Exponential growth of data, largely from whole-genome analyses, has changed the way biologists think about and handle data. Optimal use of these data requires effective methods to analyze and manage these data sets. Computers, software and the World Wide Web are now integral components of biological discovery. Understanding how information is obtained, processed and annotated in public databases allows researchers to effectively organize, analyze and export their own data into these databases. In this review we focus largely on two areas related to management of genomic data. We cite examples of resources available in the public domain and describe some of the software for data management systems currently available for plant research. In addition, we discuss a few concepts of data management from the perspective of an individual or group that wishes to provide data to the public databases, to use the information in the public databases more efficiently, or to develop a database to manage large data sets internally or for public access. These concepts include data descriptions, exchange format, curation, attribution, and database implementation.