8 Advantages of an Online ER Diagram Tool
ER diagram tools are a key component in software development. Whether you are designing a new system or feature from scratch or analyzing and applying changes to an existing solution, you need an ERD modeling program. Using an online ERD diagram tool allows you to start working immediately, without worrying about installation and setup. Plus, online ERD tools enable quick collaboration and easy access to your data models.
You may have heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Images allow humans to quickly understand quite a lot of information; an ER diagram is a special kind of “picture” that represents the entities of a software solution and the relationships between them. (If you’re not familiar with ERDs, read the article Why Do You Need an ER Diagram? before continuing.)
Once you understand the benefits of using ER diagrams to document any data model, the next step is to decide which tool to use.
How to Choose the Right ER Diagram Tool
There are many things to consider when choosing an ER diagram tool, and not all projects require the same features. A solution designed to work with multiple database management systems (DBMSs) may require a tool that can generate SQL scripts for different database engines. Modifying or upgrading existing but undocumented software may require an ER diagram tool with reverse engineering features, while a new project may require that different software designers, architects, and developers collaborate.
You need to consider these and other factors when choosing an ER diagram tool. I recommend reading Data Modeling Tools: Choosing the Best for Your Needs if you want to get an in-depth analysis of what goes into this decision. For now, though, let’s talk about the benefits of using an online ER diagram tool compared to an on-premises ERD design solution.
Advantages of Online ER Diagram Tools
Online tools are here to stay. We use them all the time for emailing, watching videos, storing photos and documents, and many other tasks. They’re popular because they offer some important advantages:
1. No Installation
Online tools do not require you to install software on your device. The only thing you need is a browser and an Internet connection. You do not need to worry about compatibility between the software and your operating system or other installed software. You also don’t have to deal with system permissions or any other features on your computer, tablet, or cell phone.
2. No Manual Updates
You don’t need to apply security patches or worry about compatibility between data models and the tool version that is installed on each device. All your diagrams are always available and updated to the latest version. Fixes are applied automatically, and you always work with the newest stable version of the tool.
3. No Manual Backups
If your tablet is stolen or your computer’s hard disk suddenly dies, you’re in the clear. All your work is stored in the Cloud – secure, automatically backed up, and available everywhere. Cloud infrastructure guarantees both data security and availability without requiring an in-house administration team or additional hardware.
4. Auto Save
Every change you make is automatically saved, so you do not need to remember to frequently save your work. If your device shuts down for any reason (e.g. battery failure, power outage, software or system crash), you do not lose anything; all the changes are automatically saved in the Cloud as you apply them to your diagram.
In the Vertabelo data modeler, you can perform various actions on saved and autosaved model versions, like restoring a diagram to a previous version, exporting it as XML, or setting it as a new diagram:
Of course, you can still manually save the diagram, which will generate a new version. You can also tag specific versions so they are not purged as per the retention policy. (Learn more about the purge mechanism in the Vertabelo documentation.)
All your diagrams are always available to you and the members of your team. All team members use the same version of the tool and access the same diagrams and versions – no matter which device they use. You can easily grant access to see, edit, or even own the models. No need to send files via email, store them on shared folders, or to sync versions when different people worked on the same diagram!
When you use an online tool, ER diagrams can easily be shared online. For example, with Vertabelo data modeler, you simply publish the model to the web (as shown below). You’ll get a URL to publicly share the model and also the HTML code to embed it on any web page:
You can use the HTML code to embed a completely functional diagram in any web page, as we’ve done here:
7. Easy Access
You left your laptop at the office, but you’ve just received a call with an urgent question regarding the data model you’ve been designing. Don’t rush off to the office – if you’re using an online modeler, you can access your model from any browser. All your work is there. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can work on your models no matter where you are.
Online data modeling programs are usually offered as SaaS (Software as a Service) tools. This means you don’t need to make a big investment (like buying a software license) before starting using your modeler. Often, you can start with a free trial and upgrade your account either when the trial is done or when your needs change! Paying a small monthly fee rather than spending your budget on licenses – maybe before even using that software – makes good financial sense.
Ready to Try the Vertabelo Online ER Diagram Tool?
We’ve just reviewed some of the advantages of using an online ER diagram tool. Along the way, we’ve seen some of the features that the Vertabelo online database modeler offers. These ensure that you can easily design, collaborate on, and share your database models. The only thing you need is a browser and an Internet connection; why not try it yourself using our online demo or sign up for a free trial plan?