A Business User's Guide to Databases - What Is a Database and Why Should I Care?

By Beekeeper Staff on February 09, 2016

Database spelled in scrabble letters Image by Christophe BENOIT

Databases are collections of information that are organized in such a way that users can quickly access both specific data elements and groups of related data. Databases are used to store information for later recall in reports and forms. A number of database types exist, but the most commonly used in general business is the relational database. Relational databases are tabular in nature; data is defined by fields that can be related to other fields, allowing users to regroup data without restructuring the tables themselves.

For example, a florist might use a database to record information about customers, including names, phone numbers, delivery addresses, and past orders. The relational capability of a database allows the florist to make a report listing all customers who made an order last Tuesday, paid with cash, and wanted one of the promotional floral arrangements for Valentine’s Day. In a relational database, these fields - date (Tuesday), payment type (cash), product (Valentine’s Day promotional bouquets 1 & 2) - exist as part of separate entities pulled together by a query and output as only the results we asked for. The content in the fields themselves isn’t rearranged, the way it would be in a spreadsheet.

Why Are Databases Better than Other Methods?

Databases are the most flexible way companies can store and work with data. Yes, spreadsheets are easy to use and provide analytical capability, and many people default to spreadsheet-only information management. However, this doesn’t always work well. It’s much harder to search for information in spreadsheets or create form entries when using spreadsheets. In fact, InfoWorld predicts that spreadsheets will evolve into databases over time.

Database users can customize user-friendly forms, much like the form you might use to enter a pizza order online or the form at the top of this page for signing up for our email list. Database programs let you create rules for form entry to reduce mistakes. An online pizza order form, for example, is programmed so that phone number fields require 10 numeric digits and email fields require a something@something.com construction. You can’t move forward without a correct entry – businesses can use the same functionality to minimize data entry mistakes and streamline data construction for easier analysis and reporting.

What Tools Integrate with Databases?

Numerous business software and hardware tools integrate with databases. Barcode scanners feed information into proprietary databases or commonly used programs, letting inventory and stock employees automatically enter information as they work. Web applications, such as the pizza order form, integrate with databases at retail and other locations for management of orders and inventory. Accounting software such as QuickBooks relies on databases, and SQL and other reporting methods query databases to return information to business users.

Databases are at the heart of many digital business applications, making it essential for staff at any level to understand some basics about database tools. Beekeeper Data is one such application, designed to automate and easily dispense your data internally and to clients with email reporting. Curated data sent conveniently to email inboxes helps organizations make better decisions and increases customer retention. Learn more about Beekeeper by installing for free or scheduling a demo.

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