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A database is any group of information organised for quick search and retrieval through 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 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 that contain information about relationships between fields. Although database is used to any group of data in computer files, a database provides cross-referencing functionalities. Users can search, sort and select fields from various records for report generation with the use of keywords, search criteria, plus various sorting and filtering instructions.
Database records and files must be systematised to permit data retrieval. Queries are the primary method users utilise to retrieve information. A powerful DBMS can define new relationships from the basic ones provided by the tables and utilise them to generate queries. A user enters a string of characters, then 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 anytime. 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 requirements.
The data in many databases contain natural-language texts of documents; numerical databases contain information on finances, scientific results, statistics and technical data. Small databases can be managed on personal computers and can be utilised by users at home. Databases have become more and more vital 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 at the central database. The central database saves data and programs to central computing facility for processing.
- Operational database
- This is a basic form of data that contain information regarding the operations of an enterprise. These databases are organised for marketing, production and others.
- End-user database
- This is a database shared among users and intended for use by the end users, for example, managers of different departments. This database presents the summary of the information.
- Commercial database
- This is a database that holds information that external users need. But, it’s not cost efficient for the end users to maintain such database by themselves. Commercial database is a paid service for the user as the databases are subject specific. The access is given through commercial links.
- Some commercial databases are offered on CD-ROMs where cost of communication is reduced.
- Personal database
- The personal databases are maintained on personal computers. They contain information meant for use of a limited number of users.
- Distributed database
- These databases have inputs from common databases. The data remains shared at different sites in the organisation. 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. These are widely used in business and government agencies.