When it comes to managing ever-increasing amounts of data, more and more companies are looking at bringing in the heavy hitters: enterprise database management systems, or DBMS. Even small companies that may have relied exclusively on Excel spreadsheets or Microsoft Access to manage their data a few years ago are requiring more power, more features and more flexibility. Fortunately, today there is a range of enterprise-class DBMS solutions that are affordable even for the smallest businesses.
A database management system is any software designed to manage, define, manipulate and retrieve the information stored in a database. Additionally, a DBMS can also manipulate the format in which the data is stored as well as field names, record structures and file structures. It can also define the rules that manipulate and validate the data.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
If you consider that a database itself can be defined as any stored collection of information (including a collection of files or a table of data or — as the worst example — a series of sticky notes on a wall), then it may be easier to understand a DBMS's role as the software that allows you to access the information in a database.
Enterprise Database Systems
An enterprise DBMS is designed to be accessed by 100 to 10,000 people at the same time. This can include large corporations with a few thousand employees or a busy web server with hundreds or thousands of people online accessing it at the same time.
The DBMS is usually run by a database administrator, or DBA, who is a specialist in the specific software product. An expert in Oracle, for example, wouldn't normally run a Microsoft SQL Server unless she had experience in both systems. The DBA instructs the system using commands to load, retrieve or modify data in the database as well as dictating who can access the data and what commands can be used.
Advantages of Enterprise Databases for Small Businesses
Several years ago, most small businesses would have had little need for an enterprise solution for storing and managing data. However, the world of data has quickly changed. In 2019, there is over 2 quintillion (a two followed by 18 zeroes) of data created every day. As more small companies access more and more information about their customers and data generated from social media content and web analytics, there is a greater need for enterprise-grade DBMS solutions.
About half of all U.S. businesses say that big data and data analytics have significantly changed how business is done in both sales and marketing. Among retail businesses, 62% say they get a competitive advantage from big data and analytics. In the construction industry, 98% of companies say that analytics and geographical data has decreased the time they spend generating price quotes on new projects.
Types of DBMS Solutions Today
A growing number of companies are moving away from in-house database systems to those that are hosted elsewhere and are available in the cloud through the internet. Not only does this make the information more accessible from more locations, but it has reduced costs.
There are essentially four kinds of databases from which to choose. Today, relational databases are the most common, with object-oriented databases as a distant second. Flat and hierarchical databases are becoming much less common.
- Relational Database: This is the most common form of database. The data is organized in a series of tables. Each table is independent but linked to the other tables. If you have ever used an Excel worksheet with links to other worksheets, you have used a form of a relational database. Commands like "select" and "join" can be used to link data between tables.
- Object-Oriented Database: This database works much like object-oriented programming. Data and methods are stored as objects that can be grouped together in classes.
- Flat Database: Data is stored in a single file with a limited number of fields that can be filled with information. A flat database is prone to errors, and because of its limited capacity, it can be outgrown by a company with an increasing amount of data to be stored.
- Hierarchical Database: Data is organized in a network of hierarchical relationships. This model can become problematic when there is a lot of data to be managed.
The Top Enterprise Database Systems
There are many DBMS solutions on the market today. The cost of buying the software is only one aspect to consider. The cost of managing the data, the load it places on your server and your ability to access the data and manipulate the information in the way you need should also be considered.
Learn About Oracle Database 18C
Oracle has been one of the top choices for enterprise relational database management systems since the company was founded by Larry Ellison in 1979. Since 2009, it has been owned by Sun Microsystems. The newest version is Oracle 18c, in which "18" stands for "2018," and "c" stands for "cloud".
It allows companies to consolidate their databases and manage them as cloud services. It features continued improvements over the evolving 12c version and is also known as Oracle Database 12c Release 2 188.8.131.52. This product should be updated annually, and Oracle Database 19c should be available later in 2019.
Learn About MySQL
Once used almost exclusively as a free database for web developers, MySQL was purchased by Sun Microsystems in 2008. It's still free but is now a major enterprise database solution with premium add-ons from which to choose. MySQL is used not only for websites but as a back-end database solution for enterprise applications.
However, user and developer support has been in decline since Oracle took over the project and began integrating it into Oracle. In 2019, MySQL 8 is the most recent version, which includes features such as NoSQL document store, improved sorting, support for partial updates, crash-safe DDL sentences and JSON extended syntax.
Learn About Microsoft SQL Server
Microsoft SQL Server is still the most popular database solution for companies using Microsoft Server to run the enterprise. However, it is available for Linux servers as well. SQL Server 2017 is Microsoft's most current release, featuring business intelligence services. It can be used on-site or in the cloud on Microsoft's own internet-accessible servers.
The next edition, SQL Server 2019, is currently in beta testing and is expected to improve performance with increasingly high volumes of data as well as offering increased security.
Learn About PostgreSQL
An open-source, object-relational database management system, PostgreSQL runs on Windows, Linux, FreeBSD and Unix Solaris operating systems. It's also the default database on Mac servers running OS X 10.7 Lion or later.
It's been a free, open-source database for over 25 years and now includes features similar to Oracle and IBM DB2, supporting high concurrent traffic loads and full ACID compliance for transactions. The current version, PostgreSQL 11.1, was released in November 2018.
Learn About IBM DB2
IBM has positioned its current database system, DB2, as a direct competitor to Oracle. The current version of DB2 runs on Windows, UNIX, Linux and IBM's own iSeries and mainframes. For enterprises using IBM Power 8 server systems, this database would be an obvious contender. For those who are considering a migration from Oracle, choosing IBM could save the company a third or more in costs over a three-year period.
Other Enterprise DBMS Solutions to Consider
There are many other database products from which to choose, any one of which could be a good fit for a company's specific needs. After MySQL was purchased in 2008, several open-source, user-fueled alternatives began to appear, including MariaDB. Performance improvements in the last couple of years have caused some experts to now put MariaDB ahead of MySQL. Other solutions include:
- SAP Sybase ASE
- Ingres Actian X Hybrid Database
Last but not least is Amazon's entry in the database solution market with its SimpleDB. This should be of particular interest to organizations already using Amazon web services. It offers an inexpensive but flexible database accessible through Amazon's cloud.
A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.