Database has big appeal to small business

List security

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The QuickBase application is hosted through the same centralized San Diego server farm that Intuit uses to run its online content for Quicken personal finance, QuickBooks 2001 business software and TurboTax products. That structure ensures the security of customer lists posted to the system, said Joe Rice, QuickBase’s creator.

"This is more centralized, though it certainly allows a large community to share valuable data," Rice said. "And if early activity means anything, large numbers of people will be involved. Users do get addicted and fanatic about it."

With little marketing support, the database service has signed up thousands of users through a free offer that allows them to post three small databases for free, Rice said. The system has also gained some big-time users, with one database containing 20,000 records, Rice said, declining to name the company.

However, Intuit will not be the only provider forging into Internet database services, said Bonnie Brooks, an analyst with Creative Strategies Inc. Many customer records today are kept on Microsoft Excel 2000 spreadsheets, and database services are a logical extension of Microsoft’s burgeoning bCentral suite of business services. Also, Internet start-up Bitlocker Inc. offers a series of prepackaged databases on its site.

The speed with which marketers can gain information about customers using Internet applications is remarkable, said Peter Cheimets, project engineer with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. His nonprofit group is building a telescope with Japanese and European partners to be launched into space later this year. Cheimets uses QuickBase to publish specifications for the project.

The drawback to the database technology is that administrators must be exacting in setting the rules for who gets access to what information, Cheimets said.

Intuit is offering QuickBase on the Internet for $49.95 a month, which includes the right to create up to 50 separate customer and employee databases with as much as 100 megabytes of information.

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