Best Online Database Software for Small Businesses
The best online database software for small businesses. Compare online databases to find the right solution for your small business.
For small businesses, agility in handling business processes, streamlining workflows, and making quick, data-driven decisions is critical. And as customers grow more likely to use (and demand) online services in their daily lives, that agility depends on how well you can harness your business data.
Whether you’re tracking sales, marketing, or your supply chain monitoring customer behavior, or even analyzing market trends, effective data management is at the core of all successful strategies. And the key is finding the best online database software for small businesses.
As the backbone of your operations, having a robust, well-organized, and easily accessible database management system (DBMS) to manage your data is invaluable. But every small business is different, so it takes thought and consideration to find the online database software that’s the best fit for you.
What is Online Database Software?
An online database is a cloud-based database to store data that can be accessed via the Internet. For a small business, an online database is a method of keeping critical data accessible to employees — and even clients and vendors. It’s a virtual tool that enables you to work with your data in dynamic ways.
Typically hosted by a service provider, online database software enables your users to access and retrieve data from the database via a web browser – regardless of where they are physically located, or the device they’re using.
Why You Need Online Database Software for Your Small Business
If your business still relies on spreadsheets or other legacy tools for managing data, you’re putting yourself at a grave disadvantage. Spreadsheets are cumbersome and error-prone, and they make it difficult (or impossible) to gain the business insight you need. You’ve got to identify opportunities to grow your business – and proactively uncover and address issues before they impact your results. While spreadsheets are good at analyzing data in a tabular format in rows and columns, online databases have a more structured approach and allow for the creation of multiple tables with defined relationships (one to many, many to one, many to many). This structure enables databases to handle complex data models more effectively than spreadsheets.
To speed decision making, and provide the best customer experience that increases loyalty and word-of-mouth evangelism for your brand, you need a database solution that puts data-backed answers at your fingertips.
Those are some of the key reasons why choosing the best database management software can improve your business results. There are other important reasons, as well:
- Efficiency: Unlike spreadsheets, online databases automate much of the data management process, freeing up time for you and your team to focus on the high-value strategic tasks.
- Collaboration: When you make the move to online database software, your team can work more collaboratively. Multiple users can work on the same data simultaneously, and benefit from real-time updates and easy access, regardless of location or device.
- Scalability: As your business grows, so does your data. With spreadsheets, that means countless worksheets and tabs that are often emailed, saved on local devices, and data that is out of sync and hard to unify and validate.
- Security: Whether you’re storing customer relationship management information in a CRM, or data related to vendors, employees, or business financials, you need a high level of data security, and role-based user access control to curate individual user permissions and what each can view.
Are you still using Excel spreadsheets for some or all of your data management needs? They’re a familiar and go-to tool for many people. However, as your business evolves and your data grows, you’ll grapple more and more with trying to manage and audit multiple, complex spreadsheets.
Spreadsheets, while satisfactory for some simple tasks, quickly become unwieldy and inefficient with larger datasets. They lack real-time collaboration features, scalability, and data security features that are built into online database applications. With spreadsheets, you also miss out on the robust data manipulation capabilities offered by online database apps, such as querying, indexing, and relational data linking.
Moving from spreadsheets to an online database app makes data management more efficient, and also transforms your data into a dynamic tool for insights, strategy and decision making.
There are a number of database options available – from more traditional software applications to SaaS platforms – and choosing the best online database software for your small business depends on your unique requirements and workflows. To help you evaluate software solutions, and find the right database software for your small business apps and integration needs, here’s a look at some of the popular online database tools.
MongoDB shines when it comes to managing complex data structures and high-data traffic. A standout feature is its document-oriented, NoSQL (or Not Only SQL)approach which makes it particularly well suited for managing, processing, and analyzing unstructured data.
