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Databases

Relational databases are...

Relational databases are the most popular architecture for business applications and sophisticated web applications. One major advantage is that they allow multiple users to access data at the same time, which is essential on the web, where any number of people could be visiting your site at once. Most relational databases are accessed with the SQL query language, which can do arbitrarily complex searches; since all SQL databases they speak the same language, it's possible to move an application from one to another. Filemaker and Microsoft Access are two simple relational databases used by small businesses, while databases like Oracle, IBM DB/2 and Microsoft SQL server scale to the needs of the largest corporations.

Our philosophy

The best architecture for database applications is the 3-tier application: web browser for user interface, a (mostly) stateless web application for business logic, and a relational database for information storage. The advantage of using a web browser for a user interface is ease of maintenance: we no longer need to make each user of the application install a special piece of software. Relational databases are a proven technology that can handle large applications with minimum of headaches. A web application, written in a language like Java, Perl or PHP, provides a bridge between the two. Over time, the simple architecture where the web application stores little or no information other than what's in the database and browser cookies has emerged as the most practical for most applications. (A few exceptions are financial service applications that need to connect with older mainframe applications and chat applications that maintain a continuous connection with many users simultaneously) Application servers that store state between web requests are appealing to programmers who'd rather keep doing things the way they're used to rather than learn about the web, but add complexity and failure modes to sites that don't need them. (See Phillip Greenspun's online book for more about these ideas.)

Our favorite database is MySQL. MySQL is simple, reliable, and blindingly fast. Other databases have more features, but MySQL makes it up for it with speed and ease of maintenance. Being free and open source, MySQL is appropriate for the smallest budget, however, MySQL is being used by demanding customers such as the US Census Bureau and Yahoo! Finance and was the second most commonly used database (after Oracle) on a poll at the Dot-com builder.

What we can do

We can design databases for the web and other applications, and move applications based on desktop databases like Microsoft Access and Filemaker to the web. We've worked with a variety of databases, such as Oracle, Microsoft Access, IBM DB/2, and PostgreSQL, however, we're especially skilled at developing large-scale systems based on MySQL that use replication for high reliability and performance.