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There is only one thing a data nerd loves even more than a database, and that’s free database software. Free just makes everything better, right? And because we’re that kind of nerd, just like you, in this article we’re going to help you choose the best database software free of charge.
Whether you need a free lightweight DB software to store your mama’s recipes or a mega powerful database for your multi-million-dollar business, you will surely find the top free database software in this list.
But first, let’s take a look at a few basic concepts and tips regarding database software.
- What is Database Software?
- What is a Database Management System?
- Benefits of Using a DBMS
- Choose the Right Free Database Software
- The Best 10 Free Database Software
- 1. FuseBase (formerly Nimbus)
- 2. Grist
- 3. Google Sheets
- 4. Notion
- 5. Stackby
- 6. MySQL
- 7. MongoDB
- 8. Microsoft SQL Server
- 9. Apache OpenOffice Base
- 10. MariaDB Server
- Let’s Wrap This Up
What is Database Software?
In simple layman terms, database software allows you to create and manage a database (also known as DB), which is an organized collection of data. This information can be anything from customer or product data to information about a specific event.
So far, so good, right?
What is a Database Management System?
A database management system, commonly known as DBMS, is a type of software which makes it easy to store and fetch specific information and to group data together. DBMS also allows us to adequately maintain our DBs and to restrict access to our data as we see fit.
To put it simply, a DBMS allows you to handle data at will. Period.
Why Use a DBMS? Our Top 5 Reasons
A database management system is a critical software for any organization that needs to manage and organize information. Below are five reasons or use cases that illustrate why every business should consider using a DBMS.
1. Manage Employee Information
A DBMS allows for easy tracking of employee data including name, address, contact information, and performance data. DB software also makes it easy to merge different employee data items into a single database, which can save money and time on information entry.
2. Store and Track Customer Data
A DBMS is essential software for managing customer data. A DBMS can store all the information associated with a customer, including personal details and information regarding their purchases. This information can easily be retrieved by suppliers or employees within the company, making it easier to handle customer orders and concerns.
3. Handling Product Data
A DBMS is great software for managing all your product information. Database software can store all the information regarding a product (specifications, prices, delivery dates, stock, etc.) and makes it easily accessible when needed.
4. Managing Inventory
A database software tool is perfect for tracking and managing inventory. A DBMS can track the status of individual items, and can calculate the amount of inventory needed to meet customer demand.
5. Tracking Financial Information
Database software solutions can also be used for managing financial data. A DBMS can store a company’s entire information, including a financial record, accounting data, and employee details. Being able to store and fetch this information on demand saves time and money on financial data management.
There are many other benefits to using a DBMS, including reducing data entry time, reducing storage costs, and improving accuracy. Therefore, it is important for any business to consider using a DBMS to manage and organize their data.
Benefits of Using a DBMS
Database management systems or DBMSs are the most important part of any business when it comes to data storage and retrieval. They play an important role in the way any business handles its information. So here are five reasons why you should use a DBMS in your business.
1. Speed and Accuracy
A DBMS is a powerful tool that can speed up information entry and retrieval times by storing and managing data in a systematic way. This makes it easy to find and use information quickly and accurately whenever needed.
2. Automated Records Management
A DBMS can also help you manage your records by making it easy to insert, update and delete data. This can prevent potential duplicate data, and it will make your business more efficient.
3. Security and Privacy
A DBMS can help protect your business’s information by encrypting it and storing it in a secure location. It can also help keep your datasets private by protecting them from unauthorized access.
A DBMS can be adapted to your business’s needs, making it a versatile software that can be used to store a range of information. This makes it a good choice if you want to store information in a flexible and organized way.
5. Cost and Time Savings
A DBMS can save you time and money by automating data entry and retrieval processes. This can free up your staff to more important tasks in your business.
And now that you’re familiar with why you should be using database software, let’s see how to choose the right one for your needs.
Choose the Right Free Database Software for Your Business
When choosing a DBMS, just like when choosing a knowledge base platform, it is important to consider your business needs and the requirements the database software needs to meet. So let’s take a look at seven things you need to keep in mind:
- How big is your database going to be? The first key thing you need to consider is the size of your DB. How much information do you need to store? Do you need a large DB or a smaller one? Depending on the size, you’ll need to choose a software solution that can accommodate your needs. Some DBMSs are designed for larger businesses or projects, while others are designed for smaller operations.
