Database in a business scenario is commonly associated with a list of leads or customer information, though in a more technical environment it can also be referred to as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle or Sybase. Traditionally available offline, databases have also spread across the online horizon delivered over the internet and available on a monthly subscription basis. Though Wikipedia gives you a wide list of online databases, here I'll mention only about the advantage and disadvantage of getting your data online and forming an online database of your own.
Since the past ten years we have been collecting data using spreadsheets and enhancing our skills to convert it into a database which comes in handy later. Microsoft Access, SQL and Oracle has come along a long way supporting spreadsheets as the complexity of the database increased and it started falling apart. But these databases were available only on a single desktop or accessed over a LAN connection to an in-house server. Easily tackling the desktop spreadsheet applications in the mid-field, web-databases are closing in to score and has become the lifeline of people moving their data online. Most of these web-databases are hosted in a Cloud environment and protected by SSL encryption and a secure log-in with proper User Access Control.
Some advantages of using an Online Database
Online - As the name suggests, an online database can be accessed from a web browser from anywhere in the world. With Cloud Computing coming to the foreground, it is much easier to host an online database in an elastic public cloud making it more scalable and secure.
Elasticity - A web-based-database can hold infinite data and is totally elastic in nature. Whenever there is a surge in data flow, more storage space can be allocated and scaled up and down based on requirement.
Multi-tenancy - A public cloud database is generally multi-tenant in nature. This means the same database can be used by multiple customers on a shared model where you pay only for the space you use.
Pay-Per-Use - Monthly subscription based pay-per-use model makes online databases look quite lucrative where you do not need to invest a huge Cap-Ex on licensed software.
Limitations or disadvantages of an Online Database
Security - One of the gravest concerns of using a web-database is security. With not many security standards available in the Cloud Computing model, most of the users are worried about putting their financial data online.
Switching - Another concern when selecting an online database is switching. Different databases support different formats and switching from one to another becomes a pain thereby increasing switching cost.
Downtime - There are times when the server can be down because of multiple reasons which can lead to huge data loss and inaccessibility thereby causing great losses to customers.
Online database can improve your productivity in many ways and can serve multiple functions. You can customize an online database according to your business workflow or simply use it for data collection and information sharing. Web-based-databases work on different environments, so that is the biggest advantage you can get.