However, while MongoDB is powerful, it’s not the best choice for every use case or small business. Smaller businesses with straightforward business needs, may find it to be overkill and too complex. And if you’re used to SQL, switching to a NoSQL structure can require a very different data mindset and approach. MongoDB is best suited for businesses with large amounts of complex data and diverse datasets, and the technical expertise to take advantage of its advanced capabilities.
MySQL is an open-source database management system. Its primary strengths are its reliability, robust capabilities and speed. It does well dealing with structured data and relationships between data entities. Because it’s widely used and well documented, it’s possible to find answers to common problems and helpful resources to extend its functionality. It can be a good candidate for web apps and businesses with heavy data traffic.
However, MySQL requires a level of technical expertise. While user-friendly compared to some options, setting up, configuring, and managing a MySQL database demands a strong understanding of SQL and database principles. It’s best at handling structured data, and for companies that have the technical know-how to manage it effectively.
This is also an open-source relational database system. It excels in its standards compliance and scalability. Making it a good choice for complex applications requiring multiple concurrent transactions and extensive data operations. One of its strengths is its extensibility. It supports a wide variety of data types, including structured and semi-structured data types like JSON, which adds flexibility in storing and retrieving data. It also supports full-text search.
While a capable online database solution, PostgreSQL might not be the right choice for a lot of small businesses. It has a steep learning curve, especially for those unfamiliar with SQL. And it requires more sophisticated knowledge to install, manage and tune for optimal performance compared to some other systems that are easier to use.
Microsoft SQL is a comprehensive database platform with a range of enterprise-level features. It’s strong in terms of security, scalability, and integration with other Microsoft products, so a more natural fit for businesses that rely heavily on Microsoft’s suite of tools. It also integrates with Power BI for data visualization and Azure for cloud services.
However, compared to open-source alternatives, it can be more costly, particularly for the full-featured versions, and takes a significant investment in setup and maintenance, which is often a hurdle for smaller businesses without dedicated IT resources. And while it does offer support for JSON, it’s primarily a relational database and may not be as efficient as NoSQL databases for handling unstructured data.
Firebase, as a product of Google, is a NoSQL cloud database that focuses on real-time data handling and synchronizing across multiple devices. It’s well suited for mobile and web application development, particularly for businesses that handle live updates like messaging or real-time tracking. It integrates with other Google services and its ease of use and fast setup can help streamline development and operational processes.
Firebase may not be as efficient for larger scale data analytics or complex querying. And while it offers scalability, there are cost implications as your data and traffic grows, which small businesses should take into consideration when looking at pricing plans.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) RDS:
This is a managed service that provides a variety of database engines such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Amazon’s own Aurora. Its strength is its scalability, reliability and seamless integration with other AWS services. AWS handles many of the administrative tasks associated with running a database, like setup, patching and backup. This frees up time to focus on your applications and business needs. It can automatically scale to meet application demands, making it a fit for businesses with fluctuating or growing business needs.
While having a managed service makes it simpler to use, it comes at a price. AWS RDS is not as affordable as running your own database instance, particularly for smaller businesses and startups. Also, while it provides several customization options, you won’t have the same degree of control as when building and managing your own online database system.
Google Cloud Firestore:
Firestore is another NoSQL cloud database designed to store and sync data for serverless, cloud-native applications. It’s designed for applications where real-time data updates are a key requirement. It seamlessly integrates with Google Cloud Platform and its services, which can simplify development and operational processes. It can also handle offline data, which can be critical for applications that need to work even when the network is unstable or offline.
However, Firestore may not be the best fit for many use cases. It is primarily a document database, so not designed to handle complex relational data. And with a focus on real-time applications it’s not as suitable for applications with extensive analytical or complex query needs.
Microsoft Azure Cosmos DB:
Microsoft Azure Cosmos DB is a multi-model database service designed for scalable and high-performance modern application workloads. It can use multiple data models, such as key-value, document, column family, and graph, giving it flexibility for different application needs. One of its strengths is global distribution, where data is replicated in multiple regions worldwide, so it’s available and responsive wherever users are located. It also supports various APIs, including SQL, MongoDB, Tables, and others, allowing the flexibility to choose how to interact with your data.
