Software vendors provide database tools that run on your PC while Internet service providers offer Web-based control panels that configure databases using your computer’s browser. If you have experience creating databases, setting up an online database is a very similar process: You obtain a database server account and use software tools to set up a new database and create data structures in it. The database server may be one hosted remotely at an ISP, or it may be your own Internet-connected server computer.
Before you can create an online database, you’ll need to set up a database server account at an Internet service provider. The provider owns and operates the server equipment and provides the software at their facility; you pay for the service and have access to the database. Database software offerings include Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, MongoDB and others; these platforms feature fast response times for busy websites. For websites that have relatively low amounts of activity, you can opt to create a Microsoft Access or FileMaker Pro database and upload it to the service provider.
In addition to the online account, you’ll need software tools on your PC to manage the database from your desktop. The database vendor provides management software that lets you create tables, indexes and other database structures; generally, the software is proprietary and works only with the vendor’s database. For example, Microsoft’s Management Studio desktop software lets you administer SQL Server databases.
Online databases have an administrator’s user ID and password that grants complete access to the database. For best security, create additional user ID and passwords that access only those data items that are absolutely necessary for a specific purpose; otherwise, a hacker may gain control of your database and steal confidential information.
Once created, a database is an empty structure that may need useful data to function correctly. For example, an online toy store needs inventory records describing each toy for sale, including a model number, description and price. If you already have this information in another format -- a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, for example -- you can use the client tool software to copy the Excel data into the database. If you do not have this data in a computerized form, you will need to key it in by hand.
Web programs use information in the online database to make the website work; the programs read the data and send the user Web pages based on the database content. Each program incorporates a piece of data called a connection string; the string specifies the database name, the server’s Internet Protocol address, a login ID and password, and other information. The program’s housekeeping section uses the string to open the database; other parts of the program search for data, change existing records or add new ones. To help keep your database secure, use restricted-access user IDs and passwords in your programs, not the administrator’s ID.