to appreciate this type of work, but stick with it and no one will be disappointed.

Here are ten effective ways to be more productive in the workplace.

1. Keep a list. Always write down the things you must accomplish for the day. You should have one or two big goals to focus on as well as smaller goals to help you meet them. As you complete a task, cross it off so that you feel proficient.

2. Close your emails. It’s tempting to keep your email open and read every message that comes your way. Unfortunately, this is disruptive and breaks your train of thought. Instead, reserve certain times during the day to read messages and write responses.

3. Find a good noise level. Some people work better in silence while others need background noise. Find your balance. You may have to work this out with your coworkers by wearing headphones. (Hopefully they will do the same for you!) Some say that listening to classical music is relaxing when working with databases.

4. Use automation. Many workplace tasks can be automated. Don’t be afraid to use this technology. For example, Microsoft Access allows you to automate and schedule tasks so that your databases run more smoothly.

5. Use productivity tools. There are a plenty of tools to help you stay focused during your work days. Some of our favorites include Evernote, HootSuite and Rescue Time. There are plenty more, so experiment with the various apps, widgets and tools that help manage time.

6. Be smart about meetings. If you are leading meetings, only invite the people that need to be there. Otherwise, the meeting might go off topic and disrupt those who could be spending their time completing other tasks.

7. Take regular breaks. Don’t skip your breaks or lunch. To perform well, your brain and body needs time to decompress. Plus, research shows that regular breaks increase motivation, enhance productivity and lead to fresh ideas.

8. Be flexible to interruptions. Interruptions are a nuisance, but they happen. Be realistic about them and when/where they can happen. If you find that you can’t stay focused, be proactive by wearing noise-cancelling headphones or using these opportunities to take a break.

9. Avoid multitasking. People pride themselves on multitasking, but research shows that it actually kills productivity levels. Instead, focus on one task at a time. If you are limited, allot a certain amount of time for each task and then move on.

10. Choose snacks and drinks wisely. The afternoon slump can be avoided by getting fresh air, drinking water or tea and eating a high-protein snack. Once you find what works for you, you can be productive all day long!

 

How Often Should You Back Up Your Databases?

Scheduling regular backups is one of the most important things you can do for your databases. If there is a system failure or trouble restoring an object, you can rely on the backup copy of your database. Some people don’t want to keep an extra copy of their database because it takes up room, but consider that this is an investment in your current database. If you have multiple users using your database, a backup is even more crucial.

Let’s talk about the importance of planning regular backups and how to perform the action.

Planning Regular Backups

We’ve all been there. You sign into your database, only to discover that some of the data has been corrupted and you have nothing to fall back on. Rather than waiting until this happens, think ahead by planning regular backups. If you have multiple users working in the database, everyone will need to exit the database before the backup can be completed. Otherwise, not everything will be saved appropriately.

When to backup your database depends on a couple of factors.

  • If your database is archived, you only need to run a backup if you change the data or design.
  • If your database is actively used, it’s best to create a regular schedule for backing up the data. This could be every week or every other week.
  • If your database has multiple users, backup your database with every design change.

How to Backup Your Database

Open the database that you want to create a backup for. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Click File, then Save As
  • Under File Types, click Save Database As
  • Under Advanced, click Back Up Database, then click Save As
  • In the Save As box, in the File Name box, create a name for your database
  • Select the file type and click Save

Your backup should always be a good copy of your database. You don’t necessarily need to use the Back Up Database command – you can retrieve any good copy that has been saved to a USB or external hard drive. The purpose of having a backup is to replace whatever was corrupted in your database with good data.

If you do choose to use the Back Up Database in Microsoft Access, open file Explorer and choose the backup copy of the database. Copy this to the location of the damaged database. In a few simple clicks, you have your original data to work with. Crisis averted!

If you have any other questions about working with a corrupted or damaged database, call Arkware. We can help you recover a corrupted database and protect your data in the future.