Imagine a manual filing system, let’s say one for your order book. For every order, you have a form filled out, and the form is on an A4-size sheet of paper. You file each year’s forms in a separate cardboard file.
Each form contains the name of the customer, his address and phone number, the date of the order, the item description, the quantity ordered, the promised delivery date, the delivery vendor, the delivery cost, the date of dispatch, the date of receipt by the customer and the invoice serial number.
Let’s suppose you had to look up the number of blue widgets you delivered to customers in Paris and London during May 2013 for which delivery was late by more than a week. Would you thrill to the task? No. Would you want to call in sick? Yes. Would you want to jump out the window? Hopefully not. Assuming you had more than a thousand records to look through, the task could take you an excruciating number of hours.
Now let’s say you had all those purchase records in electronic form and stored in your computer. It would take you half a delightful minute to ask the computer for the above information and about two seconds for the computer to give you the answer.
Now tell me: would you rather use a manual filing system or a computer-based filing system (which is known as a database)?
For a small or medium sized business, the top programs available for creating and managing databases are:
- Microsoft Access
Creating a database is a specialized job, much left to a software professional with the appropriate skill set. Such a professional is termed a database developer. There are of course several of them, and you can locate many fine ones at project marketplaces like Odesk or Elance. The search has to be performed with due diligence and knowledge of the mechanics of the project marketplace you are using.
Once in a project marketplace, we suggest you first post a small test project so that you can make a results-based evaluation of your chosen developer. If you are happy with the experience, post your actual project, get competitive bids for it and select the developer whom you earlier tested.
We have personally used the developer The Magnum Group and are very happy with them. Their website is at http://themagnumgroup.net/database-developer.htm .
You should, of course, go with whomever you feel confident with. Just don’t take anything for granted, and be very, VERY specific when describing the deliverables you expect.