Many businesses today are chains or franchises that have multiple facilities or branches around a state, across the country, or even around the world. Fast-food restaurants, banks, grocery stores, car rental facilities and travel companies are just a few examples of the types of businesses that operate using the same information at each branch or store. In addition to every branch of the business requiring access to the same information, the central office will need to stay updated on any changes in data to keep it current. Some of the information that is shared and implemented by multiple branches includes:
• Pricing for products or services
• Company policies
• Management or employer database
• Ordering and shipping services
• Product or money transfers
Many multi-branch businesses find that a central database can be difficult to maintain and has the potential to lose data that impacts every facility. All of the data is shared and must travel across a network to reach its destination. A Distributed Database, on the other hand, is often a better solution that reduces the risk of downtime. In this type of database, data is stored in numerous computers without being attached to a common processing unit and which are not tightly coupled. A master database is used to send data to these computers using a data communications network.
Updating the Database
The major difference to businesses that use a distributed database in comparison to one that relies on a central database is that new information is updated overnight and is sent to all of the associated computers in a batch transaction. Each individual branch uses the local information contained in their computer system to operate. If the network fails for any reason, the business will still be able to operate normally by using the local data stored in their computers that they work with on a daily basis.
For most businesses, at least 90% of the information that is used daily is already stored in their local computers. Only updates in information are transferred to each branch computer at night. Since this data may consist of reports for management or price changes that take place at a future date, it is not essential for the operation of the business during the time that it takes to get the problem fixed. Interruptions to the network will not interfere with the operation of the business.
Growing Importance of Data
All types of businesses are following the trend towards collecting larger volumes of data. All of the data needs to be organized and easily accessible from each computer in the system. The regular downloading of newly acquired data to each computer allows each employee at every branch to access all of the data regardless of their geographic proximity. There is no need to access a central database to find what is needed since all of the acquired data is transferred to each individual unit.
For some businesses, different branches have their own unique functions and the need for different types of data. For these businesses, only the data that is pertinent to their use may be stored in the computers they use while access to additional computers with alternative data may be accessed if and when it is required.
Replication and Duplication
The processes of replication and duplication are what allow data to contain the most current data. Replication is a slower process that is performed with special software that is programmed to find changes in the database from which the data is distributed to the other computers. Once the software program identifies those changes, it replicates the data to create uniformity across all of the computers.
Duplication is a faster, less complex process. This type of program identifies the master source of data and then duplicates it. Duplication takes place during the P.M. hours, sending the same data to each of the associated computers. The next day, every computer in the system will have the same data.
The type of business and the nature of the data being transferred will determine the importance of keeping data secure and the methods that the business will implement as security. Software systems may be used to encrypt data. Although this can protect the data from theft, hackers may corrupt data, preventing it from being recovered. A better option is to install a hardware-based security program that provides better protection from anyone not authorized to access the data.
The most important distinction with relation to securing a distributed database is that because they are not centralized, the various database fragments must be secured individually in addition to protecting the master database. From origination, to transfer across remote sites, to the individual computers, the entire system must be protected. Having passwords for each user, applying encryption technology, and implementing additional software authenticate users and user types will result in a more secure transfer and storage of data.
Although many companies have made the move to store their data in the cloud, there are greater concerns that a breach in security of the data is a more significant problem as new issues continue to be raised and rectified.
If all branches of a business require the same access to data, a distributed database can provide the same level of transparency to all viewers at every branch. However, if different levels of transparency are required for employees at various levels, transparency of the data can also be managed at various levels.
Geographical Organization and Local Flexibility
A distributed database allows an organization to share data in an organized format across any geographical region while still allowing for local flexibility. The region included in the network may be at various locations around the world or within different offices or buildings. All types of computers from single PCs to supercomputers may be included in the system.
Today, many businesses operate globally with partners and branches in different areas around the world. The degree to which each unit relies on the other depends on the specific business and the impact that the unit’s location may or may not have on the operation. Even small, less complex businesses rely on the ability to share data to some degree to be productive. With controlled and easy access of current, valuable data, a distributed database is a good option for many types and sizes of businesses.