Planning a Relational Database System - File Maker

One of the hardest things for new relational database developers to grasp sometimes is when to break off some bits of data from one database into another related database. For example, in a contacts database, any given contact might have up to three phone numbers, but usually not many more than three. So you ask yourself, do I need a related database hanging off of Contact.fp5 called Phone.fp5 to keep track of all the contacts’ related phone numbers using good database form?

The answer to this question is always going to be up to you. Plan your database well before you even start, determining how each database will relate to each other and what databases are required.

When deciding whether to split some data off to another related database, ask yourself:

  • How many “repeats” of this bit of data will each master record need at most?
  • (Two, three, or four phone numbers per contact? Or more than ten on average?)
  • How many databases are already part of this solution and can I afford to add another? (FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Server have upward limits of how many databases they can serve at one time.)
  • Can the data I want to break off be kept track of in an existing database? For instance, you may already have a database for client phone numbers that can be modified a bit to keep track of client, vendor, employee, and personal phone numbers.
  • Do I need to do any reporting on or summarizing of the data in question? (If so, this usually indicates the need for a related database.)

If you still aren’t perfectly sure what to do, build a little model of what you need outside the main system and test it. Draw an ER diagram so that you can visualize how everything relates to everything else.

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