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Creating an inventory database requires some preparation and planning such as first selecting a database management system (DBMS) that you will use. MySQL, Microsoft (MS) Access and Oracle figure among the most widely employed systems. You will then need to decide what kind of information you will need to store in your inventory database. There are three broad kinds of data: order information, product or service and buyer or customer inventory. Your final steps will be the actual creation of the database and the tables it will hold, completing the process of normalization, populating the tables — even if only with test data — and testing the newly created database.
Choice of which DBMS to use generally is based on the cost of the software, the platforms on which it can be run, how steep the learning curve is for yourself or employees who will be responsible for inventory management and the resolution of inventory problems when they occur. MySQL is open-source software available free of charge via download from the Internet, and it often comes bundled with free distributions of server versions of the Linux operating system. Access might not be a good choice for very large businesses, and Oracle, which is quite costly, has a very steep learning curve. After you've determined the exact kinds of data you need, you will be ready to begin creating the inventory database, which usually can be accomplished using a graphical user interface (GUI) such as PHPMyAdmin or on the command line using the SQL language.
If you will be carrying out administrative tasks using a GUI, the process pretty much should be self-explanatory, and there should be program documentation that you can consult. Creating an inventory database on the command line requires at least a very strong basic knowledge of the SQL language, which almost always is used for working with databases. The words "create database" followed by the name you choose to give your database is the command to be issued. You will then need to issue the "use" command followed by the same name you chose in order to access it to begin creating the tables you need for holding all of the kinds of data necessary. That is initiated with the "create table" command, followed by the name of the table, along with other commands that set parameters, such as foreign keys, primary keys, null values and length of characters.
These functions almost always can be carried out via a GUI as well. It is very important that your inventory database be normalized, a necessary process to ensure that it can grow in size and be updated while maintaining integrity so that accurate reports on which business decisions are made are available at all times. Depending on the number of tables and the kinds of data, normalization, which can be a very involved process, might have to be entrusted to a database specialist. There are three forms of normalization: first normal form (1NF), second normal form (2NF) and third normal form (3NF). Attempting to achieve normalization after the actual creation of your inventory database is not advisable.
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