It’s been decades since manually-coded static webpages went out of fashion in favor of database-driven websites. But you would be surprised that there are still people who think databases are unnecessary and a complete waste of time. While it’s true that a static HTML website will be fine for low-traffic and private websites, there are still a number of perfectly good reasons for migrating to a database-driven site even for those that will only be seen by a few visitors. Here are seven (7) of the most important ones:
#7. A Database Gives Your Content Another Layer of Legal Protection
If the content on your static webpage is scraped and reused by other websites, you have the option of serving them takedown notices or filing DMCA complaints through Google. But that’s the extent of it. Even if they comply, there is nothing that prevents them from going back and doing it again. It becomes a battle of attrition at this point, one that loses you time, money, and effort because you only have finite resources.
However, if your website is database-driven, you have the law on your side. The Copyright Law protects databases because they are considered as compilations of intellectual property. All the data contained within a database are afforded protection even if the individual data is considered as facts (or ideas) that are not capable of being protected. If someone scrapes your content, they have infringed your copyright and you can take them to court. For example, Feist Publications thought they could get away with scraping the publicly-available directory of Rural Telephone Service Co., thinking that copyright law does not apply to the content because it’s just a simple list of addresses. The courts sided with Rural Telephone Service Co.
#6. Allows Flexibility and Easier Management of the Website
A static web page must be manually edited every single time you want to update. This means you have to treat your website like a brochure, where the design and content cannot be changed without modifying and manually editing every single page. This setup is fine if you have no intention of ever updating your website, but completely unacceptable if you want your content to be relevant and up to date with the times.
A database, on the other hand, makes Content Management Systems (CMS) like Blogger, WordPress, and Magento possible. A CMS will give you the ability to add, modify, and propagate content across multiple pages without touching a single line of code. It also simplifies layout redesigns because you only need to edit the layout once and the changes will automatically reflect across all the pages in your site. Imagine not having this ability at your disposal if your site has hundreds of individual pages.
#5. Makes Navigation and Searching Easier for Both User and Administrator
If your website is database-driven, you can tag and sort content based on any category you want, and this will give your users the option of sorting and searching your content based on the categories you have provided, or simply by searching keywords and topics they are interested in. Without this capability, users will have to manually browse every single page in your site – following links one by one until they find something worth reading. A majority of people on the Internet don’t have the time for such cumbersome user experience. They will most likely click away from your site within seconds of realizing that you have a poorly designed, obsolete navigation structure.
The only alternative to a database, in this case, is to embed a third party search function, like the one that Google offers. But the results of this are spotty at best, and you’re usually better off just going with a database-oriented approach.
#4. Makes Your Business Resilient
With a static website, you have to back up all of the files if you want to be protected from server crashes or hacking attempts. Even if you did, you won’t be safe from the downtime involved with manually restoring the site to its original state. Depending on how large your business is and how reliant it is on the Internet, the downtime could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in potential revenue, not to mention the manpower involved in getting everything back to working order.
If you have a database-driven site, you only need to back up the database containing all relevant data. This process takes a lot less time and resources than backing up hundreds of HTML pages. It will definitely save you money on website maintenance cost. It also makes restoration simple – once you get the front end restored, you can import your database backup and repopulate the content in a fraction of the time it would have taken a static site to come back up. Additionally, databases can be made to be platform agnostic, so you can freely experiment with different hosts, different CMS’s, and different servers without worrying about platform and API incompatibilities.
#3. It Allows You To Build a Redundant Website
One of the most effective contingency measures against unnecessary downtime is by building redundant copies of a website and splitting the load between them. This way, if one server goes down all of the traffic it’s supposed to accommodate can be temporarily redirected to the other server, ensuring that you can continue to serve content to users even through maintenance or unplanned downtimes. While a redundant system is achieved with a completely static website, it is inefficient and would require more attention compared to using a database integrated website. With a database-driven approach, the infrastructure only needs to keep copies of the front end synced and just have them use data from a single database (which you then keep offline backup copies of.) This approach is not only more robust and agile it’s also less prone to syncing conflicts.
#2. Databases Will Make Your Site Future-Proof
As mentioned earlier in this post, there are people who believe that they don’t need a database because their website is small and designed to serve only a handful of people. But what happens if the website proves to be a hit and attracts massive amounts of traffic? Do you give up and let it buckle under the weight of its own success or do you start taking advantage of its success in order to earn a profit?
If it’s the latter, you’ll find that you have to start over from scratch or manually update everything no matter how futile, because static webpages by design cannot accommodate the load and attention that successful websites attract these days. Not unless you have dozens of employees willing to do menial updates on a daily basis.
If your small, inconsequential website is built to use a database from the start, you won’t have to worry about the future because it can be easily scaled according to demand, without the need for lengthy downtimes. It’s also easy to hand over the design to a third party designer or developer because the database will give them all the content they need. They don’t need to go over your previous website just to learn where everything fits, because they can create a new one and just import the content using the database.
#1. It Saves on Website Maintenance Cost
Last, but definitely not the least, you won’t be doing yourself any favors by refusing to adopt a more database-driven approach. Everything from CMS’s, to eCommerce plugins and Social Media widgets will not work on a static website. If you want a site that’s fully functional and can cater to the needs of the modern market, you need to resort to a database. It’s also just a matter of time before databases become mandatory. In some countries (particularly Australia), the law requires businesses that use information from customers to maintain a database containing at least two years’ worth of data and to have said data available to law enforcement and the users themselves upon request. If there’s no database available, the law has been broken and the business is in trouble.