Data Storage Methods
A database is simply an electronic representation of the data you've collected. A database houses all of the collected data in one spot for data storage and analysis.
All of the data associated with a single item (such as a person) is stored as a record in the database. In most database software programs, each row of data is a record (see below).
The columns in a database are usually the data elements or data variable names (see below).
Different Types of Commercial Data Storage Methods
Which Database Will Serve Your Needs? A great white paper on selecting database software. (In the Resource Library.)
These methods assume that you will create your OWN data storage mechanism. There are also EMS/EMSC products that are already created for collecting the standard national data variables. See Lessons Learned > EMS Software for the advantages and disadvantages to creating your OWN database or using a commercial EMS product.
- Database programs (e.g, Microsoft Access, Oracle, SQL Server)
- Advantages: Information is stored as a complete record. You can easily query the data and create new variables or data subsets. In many applications, you can create a user interface for entering the data.
- Disadvantages: Requires time and technical skill to initally design the database and to set up variables correctly
- Spreadsheet programs (e.g., Microsoft Excel)
- Advantages: Easy to structure spreadsheets for input. Simple view of the data.
- Disadvantages: Data types are not explicitly defined. Data are not stored as a record (this is key!). Manipulation of data (for analyses, etc.) can be error-prone and time consuming with no record of changes
- Statistical programs with database options (e.g., SPSS, SAS)
- Advantages: Data entry and analysis are completed in the same software. Similar to database programs, you can easily query the data and create new variables or data subsets.
- Disadvantages: Spreadsheet/database options for statistical applications vary widely (know your software!). The most powerful tools can be very time consuming to learn and require advanced knowledge.
- Think about the trade off between features available and the time investment to learn the software.
- Things to consider:
- Who is designing the database?
- Who is entering the data?
- Who is analyzing the data?
- How much data will you have?
- How often will you need to use these tools?
- The data should be stored in a database by someone familiar with that program.
NEDARC can help you thru the process of choosing a database storage method. Contact your NEDARC state/territory contact for more information!
Hardware Considerations >>