How to Store Marketing Data: Flat File or Relational Database?

Flat File or Relational Database

How to Store Marketing Data: Flat File or Relational Database?

When it comes to marketing analytics, the way in which you store data is essential for ensuring it is easily accessible, understandable, and well-organized. Data is typically stored in one of two ways, as a flat file or in a relational database. When information that is being analyzed is stored in a single file format and contains all the data you need in one view, it is considered a flat file. When informational data is being cross-referenced between sets of data between different tables, it is regarded as a relational database. Both storage methods contain organized data with the records living in rows and the correlating pieces of data in the record residing in the columns. Both data storage methods have many benefits and disadvantages:

Flat Files:

Benefits include:

  • Flat files are straightforward.
  • Flat files only require one file.
  • Flat files can easily be organized into spreadsheets.
  • Flat files do not need special software to analyze.
  • Flat files store data in a plain text format.
  • Flat files do not have multiple tables.

Disadvantages include:

  • Flat files store more data than is necessary.
  • Flat files can be complicated to update if dimension changes are required.
  • Flat files often repeat information.

Relational Database:

Benefits include:

  • Relational databases store informational data most efficiently.
  • Relational databases have a higher success rate when it comes to NOT duplicating information.
  • Relational databases are easy to update.
  • Relational databases link information for straightforward interpretation.

Disadvantages include:

  • Relationship databases have multiple tables which require cross-referencing data.
  • Relationship databases require more advanced data analysis skills and are not easy to set up and manage.
  • Relationship databases require special software and tools to view and analyze the data.

When Are Flat Files Used?

Flat files are used in many ways but primarily used by programmers and warehouses. If you are using a Windows or Macintosh computer to read this blog, it is highly likely operating on a series of flat files.

I personally use flat files when creating contact mailing lists for real estate marketing campaigns. I create a flat file database with a list of clients and their contact information. This allows me to easily view data on one spreadsheet file to ensure that I do not have any duplicate contacts, am not sending mailers to a contact more than once, and to ensure that all competitors are removed from the lists. The simplicity of flat files makes it easy for me to export the data to mailing labels.

When Are Relational Databases Used?

Relational databases are used in many ways but are primarily used as servers. Examples of relational database servers are Microsoft SQL Servers and cloud-based servers. Industries who often use relational databases are computer software companies, IT services, financial services, and hospital and health care facilities.

In conclusion, informational data storage is a vital aspect of marketing analytics and marketing data. So, it is essential to choose the storage method that best meets your long-term needs.

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Melina Miller

Melina Miller

Marketer Specializing in Digital Marketing, Marketing Analytics, Content Marketing & Personal Branding

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