- How versed are you or your team in DB language? Do you need training to use the software? If you’re a database enthusiast, you might be familiar with SQL databases, using Structured Query Language (SQL), but otherwise, you might need a more user-friendly solution. The last thing you want is to choose a software that’s difficult to use and ends up being a waste of time.
- What type of information will you be storing in your database? The next thing to consider is the type of information you need to store. Do you need to store text, images, or both? Make sure to choose a software solution that can support the type of information you need to store. Some DBMS might be better suited for tracking customer data, while another might be more appropriate for storing and managing number-based items or images.
- What type of DB do you need? For example, if you are a small business that only stores customer details, a relational database might be a better choice than a non-relational DBMS. We’ll take a look at types in a minute.
- What integrations do you need? If you need your database software to integrate with external tools, you need to find a solution that does that, either natively or through a third-party apps like Pabbly Connect or Zapier.
- Who will need to access your database? Another important thing to consider is accessibility. Do you need to give others access or keep it private? Make sure to choose a tool that offers the level of accessibility you require.
- What about support? Finally, you’ll want to consider the support offered by the software. Does the company offer customer support? What type of help is available? Make sure to choose a tool that offers the level of support you need.
Keep these things in mind when choosing a free database software for your business and you’ll be sure to find the right one for your needs.
In general, when choosing a DB software, it is important to understand both your needs, the types you can create and manage, and the limitations of the different software tools you can choose from. So let’s move on now to the different types of DBs.
Types of Databases
Although there are many different types of databases, probably the most common ways to categorize them is into relational vs non-relational, document and graph.
Relational vs Non-Relational DBs
A relational database (or RDB) stores information in tables, which are composed of rows and columns. The cool thing about relational databases is that it establishes connections (usually called relationships) between the different tables. For example, imagine you run a language school. You will probably have a table for your students’ information, another for your teachers’ details and another for your groups. With an RDB, you can connect the data on those tables to specify, for instance, which group each student belongs to and who will be their teacher.
On the other hand, a non-relational database (a.k.a. NoSQL) does not use tables, rows and columns, which makes them more flexible, as they adapt and optimize their storage model to the type of data they will be storing. In general, non-relational DBs tend to be used for larger amounts of information as they usually perform better than relational ones.
Documents are non-relational databases (no tables, columns or rows) which make it easier for devs to store and fetch information. Since documents are more flexible than tables, they are highly scalable and allow for further adaptability. They tend to present an intuitive data model which is more appropriate for developers, and a flexible schema, which accounts for the flexibility and growth potential of the data model.
A graph DB, typically categorized as a NoSQL database, focuses on the relationships between information items and nodes. In this type, information is not restricted by a table or other predefined models. Graph DBs are perfect for storing, mapping and representing the connections between the different items. For example, this type of DB is used in social media to represent and analyze the relationships between users.
Oof! Things just got a bit too techie there, right? But here’s the thing: we’re talking about databases, so it’s kind of impossible not to get a bit geeky here and there.
But anyway, now that you’re familiar (at least!) with all the DB software lingo and the ins and outs DBMS, let’s just dive right into the best free database software for your business, shall we?
The Best 10 Free Database Software for Your Business
To make things easier for you, we’re going to divide this list into two categories. I’m sure you’ll thank us later.
Top 5 User-Friendly Database Software
his list is for those of you who need a somewhat friendly software to work with and who need to start using it straightaway, without having to go back to college to get a DB management degree. In fact, some of the following recommendations are project management software with tables and DB capabilities, rather than database software in themselves.
1. FuseBase (formerly Nimbus)
Best for: visual tables, lightweight and user-friendly databases.
FuseBase (formerly Nimbus) is a project management suite made up of a few apps and browser extensions, namely FuseBase (formerly Nimbus) Workspace, Nimbus Capture, and Nimbus Clipper. While its key features are not thought specifically for DB creation, with FuseBase you can create spreadsheet database tables with a wide range of attributes. With your FuseBase workspace, each column in a table can be converted into a specific type of field, providing all the necessary controls needed to organize and manage your content. With this user-friendly and lightweight-table editor, you can keep track of virtually anything thanks to the different types of fields: single line text, number, attachment, checkbox, single & multiple select, mentions, date, currency, link, rating, progress, etc.
- User friendly.
- Generous free pricing plan.
- Wide range of attributes.
- Tables incorporated in the document content.
- Mobile app.
- Native desktop software to work offline.
- Custom domain and white label.
- Simple hierarchy (workspaces, folders and subfolders).
