SHCC WYSIWYG Article from February 2005

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the February 2005 WYSIWYG newsletter.

Neglected Tools: Backups and Databases

by Don VanSyckel

Over the years of talking with people at the club there are two areas that I feel many people do not pay enough attention to. Those are 1) backups and 2) databases. Currently, if you watch much TV at all, AOL is running ads about giving members free virus protection software so you don't lose your data. They must think protecting your data is a big selling point of their service. There are other ways, better ways, of protecting your data than using AOL just to get a free virus checker. Anyone can download and use the free version of AVG from Grisoft.com which is a very good package. To get all the features and support from Grisoft the Professional Version is only $33.30 for two years and then renewals are less. The Grisoft anti-virus and firewall combo is only $55.00. Anyway my point is virus protection is inexpensive and no one has an excuse to not have it. For backups, the price of disk drives have come way down and having a second disk for backups is very affordable.

For the second item mentioned above, databases; it's my impression that most people in the club are not using them. The three main forms of electronic data are documents, spreadsheets, and databases. Virtually everyone is familiar with documents. Many people have stopped the learning process here and keep lists and other data in documents that would be better kept in a spreadsheet or database. Many people have moved beyond documents and use spreadsheet for some things. Once again certain things would be better kept in a database than a spreadsheet. Most lists that print on more than one sheet of paper can be managed better in database.

Databases have many advantages over spreadsheets for larger lists. Two of these that most people can relate to are:
1)Spreadsheets read the entire file into memory which puts a limit on their size and changes are not written to disk until the entire spreadsheet is saved. Databases do not read the entire file into memory so databases can be huge and changes are saved to disk on a record by record basis.
2)In a spreadsheet the data on a line (row) can get disassociated if you sort the spreadsheet and fail to select the sort area properly. In databases the data is kept in records which are a collection of fields. Records are added, deleted, selected for printing, and sorted as a unit.

Well hopefully at this point if you don't already use databases, you're saying "Hummm, sounds interesting but how can I get started with databases?" Well, the answer is come to the February meeting. The presentation will be "Database Basics using FileMaker Pro" by Mr. Jonathan Stars of Data Design Pros located in Lansing. Mr. Stars has given numerous presentations about databases and FileMaker Pro. He is the author of "Learn FileMaker Pro", is a regular contributor to FileMaker Pro Adviser magazine, and is a member of the FileMaker Solutions Alliance. This promises to be a very interesting and informative presentation.

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