But the versatility and high-performance comes at a price. It’s more costly than other online database services, particularly for small businesses that likely won’t need its advanced capabilities or global replication and would take on an unnecessarily steep learning curve.
Airtable is positioned as a “spreadsheet-database hybrid.” It features a familiar spreadsheet interface with database capabilities. It can organize a variety of use cases, from task tracking to project management and supports a range of field types including text, numbers, dates, checkboxes, drop-down lists, and attachments. Database expertise isn’t needed to create and manage an Airtable base and templates provide users with a starting point to customize.
However, while Airtable is an entry point into the world of databases, it’s not suited for all tasks. For complex, high-volume analytics, or when managing sensitive data, more robust and secure databases are a better solution. And, while Airtable offers scalability, it can become costly as you add more users and require more storage space.
SQLite is an embedded SQL database engine. Its greatest strength is its lightweight nature. There’s minimal setup and administration, and it’s extremely portable. It can be a good choice for developing small to medium-sized web applications, or for providing local data storage in desktop applications or mobile apps.
That said, SQLite may not be the best database software for higher-traffic applications, and because it uses a file-locking mechanism that only allows one user to make changes at time, it doesn’t support many use cases where multiple users need to make updates simultaneously. Multiple users can still access and read information from the database, so for read-heavy use cases – like an online product catalog that is mostly browsed by customers – this solution can be a fit. However, it’s important to assess your read-write ratio, along with other requirements, before moving forward.
Budibase is a no-code platform that enables businesses to build web apps and databases without needing in-depth programming knowledge or coding experience. It offers an integrated database with the ability to input, retrieve, search, and manage your data. Using its customizable templates you can design, build and deploy new business apps.
However, while well-suited for rapid application development, Budibase’s capabilities may not be as comprehensive as other database options. If attempting to build complex applications with detailed workflows, you might push Budibase to its limit. It’s best suited for small to medium-sized businesses that need to rapidly develop and deploy custom apps without investing in IT resources or software development.
And, as a relatively new player in the market, Budibase’s user community and available resources may be more limited than you’ll find with more established players in the online database market.
Knack stands out among the available options. As a no-code online database platform, it’s ideally suited to small businesses. Knack takes the complexity out of building a powerful, tailored database for your business. One of its core strengths is its robust, user-friendly, intuitive builder tools. With Knack, you don’t need any software coding experience or to know programming languages, and you won’t have to rely on IT resources to build the custom database apps needed to run your small business.
With Knack, you’re empowered to build your own custom online databases that perfectly fits your business needs. You can build forms, search and filter data, set up workflows and automations, and create custom reports and insightful dashboards – all with just a few clicks and drag-and-drop actions.
Scalability is another key strength of Knack. As your business grows, your database needs will also evolve. Knack is designed to scale with you, accommodating larger data volumes and more complex data structures as you need them. Unlike other platforms that charge per user, Knack operates on a utility-based pricing model, meaning you only pay for what you use. This can offer significant cost savings, especially for smaller businesses or those with fluctuating user counts.
But it’s not just about data storage — Knack also prioritizes data security with granular, role-based user access capabilities. You can precisely control who has access to what data, ensuring sensitive information is always protected. And Knack lets you create intuitive user interfaces and customized customer website portals. These portals can provide secure, curated views for individual users or roles, allowing you to deliver a personalized experience to your customers or team members.
Knack also offers robust analytics and reporting capabilities. You can define at-a-glance dashboards for key stakeholders that turn your raw data into actionable insights. With Knack, you’re not just storing data, you’re using it to drive decision-making and propel your business forward.
For small businesses looking to leverage the power of databases without the typical complexities, Knack is a compelling, user-friendly solution. It provides all the tools needed to build, manage, secure, and analyze your data, all within a cost-effective and scalable package.