- Powerful document editor.
- Complimentary extensions to enrich your content (Captura & Clipper).
- No formula fields.
- Cannot apply custom filters to the table columns.
- Cannot search only within the table.
- Capterra: 4.6/5 (146+ user ratings)
- G2: 4.7/5 (62+ user ratings)
Best for: powerful user-friendly databases and data visualization.
Grist is a relatively unknown yet powerful database software which combines the best of two worlds: the flexibility of a spreadsheet and the robustness of a relational DB. Even Grist’s free plan supports creating complex DBs with a very simple user interface. One of Grist’s strong points is data visualization, as you can create your own dashboard charts and summaries to never lose sight of the evolution of your KPIs.
- Generous free tier.
- Real-time collaboration.
- Granular access control.
- Automatic backups.
- Visual representation of datasets.
- Dynamic reporting.
- No offline software.
- Learning curve for non-techies.
- Capterra: 4.8/5 (6+ user ratings)
- G2: 4.6/5 (3+ user ratings)
3. Google Sheets
Best for: online data processing, analytics and calculations.
Who doesn’t know Google Sheets by now? This database software is Google’s spreadsheet tool and one of the most widely used softwares on the planet. With Google Sheets you can create any type of table, data visualization, keep track of everything you want, etc. It’s almost as powerful as Excel but with a much friendlier interface. However, not everyone is keen on spreadsheets, so many of you may also be interested in a Google Sheets or Excel alternative.
- 100% free.
- Endless functions and add-ons.
- Works with offline mode.
- Mobile app.
- Real-time editing.
- Steep learning curve.
- Row, column and character limitations (important for large datasets).
- Not very user friendly.
- Less secure than stand-alone DB software.
- Capterra: 4.7/5 (12514+ user ratings)
- G2: –
Best for: documents with embedded tables and filtered views.
Notion is a document and project management tool with DB capabilities. With this lightweight database software you can create documents with embedded tables or have dedicated pages for a DB. The cool thing about Notion is that you can structure data as you wish and visualize the DBs as regular tables or as kanban boards, lists, grid galleries, etc., depending on what suits you and your projects most.
- Generous free tier.
- User-friendly databases.
- Multiple properties or attributes to choose from.
- Varied and flexible layouts.
- Filter and search functionality.
- Filtered tabs.
- The bigger the dataset, the slower it gets.
- Slight learning curve.
- Easy to lose data by mistake.
- Capterra: 4.7/5 (962+ user ratings)
- G2: 4.6/5 (1040+ user ratings)
Best for: databases with external integrations and data visualization.
Stackby is a relatively simple database software with project data management capabilities and a major focus on integrations. With Stackby you can create your own spreadsheet-like dashboard to manage any kind of data, from leads and contacts to tasks and deadlines, and it integrates natively with many of the software platforms you already use (e.g.: Ahrefs, Google Search Console, etc.) thanks to their API. Stackby offers a free-forever plan, which is limited but might suffice for smaller datasets. This SaaS is nowadays considered a great Airtable alternative.
- Wide range of native integrations.
- Project data visualization.
- Wide range of pre-built templates.
- Developer friendly.
- Flexible and powerful.
- Mobile and desktop applications.
- Learning curve for non-techies.
- Does not work offline.
- Capterra: 4.8/5 (64+ user ratings)
- G2: 4.7/5 (55+ user ratings)
Top 5 Advanced Database Software (for Geeks Only!)
Okay, this is where things get a little more complex. The following list of software is mainly used to create free databases which function as the back-end of different apps and software, although some also work as front-end solutions. They’re just not the “DB for dummies” kind, so if you’re not into all this DBMS mumbo-jumbo, just stick to the previous 5 softwares we recommended. Those will surely suffice for your needs. Otherwise, just keep reading and enjoy the techy nerdiness!
Best for: Data warehousing, e-commerce and application loggings.
MySQL is a relational DBMS developed by Oracle. This free database software is based on Structured Query Language (usually known as SQL), the most widely used DB language for relational database management softwares, as it is currently the standard language for accessing and manipulating databases.
- Extremely compatible.
- Open source.
- Runs on all major computing platforms and operating systems (e.g.: Windows 10).
- Supports a variety of backends and programming interfaces.
- It’s open source (GPL).
- Easy permissions management.
- Flexible and secure.
- Performance suffers with large datasets.
- Transactions are not handled efficiently.
- Possible system corruption after server crash.
- Unintuitive user interface.
