We are designing a reporting solution for survey results. Although datasets are reasonable in size (rarely more than 500.000 respondents and 50 questions), performance is obviously a major concern.
Due to the nature of the solution, most queries return aggregated values and no locks are needed.
Storing answers in a "normal" tabular format (i.e. a column for each question and a row for each respondent) works well in terms of performance, and allows us to query the data like so:
SELECT COUNT(*) FROM Answers WHERE Gender = 'M' and Age < 20
However, this design requires a new table for each survey as the questions (columns) differ, which is obviously not an ideal solution.
Therefore, we are considering a design where we store answer data in a table that would basically just hold a respondent ID, a question ID and an answer value, thereby "transposing" the data (i.e. there would be a row for each respondent/question combination in the Answers table).
In this design, we would have to use exists conditions (or joins) to filter our data, e.g:
SELECT COUNT(*) FROM Answers AS A1 WHERE A1.QuestionID = 'Gender' AND A1.VALUE = 'M' AND EXISTS ( SELECT * FROM Answers AS A2 WHERE A2.RespondentID = A1.RespondentID AND A2.QuestionID = 'Age' AND A2.Value > 18 )
This would allow as to handle any survey without changing the database schema but we are concerned about what the impact might be on performance?
Or perhaps there is a better way to deal with this issue altogether?