In this paper, we present a system called DONOW (Database on Network of Workstation), that is an example of an implementation and maintenance of a low cost distributed database without performances penalties. The system has a three tier architecture based on a client, a service and a data layer. The client layer allows local and remote users to interact with the system through a Java user friendly interface. The service layer is implemented in C++; it allows the service of user requests and, in particular, the management of queries involving more than one DONOW node. The data layer is based on a well-known freeware relational database management system, that is, MySQL for each DONOW node. DONOW is under experimentation and will be used by Paxtena, an industry producing very advanced machinery for pharmaceutical products packaging, for the management of the information about their machines, that consists of close to 100000 drawings and related documentation. © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1999.