What is a Database?

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A database is any collection of information that has been systematised for quick searching and retrieval via the use of a computer.  Databases are intended to provide the means for the modification, deletion, storage, and retrieval of data in connection with different operations.  A database management system (DBMS) utilises queries to pull out information from the database.

A database can be saved either as a single file or as a group of files.  Different storage devices can hold a database.  The data in these files may be categorised into records, where each record contains fields.  Fields are the primary entity of data storage, and each field holds information on an attribute of the entity defined by the database.  Records are also classified into tables which contain information about relationships between fields.  Although the term ‘database’ is used to refer to any collection of data in computer files, a database generally must be able to provide cross-referencing functionality.  Users can search, sort, and select fields from various records for report generation with the use of keywords and search criteria, among other sorting and filtering mechanisms.

Database records and files must be systematised to permit data retrieval.  Queries are the primary method users make use of to retrieve information.  A powerful DBMS can define new relationships from the basic ones provided by the tables, and utilise them in order to generate queries.  For example, a user enters a string of characters, after which the computer goes over the database and outputs the different locations in which the search characters appear.  A user can make a search of all records where a person’s first name is “John.”

Users of a big database must be able to manipulate the information within it easily and at any time they need to.  Large organisations are likely to develop many independent files with related and overlapping data.  Their data-processing tasks link data from several files.  Different types of DBMS have been created to support these varying requirements.

The data in many databases contains natural-language texts of documents. Numerical databases contain information on finances, scientific results, statistics, and technical data, while  small databases can be managed on personal computers and can be utilised by users in their home.  Databases have as of late become more and more important in business life.  They are now commonly intended to be integrated with other office applications, like spreadsheet and financial programs.

Types of Database

Centralised database

  • This database can be accessed by users from different locations. The central database saves data and programs and sends them to a central computing facility for processing.

Operational database

  • This is a basic form of database that contains information regarding the operations of an enterprise.  These databases are organised for marketing, production, and other business-related purposes.

End-user database

  • This is a database shared among users, and intended for use by end users, like managers of different departments.  This database presents a summary of the information involved for ease of use.

Commercial database

  • This is a database that holds information that external users need.  However, it’s not cost efficient for the end users to maintain such a database by themselves.  Commercial databases are a paid service for the user, as the databases are subject specific.  Access is given through commercial links. Some commercial databases are offered on CD-ROMs, a method by which the cost of communication is reduced.

Personal database

  • Personal databases are maintained on personal computers.  They contain information meant for use by a limited number of users.

Distributed database

  • These databases make use of inputs from common databases.  The data involved is shared out between different sites in the organisation in question.  As the sites are connected to each other, the entire collection of data makes up the database of the organisation.

Nowadays, data warehouses exist where separate databases are combined electronically.  These data warehouses are analysed using data mining software, and are widely used in business and government agencies.