We live in the age of data. From the biggest corporations trying to make business decisions, to an individual trying to navigate the intricate world of job search, information is often the most important element. So much so that organizations like YouTube and LinkedIn have already made millions of dollars selling data — a fact that resulted in some suggesting that companies should be paying us for the information we share online.
Regardless of the ethics of collecting data in this way, it is indisputable that it makes the world go round in this day and age, and your enterprise is no exception. However, raw data is pointless if it’s not organized properly, allowing it to be meticulously analyzed and learnt from.
Unfortunately, an Excel spreadsheet just won’t cut it in today’s data-centric business world: “Spreadsheets can spiral out of control when they are shared or used collaboratively,” explains software expert EASA. “When these spreadsheets are critical to your organization, these issues can become major liabilities.” If you’re already using a spreadsheet to collect your data, applications like EASA can help you transform it into a web app that acts as a relational database.
Either way, it is essential that you find a database system to house your most critical information. Here are a few reasons why you should prioritize getting one.
Data comes in many forms and is usually stored in different locations and ways. For example, if you’re an e-commerce business, you may have one spreadsheet with your employee information, another one for customer details, and a separate online app that sits on your public-facing website for orders. But what happens when you try to get the phone number of the salesperson in charge of the latest purchase from a buyer who’s just rang your customer service? It would obviously be a waste of time and effort to have to dig through three different collections of data to get such a simple detail.
That’s where databases come in — they allow you to collate all of your information together. What’s more, convenience is only one benefit of centralizing data. You’ll also reduce your costs and be able to view everything in one place to identify trends and issues.
Simply put, your data is pointless if it’s not accurate. Integrity is one of the most significant elements of utilizing data properly: it allows you to view a realistic picture, free from errors and distortions. If the goal of collecting data is to analyze it for the benefit of your business — be it predicting the future accurately or enabling more effective decision-making — then ensuring the information you have is reliable, full and consistent is of utmost importance.
A database ensures that you have just that: not only does it centralize data and identify repetitions or duplications, it also works within certain constraints that allow your data to be double checked. For instance, a phone cell will only be able to hold the right number of digits, while a name will have a consistent first name first, last name second restriction.
Even if you ensure everybody is aware where information is stored, it still won’t solve the issue of using it correctly. When different recording techniques are implemented, it is easy to lose track of how to input data in the intended format. It doesn’t end there: storing data in many places requires different applications to be installed, sometimes hindering the accessibility of stakeholders. Another issue can be the language — if a data analyst or specialist sets it up, it may be inaccessible for other users, whether it’s HR or sales.
A database solves all of these issues. Any authorized user can access all of the data from one location that is continuously updated, collaboration is enabled, and the language is intuitive and consistent across all data types.
Remember the point we made at the beginning of this article about how important (and expensive) data is? Well, this also puts it at a higher risk for security breaches. So, beyond the ease of use of a database, it’s also vital for maintaining the safety of the data you’ve worked so hard to collect.
Databases require login credentials, and allow you to identify who accessed it, when, and what changes they made. These programs also enable you to define certain access restrictions, guaranteeing that only authorized users can retrieve data. Together with your own security practices, databases are a great way to make sure your information is safe and sound.