You want jam or jelly on your toast? Yes, they’re different. So are alligators and crocodiles. And what’s more, a spreadsheet isn’t the same as a database.
Granted, there are very few industries where mixing up some condiments or a bunch of reptiles will cause any problems. But spreadsheets and databases are used by just about every business, and not knowing the difference between the two may spell trouble for yours. Because if you’re not aware of what they can do, you’re likely to use them wrongly or, at the very least, ineffectively. Not to mention that you’re missing out on the benefits of online databases, too. So we sure have a lot to talk about, but first things first.
Why databases rule
If your main focus is to store, calculate and manage data, a spreadsheet is the ideal tool. Think Excel. You can crunch numbers, create charts and graphs to analyze or present data. But at their core, spreadsheets are two-dimensional and static, they don’t respond well to changes and expansion. Their data is only loosely structured, human errors go undetected, real-time decisions aren’t supported and, unlike databases that can be accessed by multiple users at the same time, spreadsheets don’t lend themselves to collaboration. And then there’s the lack of security.
Sure, databases are also made up of tables full of rows and columns, but what makes them different, and a lot more versatile, is that you can establish all kinds of relationships between those tables. Related data can be linked together in various ways, making data maintenance pretty simple. Such databases are easy to expand, and if you change a piece of data, you can rest assured that it will change in real time everywhere it is referenced. And we shouldn’t forget an extra bonus: web-based databases exist that you can manage and access through the Internet.
Convinced? Great, so let’s set aside spreadsheets for now and focus on their more advanced relatives.
Online databases are born
Enterprise-scale database management systems became popular in the 1980s, the decade that saw rapid advances in computing technology. Desktop databases arose as business users realized what corporate databases could do, and wanted the same capabilities for themselves. To satisfy the growing need, Microsoft launched its desktop database application, Access, in November 1992, and the database industry truly took off a few years later, with the advent of the Internet.
Online databases allow users to collect and organize virtually infinite amounts of data from a great number of sources. Today, the IT structure of an organization is unthinkable without them.
Some of their key benefits:
- redundancy control
- secure access
- efficient data retrieval
Microsoft Access had become the market leader in the desktop database industry and when the online data storage market exploded, many saw its cloud version as the obvious choice for an upgrade. But the digital world was evolving so fast that even the tech giant couldn’t keep up, and it shut down web apps and web-based databases in 2018.
Imagine that the service you’ve been using for years has been phased out. What do you do? Exporting all your data back to the desktop app would be a backward step. Luckily for you, however, there are now web-based databases that are designed for business users. Since they require no setup, you don’t have to deal with all the technical implementation issues. Sounds appealing, right? But wait, it gets even better.
What if we told you that you can build a complete application around your online database? Yes, that is possible – with low code platforms. They provide the benefits of centralized data and allow you to build a user interface on top of it with custom screens, as well as workflow automation and reports. Well, we’ve got you covered.
From online database to app – no limits
Nobody knows your business better than you do. When it comes to choosing an online database solution, we trust that you can make the best decision, but if you’re a small or medium-sized enterprise, you’re likely to have some constraints – typically relating to budget and staff. The good news is that there are now web-based database solutions on the market that won’t break the bank and don’t take a tech whiz to figure out.
It’s not just that you need to have secure, real-time access to information around the clock. That should be a no-brainer. But if you want to innovate and improve your business, there is no way around using custom-built applications which must be connected to an online database to realize their full potential.
Once again, you know your needs, so why not have your own unique web-based database that fits those needs? Build your application around your data, not the other way round. Get more flexibility and control. You might be surprised how simple it can be. If you use a low-code platform, that is.
Ours is called VisionX, and it allows you to build custom applications even if you’re a business user with little to no experience in programming.
We’ve already talked about the limitations of spreadsheets, but there’s no denying the fact that many businesses still use them, especially Excel, and make believe that they are in fact databases. Either way, if the spreadsheet data you want to import into another application is messy to begin with, you can’t expect the outcome to be perfect. VisionX’s Smart Excel Import has no magic powers to fix everything, but it does make the process a whole lot easier for you by addressing the problems that typically come up. It automatically detects data types, recognizes checkboxes and converts fields with repeating data into master data tables which are then displayed as dropdown lists. And it gives you a warning if it finds any empty rows and columns or duplicates.
VisionX also makes integration much easier. You can connect your IT system with SQL databases, ERP systems, SaaS services and other systems that use REST services. With a single source of information, tracking processes and data is a lot more effective, inefficiencies are easy to spot and you can enjoy a great deal of flexibility overall.
Automating routine tasks or connecting to web applications and designing reports in Word and Excel – using the data from your application – are additional perks that VisionX offers. And using Smart Bricks, our pre-built functionalities, you’ll find that development is child’s play.
Just one last thing: VisionX serves all your departments across the board. You can create inventory trackers, quality assurance audit planning, training management for HR and loads more.
With the VisionX Cloud, there’s practically no limit to what you can do. Just press a button or two, define a few settings and your app is automatically implemented in the cloud; no IT resources needed. And while VisionX is doing its job, you can take a break and have some toast with jam. Or jelly.
Want to take your online database – and the app you build around it – live? Get a personal demo today.