A Guide to Database Management Software

Database management software has so many uses. Its basic function is as a program that stores information and then allows you or other users to search, retrieve, sort, revise, analyze and order data, making database software perfect for everything from keeping your library organized to running a business Web site smoothly.

Because they have so many uses, there are dozens of database software programs available. The options have gone beyond Oracle or Microsoft Access to encompass FileMaker, Avanquest and Delicious Monster Software for options tailored to a variety of needs.

FileMaker Pro
In the home and business market, there is no database software more popular than FileMaker Pro. Why? Because it's so easy to use, and it is simple to share its databases with others.

Another benefit that makes FileMaker so popular is that it has added a variety of options that are popular with Internet users. It has a built-in peer-to-peer network and allows you to share a single database with up to five people.

If you need your database software to support more than five people, you can go up to 250 simultaneous users and 125 databases with FileMaker Server. This is tremendous flexibility that allows you to administrate your database locally or remotely, though configuring the security settings the first time is a bit of a hassle.

This is database software for business, with a price tag of $999 and up. Businesses that use this database software will find real value in the backup features, server performance statistics and rich security features that make it ideal for use on a business Web site.

Avanquest MyDataBase
Not everyone needs something as feature rich or all-encompassing as FileMaker. There are needs for database software that go beyond Web site operations and center around the home and small business. This is where Avanquest comes in and works so beautifully.

Avanquest MyDataBase is an extremely powerful little program that keeps things easy. Using predesigned templates or a wizard that helps you create your own template, you can quickly enter, organize and summarize important information. Customized reports, address lists, envelopes, Rolodex cards and anything else you might want to print with information automatically filled by a database can be printed from MyDataBase, and you can even send personalized e-mails to a variety of recipients pulled from a database right inside the software.

Price is the most attractive feature of this database software for home and small-business users. You can snag a copy of MyDataBase for $5 to $10 and experience most of the features of higher-priced competitive programs.

Delicious Monster Software
This database software is specifically designed for collectors of books, videos, music and games. Basically, if it has a title and you collect it, you can record an in-depth library of what you collect, complete with images.

When you first launch Delicious Monster's database software, you can view the sample library and enjoy a delicious little "wow." Opening the sample library gives you a real idea of how amazing the software can be, with its full-color cover of each item displayed on a wood-grain shelf that looks just like the promo area of your local book or media store. Books are displayed as 3-D books, proportionate to their actual size, and CD cases shine with the glare from an overhead light.

So it's pretty. But it's also extremely easy to use, allowing you to add new items by entering a title, author/artist, ISBN or product identifier. You can also use a digital image or scan in a product's barcode. Then you can sort your library into genre, keep track of what you've loaned to whom and even buy or sell the items from your library on Amazon. This is database software at its colorful, attractive best.

Tips for Choosing Database Software
Businesses use database software for products, prices, mailing lists, personnel information, customer information and even things like payroll and training data. At home, you might be more interested in using database software for personal inventories of your recipes, movies or music.

No matter what you need database software for, there are a few things you can do to make the choice easier.

Check reviews-Computer magazines in print and online offer reviews of many database software applications. The more information you go in with, the better you'll be at sorting your options.

Look for specific functions-If you need database software that can be deployed through your Web site to track customers and purchases, look for an application like MySQL or FileMaker that is focused on doing specifically that. Databases perform specific tasks, and the more targeted the software is to the task you need, the easier it will be for you to use.

Compare the competition-When you have a brief list of database software programs that fulfill your specific needs, compare screenshots and reviews for those applications. Look for the quality and quantity of templates available, if you plan on using them. Leave price for last, because that's ultimately less important than having database software you can use easily and specifically for what you need to do.

Finally, before you purchase any database software, make sure that your computer or Web server meets the system requirements for the application. Most retailers and software developers won't let you return software that won't run on your computer simply because it doesn't meet the system requirements.

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