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Nuts & Bolts

Information overload? Database programs help fine-tune your important company data.

There's no doubt that computers are great at processing, storing and retrieving data. But, as the saying goes, computers are only as smart as their owners. And unless you have the proper database program and know how to use it, you and your company are likely to suffer from data deficiency, the malaise that comes when you're unable to easily track customers, suppliers and products.

Database programs were invented to make processing your data relatively simple, so you can accomplish the more important task of analyzing it. In case you doubt the importance of such information, think of this: Database programs can tell you when and where you ship your most popular product, show you how to target potential customers, allow you to keep clear and concise records about the products you're building, and more.

For this column, we've reviewed the top three Windows 95-based database programs: Lotus Approach 97, Microsoft Access 97 and Corel Paradox 8 (formerly from Borland). All three are relational databases, a step up from flat-file systems, allowing data to be viewed in many different ways. Because relational databases store data in the form of a table (much like a spreadsheet), they have few limitations about how data is related or how it is used. This lets users be creative when analyzing their information.

Additionally, all three programs have add-ons or enhancements for publishing data to the Web, an increasingly important feature as the popularity of the Internet and intranets continues to rise.

Cassandra Cavanah is a contributing editor of Portable Computing Direct Shopper magazine and has reported on the computer industry for nine years.

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This article was originally published in the March 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Nuts & Bolts.

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