Six Ways to Create Online Social Databases

11 Sep
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There are countless online spreadsheets and word processors these days, but not too many online databases. Sometimes the best way to work with data is naturally within a database. Managing data in a spreadsheet can only get you so far. Sure, it’s great for number crunching and financial analysis, but if you want to enter data once and use it over and over again in queries and reports and share them with others, then the best solution is an online database. Here are six of the most popular online database services available today.

Zoho DB & Reports
Zoho DB & Reports offers a free and easy way to create your own database online. You can create a database from scratch or by importing data from an existing spreadsheet. The databases run rather quickly, which was a pleasant surprise. There doesn’t appear to be any limits in place for the number of databases you can create.

You can share any database with anyone you want by simply adding their email address and sending them a link. They don’t even have to join Zoho to view the database which is a nice change of pace from other services. Another excellent feature is the ability to embed any database or view on your website. Here’s an example of a database called The Zone where I have every Twilight Zone episode along with other information. You can share databases with individuals, make them public or keep them private.

Zoho Creator
Zoho Creator is not really a database service but a Web application builder. What’s strange is that it’s eerily similar to their own Zoho DB in that you can create databases as well. Zoho Creator does offer a great deal more options than Zoho DB. It offers an excellent interface builder for creating customized forms and the ability to build database applications for the mobile platform.

They have their own API for those interested in building more complex databases. Their scripting language is called Deluge. Zoho has stated that there are plans to one day unite Zoho DB and Creator into one product which makes perfect sense.

DabbleDB is similar to Zoho DB except that it doesn’t offer a free account. There’s only a 30-day trial, otherwise you’ll need a premium account. After kicking the tires with the trial version you’ll notice that it isn’t as easy to use as Zoho’s other database solutions. The interface doesn’t present the data as well as Zoho DB’s useful Tabbed interface. The performance was brisk with the test database, which included a few hundred records. There doesn’t seem to be enough options or features to justify the expense when compared to the free offerings available today.

Blist provides the best looking interface for any database service. Its Ajaxy look and feel makes the databases you create look rather slick. Unfortunately, the sharing feature still needs some work because it isn’t as easy to share databases as it should be. However, allowing people to view your databases without requiring them to sign up for the service is a great feature. They do need to join Blist if they want to make any changes or contribute anything to the database, which makes sense. Another nice touch is the ability to copy any public database, which is a great time-saver because you can use them as templates.

Strata from Kirix is a unique kind of database service. They describe themselves as a fusion of a Web browser and a built-in relational database. That’s not a bad way of putting it. It’s important to note that Strata is not free. There’s a 30-day trial that you can download for Windows or Linux to see what it can do.

QuickBase is from Intuit, the people behind Quicken and QuickBooks. They were one of the first online database services. Needless to say, their service is robust with features and the performance very strong. Just like DabbleDB there’s no free account, just a trial version. The least expensive account that you can get is $15 per month for 5 users.

When you want to slice and dice data online and share the results, using one of these online databases could be exactly what you need. Which one is the best database service? At this point in time, if one had to make a pick the edge would go to Zoho DB & Reports because of its SSL and mobile support. However, you can’t go wrong with Blist if you aren’t interested in mobile access to your databases or SSL security. If Zoho ever does merge Creator with Zoho DB & Reports, it will only make their solution that much stronger.

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