- Capterra: 4.6/5 (1864 user ratings)
- G2: 4.4/5 (1581+ user ratings)
Best for: Highly available and scalable internet software.
MongoDB is a document database software used to create web apps. As a free database software solution, MongoDB is a scalable and highly available tool which is popular among dev teams, ranking #5 in DB-Engines. Thanks to its compatibility with most programming languages, you can use MongoDB almost out of the box to start working on your web application. Although it is not a fully free software, MongoDB does offer free options which might be enough for starting out.
- Simplicity and scalability.
- Efficient performance and high availability.
- Extensive documentation.
- Sharding capabilities.
- Transactions may lead to data corruption.
- Limited and difficult joins between documents.
- Limited data size (16MB).
- Capterra: 4.7/5 (396+ user ratings)
- G2: 4.5/5 (468+ user ratings)
8. Microsoft SQL Server
Best for: Transaction processing, business intelligence and analytics.
Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database management system (RDBMS) built on top of SQL. Along with Oracle, MSQL Server is one of the market leaders in this area. Like other relational DB software, Microsoft SQL Server works with a row-based table structure connecting different tables and avoiding storing duplicate data in different tables in the DB.
- Increased security.
- Easy to set up and configure.
- Storage space optimization.
- Data recovery and restoration.
- Limited compatibility.
- Hardware demanding.
- Costly when scaling.
- Capterra: 4.6/5 (1754+ user ratings)
- G2: 4.4/5 (2121+ user ratings)
9. Apache OpenOffice Base
Best for: Relational databases for personal and professional use.
Apache’s free database software offers a DBMS desktop app to cater for a wide range of use cases, whether personal or professional. Halfway between a user-friendly software and a full-blown DBMS, OpenOffice Base allows you to create all sorts of tables, queries, forms and reports and includes a set of pre-built templates.
- 100% free and open source.
- Works offline.
- Good for personal and professional use.
- Outdated UI.
- Steep learning curve.
- Unconventional file formats (compatibility issues).
- No cloud syncing.
- Capterra: –
- G2: 4.1/5 (51+ user ratings)
10. MariaDB Server
Best for: High-performance relational database solutions.
MariaDB is one of the most popular relational database softwares. It is open source and was developed originally by the same team MySQL. This DB software focuses on performance, stability and openness.
- Easy installation.
- Speed and performance.
- Not hardware demanding.
- Open source.
- Support for major programming languages.
- Enables Galera Cluster technology.
- Backward compatibility.
- Not fully compatible with MySQL.
- No official support, just community.
- Capterra: 4.7/5 (63+ user ratings)
- G2: 4.4/5 (202+ user ratings)
FAQ About Databases
Is Excel a database software?
Strictly speaking, Excel is not considered database software. Any “database nazi” will tell you that. However, if you’ve read this far, you will have realized that the DB software definition we have used for the purpose of this article is quite broad, considering a DB as a tool that allows you to store and manage data. By this definition, Excel would be considered database software, just like FuseBase, Notion or Google Sheets.
When would you use database software instead of a spreadsheet?
If you need a more efficient way to store information, you would use a database software instead of a spreadsheet. This is so because databases don’t have record limits whereas spreadsheets do. Besides, spreadsheets are way more hardware demanding than most free simple database software for large amounts of records.
Does Google have database software?
Yes, it’s called Google Cloud Databases. Google’s database software provides a unified, open, and intelligent Data Cloud for operational and analytical data. However, it is not free, so we cannot recommend it in this article.
What database does WordPress use?
WordPress uses MySQL as its database management system. As we saw earlier, MySQL is open-source software (like WordPress), and within WP it handles all the components of its database such as user data, user meta, posts, posts meta data, comments, etc.
What database does Instagram use?
Instagram actually uses two back-end database management systems: Cassandra and PostgreSQL; none of which we have mentioned in this article, even though they are both free database software solutions.
Let’s Wrap This Up
As you can see, there are many different database software options on the market and it can be hard to know which one is the best for you, your team and your business. That’s why we’ve done the research and compiled this list of the best free database software for your business in 2024.
Just so you know, we have left out some big players like InterSystems or Airtable, only because their free pricing plans are not as convenient or generous. Also, some of the software on our list is easy to use while others are only suitable for database experts or would-be experts. But we are sure that at least one of these database software solutions will certainly do the trick and work for you just fine.
So what are you waiting for? Your search for the best free database software for your business ends today. Pick your database tools and get back to work!
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