What You Don’t Know About Database Sharing Could Hurt You

What You Don’t Know About Database Sharing Could Hurt You

If you’re not part of the corporate IT staff, should you care about the nitty-gritty of how your organization shares complex relational databases?

The answer is yes, if you are:

  • A Fortune 2000 organization that could better fill rush orders if it could bring new suppliers on board more quickly.
  • A small, specialty supplier that could sell to more, and bigger, customers if it could easily access their production forecasts.
  • A growing business in an emerging market that needs to avoid the complexity and expense of electronic data interchange just to share business data.
  • A CFO who could understand his business better if his financial analysts could more easily access and drill into raw financial data.
  • A Big Data service provider that could make more sales if it could more easily share its insights and data results with its customers, or
  • Any organization that could cut costs or increase sales by doing a better job analyzing data.

Why “Relational” Matters

If you’re storing any substantial amount of information about customers, distributors, suppliers, raw materials, products, sales, costs or profits, it’s probably in a relational database.  This “relational” capability is critical because it allows you to explore the relationships among different subsets of the data in unpredictable ways to meet new challenges.

Let’s say, for example, you’re a sales manager for a retail chain trying to understand why sales fell so far in January. You suspect it’s due to a flu outbreak, and knowing the answer could help you better track future flu outbreaks and adjust stock and promotions accordingly. You have your business analysts compare county-by-county sales of specific products with state data on county-by-county instances of the flu.

This is the type of ad-hoc query that’s so important to the business, and is the core function of a relational database.  Even just sharing production forecasts between a customer and supplier require a relational format so the customer can compare suppliers on metrics such as price, on-time delivery and quality.

Yet it is exactly these business-critical relational capabilities that most current database sharing approaches strip away – or preserve only at a cost that is too high for most customers.

Key Requirements

Retaining table structures is important because database queries require them. Comparing specific product sales per store against county-level flu levels might require one table listing sales per store, another listing flu cases per county, and yet another table for product sales. The more tables you strip out to share the data with analysts, the harder is to perform queries. .

Table references – also known as primary and foreign keys — describe the relationship between data in various tables. Product codes and store IDs are examples of table references without which it is impossible to conduct meaningful analysis, or even assure a supplier is shipping the right products to a customer.

Complex data types refer to any data other than text or numbers within a traditional relational database. In this case, you might want to find, share and access bar charts showing flu levels per county to aid the analysis. Customers and suppliers might need to share anything from engineering diagrams to marketing images searchable in a relational database.

The Dangers of Doing It Wrong

Many database sharing techniques are too expensive, too complicated, take too long or limit you to multiple instances of one vendor’s database platform. As a result, many customers strip the relational capabilities of databases before sharing them, reducing them to flat file databases before transmission and restoring them to their initial state at the receiving end.

At best, this takes far too much time and money. At worst, companies give up and lose customers or suppliers, or can’t do the analysis needed to boost sales or reduce costs. If you can’t afford that damage to your business, make sure you can share relational data without stripping out what makes it valuable.

Next Steps

One solution is our own DataPortal software that enables secure, instant and effortless sharing of relational databases from any supported database platform in their original, relational form across the Web. No programing, configuration, firewall modification, data conversion or even client software installation is required, which greatly streamlines the database sharing process. Available as software for purchase or a scalable SaaS solution, you can request a quick demo here.

*image courtesy of gl33p on Flickr.com

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