What is a database

What is a database?

A database is a collection of structured information or data, usually stored electronically on a computer or in the cloud. Databases are managed through a database management system (DBMS). All data, including the DBMS and associated applications, is known as the database system.

In the most common types of modern databases, data is usually stored in a table with rows and columns. This makes it easy to manage, modify, update, control, and organize. Unlike regular tables, which can only be accessed by one user, a database can be accessed quickly and securely by a large number of people at the same time. In addition, a database is designed to store huge sets of ordered information, much more than table data storage.

How do databases work?

A database may contain information about a company, its customers, and more. All of this information can be edited and retrieved if necessary. A database system can be thought of as a repository where an application enters the information it receives. Smaller apps have this system built-in, however, to conserve storage space, using a separate database system is recommended.

The structure of a database consists of three levels:

  • The database - A collection of data stored for the same purpose.
  • The table - A component of the database, one database can have many tables.
  • The record - An element of the table, consisting of fields/columns and their values.

Everything within the database interacts in a certain way. A change in one line may result in changes in other data. Manual editing can be time consuming, but using a database management system can speed up the work when dealing with huge amounts of information.

The Different Types of Databases

There are various types of databases, each designed to carry out certain tasks:

1. Text database

Text databases are the simplest way to store information and are used when working with small amounts of data. They consist of a text file with a code, the fields of which are separated by special characters. In this kind of database, stored information has limited complexity and it is therefore difficult to establish relationships between components.

2. Hierarchical database

Hierarchical databases are databases with relationships between objects. This type is distinguished by a tree structure in which records are classified according to their relationship to the chain of parent records. Each entry can have exactly 1 parent. This type of database does not allow multiple and varied relationships.

3. Network database

Network databases allow for the modeling of complex relationships, as they allow records to have more than 1 parent.

4. Relational database

Relational databases (SQL databases) are a highly organized structure in the form of tables. All lines must follow a set pattern. Tables can be interconnected using links, and the structured query language, or SQL, is used to access the data. This kind of database can easily be adapted to various types of data.

5. NoSQL database

NoSQL databases (non-relational databases) allow for the storage and processing of unstructured or semi-structured data. These include:

  • Key-value databases - A key and a data object must be provided for storage.
  • Document-oriented databases - These share the basic semantics for accessing and searching key-value stores.
  • Graph databases present data as individual nodes that can have any number of properties associated with them.

6. NewSQL database

NewSQL databases are a combination of the best parts of SQL and NoSQL approaches. They have a relational structure and semantics, but are built using more scalable constructs.

7. Multi-model database

Multi-model databases are those that combine the functionality of several types of databases. Co-location of data from several types of databases in one system means that new operations can be performed that were previously difficult or impossible.

The Advantages of Using a Database for Managing Information

There are single-user systems, in which no more than one user can access the database at any given time, and there are multi-user systems, in which several users can access the database at once.

In any case, information in the database is integrated and shared, which is its main advantage. Data integration refers to the ability to present the database as an amalgamation of several separate data files that don’t overlap wholly or partially. Shared data means that certain areas in the database can be used by several different users.

Information management through databases also:

  • Reduces redundancy
  • Eliminates inconsistency
  • Provides shared access to data
  • Maintains standards
  • Imposes security restrictions
  • Ensures data integrity
  • Balances conflicting demands

Tips for Building and Maintaining a Successful Database

These are rules and practices to follow, regardless of database structure type:

  1. In the planning phase, consider what functionality will be included in the database. It is important to start with a complete picture of the database structure, which can then be refined along the way. This will make working with the database much easier.
  2. Determine the necessary tables and fields. This is the most difficult part of the development process, one that requires attention to detail.
  3. Use a data modeling tool, preferably one that can create visual models of the database. This will help determine which specific information needs to be stored. You can use MySQL, Workbench, DBDesigner4, or Gliffy.
  4. Use a unique key for every record in a table. This will prevent data duplication.
  5. Grouping and separating data: Table fields should be organized as efficiently as possible. It is important to know when to combine them and when to keep them separate.
  6. Database normalization is a set of guidelines for storing information more efficiently.
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