Database design is a complex industry involving many technologies, software and specialists. The term “design” is a little bit misleading as it merely implies the creation process of a database. But in fact database design companies should do much more than mere “construction” of tables, indices and stored procedures. Creating an entity-relationship model, building the body of the database and filling it with data is just the beginning of the long road called “database design”.
In this article we decided to provide our view to what database design companies should do. Being such a company ourselves, we know for sure every nuance of the process, so we do know what we are talking about. Our aim is to let you know these details too, so you could make an informed decision when you select a database design company next time.
1. Development and integration
“And” not “or”. This is obvious. But sometimes, database design companies separate these two parts of the process. Designing a database should take into account the purpose of this DB, the industry it is created for, the type of information it should store and the platform and environment it should work on. You can’t design a database in vacuum. It’s always about integration too. So, the company should and must start from learning all the nuances of your specific area to design the database AND to integrate it to your business.
2. Further support
Once the database is designed and deployed, it may seem the work is done. Not so fast. As a client, you deserve to be sure the system won’t stop working tomorrow (next month, next year). Things change: new server updates are released, new standards are announced, new vulnerabilities are found. A trustworthy database design company always offers post-design technical support and maintenance of the database.
3. Range of technologies
This is a bit technical, so you can be lost here if you aren’t a tech savvy. The idea is, there are many database technologies around. Multiple database platforms, servers, formats. Many ways to manage data and structure of the DB. A variety of integration paths. You may not even know about them, but the developer, a database design company, must! It should analyze your niche, your goals and your specifics to find the technology that’s the best for your purpose. So, the general rule is: the longer the list of technologies a database design company can operate with, the better. Because this means the company will be able to better tailor the solution to your exact needs and wants.
Question: will your business grow in the next few years? Yes? No? Not sure? Regardless of your answer, you still need your database solution to be scalable. It is simple. If you know for sure you the business will grow – you obviously want to scale your DB too. And even if you don’t know, you still may require scalability for other reasons: new activities of your company, changes in the way the data are handled, moving to a new platform and many more. Designing a database and making it scalable as much as possible is a principle task of any database design company. Always ask if the provided solution is scalable and to what extent – this can turn crucial one day.
5. 24/7 administration
If a database design company offers database administration services as well, that’s good. This means these guys know how to build the system properly. Why? Because if they understand they will maintain this solution later, they will try to do everything to make the system as reliable as possible. Sounds reasonable, right? And 24/7 administration services is a strong sign the database design company knows its business very well.
6. Qualification and experience
Would you hire a student to maintain the Pentagon database server? Probably not. His skills are simply not enough for that. That’s why you should pay close attention to experience and qualification of the database design team you are to hire. Read testimonials, examine the list of clients of the company, ask questions, read their website from top to bottom. Fixing a badly designed database is much more costly than building a well-designed one from scratch. Choose a database design company that has experienced professionals and can prove it.
7. Custom engineering
We are all unique. Our needs are different. Our business needs vary. A database design company shouldn’t paint all solutions with the same brush. Yes, with some best practices and groundworks, the company can solve many typical problems in a snap. But “typical” doesn’t mean “the same”. You should always have an opportunity to tailor the offered solution to your custom needs, to fit it to some minor specifics your industry has or to automate it the way you want.
8. Performance tuning
Sometimes you already have a working solution, but are not satisfied with performance it gives. Luckily, many database service companies offer database performance monitoring and optimization to learn the bottle-necks of the existing system and fix them. Also, such a service is usually cheaper than designing a brand new database to meet the performance requirements. So if the company offers performance tuning, why not benefit from it?
9. Database and report migration
Another supplemental service that can prove to be extremely useful is report and data migration. Some classic migration directions are SSRS to Crystal Reports and SSRS version X to SSRS version Y migration. If you are building a brand new solution, you still need to keep your old data. That’s where a database design company offering migration services can help. While the migration process may seem trivial – there are automated tools around the Web to do this – the devil is in details here. Automated conversions rarely work as they should, and need a lot of scrupulous fixing.
Not sure which database solution you need? Can’t select a platform for your new system? Need assistance in database administration? A reputable database design company offers consulting services too. It may seem the company is losing money this way – instead of charging for the service, it charges for information, which is cheaper. But as we learned by our own experience, consulting eventually pays back. Satisfied customers tend to return with more complex tasks and recommend the database service company to other people. So, if you see a database design company that doesn’t provide consulting, ask yourself may be they simply don’t know what to tell you?
As you see, choosing a contractor for your database design needs is easier than it may seem. Pay attention to the details stated above, and your choice of the database design company will inevitably pay off.