In this article I would like to explain why you should consider moving away from typical flat files on your local machine, to database solutions, and more specifically an enterprise database solution.
Flat files and databases
One of the best things to do with reliability analysis is to move away from numerous flat files (I’m looking at you Excel, cluttering up my desktop and network folders) and to having everything kept in a single database. By having everything in a database we can better manage and control the constant updates and changes to the analysis as the system and our knowledge develops.
Managing the information becomes more challenging when there are more people involved – but when everything is stored in a single database, we’ve got nothing to worry about, right? Wrong!
There are many different types of databases, each with their own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. When using ReliaSoft, there are a couple of databases to choose from:
- Standard (MS Access)
- Enterprise (SQL or Oracle)
Standard databases tend to be the starting point for most people; being based on MS Access, they are capable and (most importantly) don’t require any special hardware to set up – simply save the file as you would a Word document. This is especially useful for individuals that are new to the platform, as it is easy to create, edit and delete these files without any special permissions. However, being based on MS Access there are a number of limitations to be aware of: perhaps the most important that we often come across is the temptation to store these standard repositories on a network drive so that other users can access them.
Why consider an Enterprise database?
In principle, standard databases are capable of being accessed over a network drive, but in practice the reality of network instabilities (latency, interruptions) coupled with a lack of error handling in MS Access means that data loss can be a very real threat. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, corrupting a complete database can be devastating.
To address this, enterprise databases are designed to be scalable with sufficient error handling to prevent data loss in the event of connectivity issues. As far as the user is concerned, the tool functions in exactly the same way, but they can have confidence that their work is not likely to go to waste!
The downside to enterprise databasing, is that it requires special hardware and software to be setup. Typically, this will be a machine with Windows Server Edition and SQL running on a central network. The majority of companies will already have SQL server setup somewhere, and it is usually possible to add another database without much impact (other than some storage and RAM), although it is also common to have some security concerns.
For those starting out with a databasing tool, standard databases provide an entry into better management of their reliability engineering analysis, but for those that have multiple users that need to access from multiple locations it is best to consider an enterprise solution.
How we can help
Contact us on +44 (0) 333 996 9930 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your specific needs.