Review: 4 online databases let you structure and share your data
Organize your information without having to deal with front-end coding
Computerworld - There are many popular, low-cost ways to toss text onto the Web, from blogs and Google Docs to social networking sites. Likewise, you can find a lot of sites where you can post photos and videos. But until recently, less attention has been paid to online databases -- and that's a pity, because lots of people besides database geeks would benefit from a bit more structure to their data.
Now, though, there are several options on the Web for people who want to put their information into a database structure without having to deal with database installation, hosting and front-end coding with a language like PHP, Perl or Ruby.
Admittedly, a Web database service will never be able to offer all the flexibility of custom-coding your own application. However, these services can be very useful for creating small personal and business apps like contact lists, project tracking or charitable donations tagged by type. And the ability to share and collaborate on structured data via a Web interface adds another useful facet to these databases.
In other words, if you've got structured data -- or information that would be more useful if structured -- it's worth giving an online database service a whirl.
In order to get an idea of what kind of database services are currently available and how effective they are, I decided to put a group of Web-based database services through their paces. In choosing which services to test, I focused on four offerings that are free or low-cost, reasonably robust, and offer administrative control over who can view and edit your data: Caspio Bridge, CogHead, Dabble DB and Zoho Creator.
I left out longtime player Intuit QuickBase due to its minimum $249/month price tag, and Lazybase due to its lack of even basic access control (there's no log-in; only a "secret URL" to edit your data).
How we tested
A good online database must do more than simply host your data on its site. It should also have an easy interface for designing a data structure; make it simple to upload, download and edit existing data; offer robust ways of viewing and interacting with the information; and provide granular administrative control over who can view and alter information.
To test each online database offering, then, I created a simple table; designed more complex, inter-related tables; uploaded existing data; and embedded results in an existing Web site.
For the multi-table effort, I included many-to-many relationships, where, say, a category includes many products, while a product belongs to many categories. For example, the iPhone can be listed under both "mobile devices" and "personal technology," and there are many more entries in "mobile devices" than just the iPhone (despite what some iPhonatics may think). Such many-to-many relationships are precisely where structuring data can prove most useful, but they're also often the most difficult to implement.
I also imported existing data from Computerworld's Reviews database. I started with a table of all our product categories -- browsers, desktop apps, desktop systems, laptops and so on. Next, I imported a table of products reviewed: Asus EeePC, BlackBerry Curve, iPhone, etc. The product table already included categories for each product.
A key issue: how to make the database "know" that the products in one table map to the product names in another table -- especially when the field contains more than one entry. This was a challenging feature for several of these services.
It turned out that the database services have different strengths, and thus are best suited to different needs. Read on to find out just how easy these affordable database services actually are, what (if anything) you sacrifice in return for a flashy user interface, and whether one of these services will fit your data needs.
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- What Datapipe customers need to know about the new PCI DSS 3.0 compliance standard This handy quick reference outlines what PCI DSS 3.0 is, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the new...
- The 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements addressed by Peer 1 Hosting This handy quick reference outlines the 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the...
- Defense Throughout the Vulnerability Life Cycle This whitepaper provides insight into how to leverage threat and log management technologies to protect your IT assets throughout their vulnerability life cycle.
- The Critical Role of Support in Your Enterprise Mobility Management Strategy Most business leaders underestimate the importance of tech support when they choose an EMM solution. Here's what to put on your checklist.
- Live Webcast Best Practices for the Hyperconverged Enterprise Network To the Age of Constant Connectivity and Information overload
- Live Webcast Unmasking the Differences between Consumer and Enterprise File Sync & Share The consumerization of IT combined with the rapid pace of the modern mobile workplace is forcing enterprise IT teams to evaluate file sync...
- Live Webcast Government Agency Webifies Outdated COBOL Applications Let this CTO tell you how his agency converted 1980s-era green screens into an e-filing portal for the 100,000 cases handled each year...
- The New Way to Work Knowledge Vault This Knowledge Vault focuses on how, in today's increasingly virtual world, it's more important than ever to engage deeply with employees, suppliers, partners,...
- Getting Ready for BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.2 Find out how BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 helps organizations address the full spectrum of EMM challenges, while balancing the needs of both the... All Applications White Papers | Webcasts