The foundation of a successful business software platforms is a good database

Your database system helps organise, unify and simplify key business data and processes. It is the foundation of all proprietary software assets. As a business owner or decision maker, you should know what makes a good database and how to make informed decisions when it comes to choosing a database management system.

The most commonly used type of database (and probably the most appropriate for most business needs) is what’s known as a “relational” database. This refers to the way data is organised within the database in a way that groups related data together into “tables” and makes it easy to explore the links (or relationships) between different groups of data. When you have your business data stored in a relational database, you have the power to define, manage and report on many different types of relations from one type of data to another. The standard for querying relational data is called SQL – the Structured Query Language, which is one of the greatest tech skills any programmer OR business person can invest in learning.

Any relational database worth using in a business context must be ACID compliant. In simple terms, this means when you put some data into it, you can have full confidence that your data is not going to get lost or corrupted – it will be there, intact, whenever you need it, even in the event of power failure, server break-down, etc.

Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that the software accessing the database can’t damage or loose the data because of software errors or malicious attacks. To safeguard against this, you need a robust and consistent data back-up strategy, secure access control and a safely stored audit trail. These are all things that a good database should support or make relatively easy to implement.

Unless you are already burdened by existing licensing restrictions and contracts, the one database management system we always recommend using is the open-source PostgreSQL database. With over 30 years of active development, PostgreSQL is an industry-standard database complying with all important standards. It has been proven to reliably handle tremendous amounts of data with outstanding performance in a huge spectrum of business and scientific contexts all around the globe.

Many of the most successful on-line businesses rely on PostgreSQL for storing and managing transactional and reporting data. Thanks to its user-friendly design and comprehensive, accessible documentation, PostgreSQL is easy to get started with and entirely suitable for 99% of all data management tasks we have ever encountered in a start-up or an SME. Moreover, it is a safe choice for supporting fast-growing businesses because it is easy to scale – especially with managed cloud solutions like Amazon’s AWS RDS or Aurora, both of which have native support for PostgreSQL.

AWS RDS is an Amazon cloud service that allows you to simply choose the capacity and computational power of your database servers and you can start using an industry-grade database right away – all secured and managed for you following best practices. Alternatively, while Amazon’s Aurora service is a bit more expensive than RDS, it also gives you peace of mind with regular automatic back-ups and automatic capacity scaling, so you never need to worry about capacity planning for your database as your business grows and the amount of data you store increases to possibly unpredictable levels.