Do You Always Need A Database For Your App?


Does every app need a database?

Of course not. An app development process can go without a database. For example, consider a simple game like Whirlybird. It only needs to store a few settings and parameters. Thus, database software isn't required for unique storage structures.

Plus, a database isn't required when storing a stateless service. Instead, simple files will do. Data stored with files doesn't change state.  That is, users don't have to edit or update records. For instance, an event log is just a document containing a timeline of events that don't need updating. It's only sourced and replayed to the user.

But database software becomes indispensable if your software manages lots of data or changes state every time.

What Is Database Software?

Let's say you're in an e-commerce store that sells wear. You check different items based on your preferences and add clothes, shoes, and wristwatches to the cart. Then, leave the app. On returning later to make your purchase, your previous search data and preferences remain intact. You also access information about your past buys, inventory, ISBN, app time, etc. 

In the same way, the Google Chrome app suggests store search histories and recommends them during subsequent searches. Likewise, SaaS apps store your login details to provide easier access for subsequent usage.

But shouldn't the information be lost after leaving the app? A database prevents that. Database structures run in the background to facilitate organized storage of each state of activity on the app. While the data could be in local storage or the cloud, databases ensure it's well-ordered. It also helps retrieve information when needed. 

Thus, a database can be defined as a way of persistent storage and retrieval of data for an app. Most mobile applications can store data on either local storage or the cloud. For example, it could be users' profile information, search data, cache data, preferences, past purchases, etc. 

Common Use Cases Of Database Software

Transportation Services: Airline and taxi services help store file bookings and scheduling information with databases.

Telecommunications: Call logs and archives, data balances, user information, bills, charges, etc., are stored in a database.

Human Resources: Information on workers, their activities, payroll, taxes, salaries, etc., uses a database.

Banks: Customer data, transactions, other account activities, credits, mortgages, lending, and additional information are organized with a database. 

Database Structures And Corresponding Database Software

1. Hierarchical Database Structure

A hierarchical solution arranges and stores data based on a parent-children relationship, facilitating one-to-many or one-to-one relationships.  That is, a parent entity can have multiple child records. But each child entity only has a parent record.

Today, hierarchical structures are mainly used to store geographic information and file systems and are sometimes used in banking and telecommunication apps.

Top Database Software Supporting Hierarchical Model
  • RDM Mobile
  • IBM Information Management System(IMS), amongst others. 

2. Network Database Structure

This structure facilitates each record having multiple parent entities and multiple child entities. By supporting many-to-many relationships, it is highly regarded as an improvement of the hierarchical model. It also offers ample flexibility, fast data accessibility, seamless navigation, and search. 

Popular Database Software using Network Model
  • Integrated Data Store (IDS)
  • Raima Database Manager, etc.

3. Object-Oriented Database Structure

An Object-Oriented Database (OOD) works based on an Object Oriented programming language. With this structure, entities are represented with objects and stored accordingly. It's usually used to run complex data and high-performance apps with lots of properties or require calculations.  With an Object Oriented database management system, data storage and retrieval become easier.

Databases Supporting Object-Oriented Model
  • Realm by MongoDB
  • ObjectDB
  • Versant, etc

4. Document-Oriented Database Structure

These operational databases store data in documents and allow real-time data editing, updating, and deleting of data. In addition, most document-oriented databases are versatile and flexible. Thus they can work with different applications.

Document-oriented databases are most suited for storing unstructured data. Although it works fine with structured data, relational databases are often preferred.

Examples Of Document-Oriented Database Model
  • AWS Dynamo
  • MongoDB
  • Microsoft SQL.

5. Relational Database Structure

A relationship model is the best option for usability, flexibility, and versatility. Plus, its information updating, editing, and retrieval are the easiest. Thus, it's the most used model compared to hierarchical and network databases. 

Examples Of Relational Database Model Software 
  • IBM DB2
  • Oracle
  • MySQL
  • Postgres
  • Airtable

What To Consider When Choosing A Database For Your App?

Data Accessibility

The structure of your software determines your database. For example, an offline app uses local storage. Online apps like e-commerce stores use cloud storage. Some apps also host server-side storage where data is stored on a self-hosted server. A good example is Netflix. 

For better performance, it's advisable to create a synchronized app. In the absence of an internet connection, your app stores data locally. When it becomes available, data saves automatically in the cloud. 

Meanwhile, it's crucial to analyze user needs before choosing a database. Cloud storage is ideal if users will use your app around the city. However, offline storage might be better if used in remote places, underground or underwater. If the internet connection is sporadic,  synchronized hold works well. 

Data Size

Another factor determining your choice of database is the size of data generated and retrieved could vary based on the database structure selected and its ability to distinguish data across many file systems. Thus, to enhance performance,  track the overall data volume produced by your app or retrieved for usage. 

Data Structure

Data could either be structured or unstructured. The type of structure, or lack thereof, goes a long way to determining the best-suited database for your app.  Your choices also affect your app speed and scalability options.

For instance, document-oriented database software is better for handling unstructured data, while relational or network databases are best suited to structured data. On the other hand, for complex data, object-oriented is capable. 

Choice of Database Model

The choice of database model goes beyond whether your data is structured. With new developments in cloud computing, managing diverse data from different sources with a single structure is increasingly difficult.

Thus, a multi-model database is becoming a growing trend. Using a single integrated backend supports multiple database models and provides a native system for each data type. Thus, reducing workflow complexity. It also offers a unified interface to maintain data security, consistency, and seamless access. 

Thus, a multi-model database must be considered in your choice of database. 

Data Security And Authentication

Another factor to consider when choosing a database is security. For instance,  data must be securely transferred from offline to online databases for a synchronized app. 

Authentication is also essential. Software should only allow access to authorized users via a username and password. In addition, it should have granular control of what data is accessible or modifiable by each user. 

Plus, proper authentication and security protocols should be implemented on data at rest, in motion, and with read or write access. 

Popular DataBase For Mobile Apps 

  • MySQL
  • Amazon Dynamo Database 
  • MongoDB 
  • PostgreSQL 
  • Cassandra 
  • MariaDB
  • SQLite 
  • InfluxDB 
  • ArangoDB 
  • Neo4j 
  • Memcached.  

Key Takeaways

When starting with your mobile app development idea, a database, indeed, isn't your first line of thought. You may feel that an intuitive user interface and problem-solving backends are more critical.  But databases are equally catalytic to creating a well-functioning app. It lets you store user data and provide it when needed. Thus, boosting the overall user experience.  

But the problem lies in choosing the perfect database for your app. There is over 300 database software in the market today, each with its distinct functionalities. Thus, outsourcing might be the go-to option if you want to make the best choices.  

Outsourcing At Emphasoft 

Mobile app development companies like Emphasoft provide the total package. With experience in numerous projects, their experts are better placed to offer valuable advice on databases and other things that will facilitate your mobile app development.

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