How to share web databases

In an earlier blog post on file sharing, I mentioned a variety of Web services that make that easier. But what if you want to do more than share a file, and actually work together on it? That is where these services that I mention today come in. They allow you to work with spreadsheets and tabular data. While Google Docs does allow people to collaborate on a file-level, what we really want is something a bit more sophisticated and that can recognize the individual records. There are at least four services that I have found that do this:

With all of these, you can create an account and upload your spreadsheet in about five minutes. If your first line in the spreadsheet contains your field names, you are just about done. You can easily sort any column quickly by clicking on the arrow icons. You can quickly locate duplicate records, create a mail merge template and forms for your Web site, all with just a couple of clicks of the mouse.

Custom reports are simple, and what’s more, they can be distributed via email to your collaborators on a set schedule. Adding different collaborators with various discrete permissions is very straightforward, and in about 30 minutes you can have a project setup and working with your team. The good news is that you don't need to be a programmer, or even act like one. You also don't need to pay for hosting fees (that is included as part of the service), and all you need is your Web browser to access your data.

To get a feel for what is involved, all four services allow you can start off with free accounts. Each of the four services differs in terms of how they can import data into your database, what kinds of reports are available, and how many different databases and storage is allowed per account. That is why it is best to try each out and see what makes the most sense for your work style and must-have features, and how far you can really get without knowing any real HTML.

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