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Table of contents
1.
Introduction
2.
What is Database?
3.
Why Use a Database?
4.
Evolution of Databases
5.
Types of Database
5.1.
Relational Database
5.2.
NoSQL Databases 
5.3.
Graph Databases
5.4.
Time-series Databases
5.5.
Object-oriented Databases
5.6.
Document Databases
6.
History of Database
7.
Database Components
7.1.
Hardware
7.2.
Software
7.3.
Data
7.4.
Procedures
7.5.
Database Access Language
7.6.
People
8.
What is a database management system (DBMS)?
8.1.
Difference between DBMS and RDBMS
8.2.
Difference between a database and a spreadsheet
9.
What is Database Server ?
9.1.
Types of database servers
10.
What is Database Software?
11.
What is a MySQL Database?
12.
Database challenges
12.1.
Data safety
12.2.
Mitigation
12.3.
Integration & Quality
12.4.
Data volumes
12.5.
Decentralized data management
13.
Limitation of Database
14.
Advantages of Database
15.
Application of Database
16.
Frequently Asked Questions
16.1.
What is database and its types?
16.2.
What are the 4 types of database?
16.3.
What are DBMS functions?
17.
Conclusion
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024

What is Database?

Author Nitika Maini
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Introduction

A database is a collection of data or information stored in a computer system. It is controlled by something called a DBMS or Database Management System. A database holds any type and amount of data.

In this article, we will explore the world of databases. We will brush through its history, evolution, uses, types, applications, advantages and disadvantages.

What is Database?

What is Database?

A database is a collection of data or information stored in a computer system. It is controlled by something called a DBMS or Database Management System. The database operates a large amount of information by storing, retrieving, and managing data. All modern databases are managed by the Database Management System. It is used for storing all types of data like Company Information, Account information, manufacturing, banking, finance transactions, and telecommunications.

There are several types of databases like

  • Relational databases
  • NoSQL databases 
  • Graph databases
  • Time-series databases
  • Object-oriented databases,
  • Document databases
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Why Use a Database?

Databases are essential tools in the world of computing, and they serve several crucial purposes that simplify the storage, retrieval, and management of data.

1. Data Organization: Databases are like digital filing cabinets where information is stored in a structured and organized manner. This organization allows for efficient data retrieval, even from vast amounts of information.
 

2. Data Retrieval: Imagine trying to find a single email in your inbox without any folders or search function. Databases make it easy to search and retrieve specific pieces of information swiftly. For example, when you search for a product on an e-commerce website, a database quickly fetches all relevant results.
 

3. Data Integrity: Databases provide mechanisms to ensure data accuracy and consistency. They enforce rules and constraints, preventing incorrect or incomplete data from being added.
 

4. Concurrency Control: In systems where multiple users or processes access and modify data simultaneously, databases manage this by ensuring that changes don't interfere with each other. This prevents data corruption and maintains data integrity.
 

5. Security: Databases offer various security features to protect sensitive data. Access control, encryption, and auditing are common tools used to safeguard information.
 

6. Scalability: As data needs grow, databases can scale up to handle more information efficiently. This scalability is crucial for businesses that experience rapid data growth.
 

7. Data Analysis: Databases provide the foundation for data analysis and reporting. They store historical data, allowing businesses to make informed decisions based on past performance.

Also See, File System vs DBMS

Evolution of Databases

The databases have gone through a series of evolution. Let us see the chronological order of the development of databases:

  • Flat Files (1970s-1990s)
  • Hierarchical (1970s-1990s)
  • Network database (1970s -1990s)
  • Relational database (1980s-present)
  • Object – oriented database (1990s -present)
  • Web enabled database (1990s-present)

Types of Database

Relational Database

A relational database organises data into rows and columns, forming a table collectively. These types of databases are referred to as "relational" because the data stored within them have pre-determined relationships with each other. 
Examples: Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle Database, MySQL and IBM DB2.

NoSQL Databases 

NoSQL databases are non-tabular databases. These store data in a different way than the relational tables. The NoSQL databases have flexible schemas, horizontal scaling, fast queries due to the data model and ease of use for developers. The four types of NoSQL databases are document, key-value, wide-column, and graph. 
Examples: MongoDB, CouchDB, CouchBase, and Cassandra.

Graph Databases

The database that stores nodes and relationships instead of tables or documents is known as a Graph Database. And the relationship between the data is represented by the edges between the nodes. It uses graph structures for storing data. The data is stored without restricting it to a predefined model.
Examples: Neo4J, Ontotext GraphDB, TigerGraph and OrientDB

Time-series Databases

A time-series database is used for time-stamped or time-series data. Time-series data is nothing but events that are tracked, monitored and downsampled over time, like server metrics, application performance monitoring, network data, and sensor data. It is optimised for measuring change over time.
Examples: InfluxDB, KairosDB, Prometheus and ClickHouse

Object-oriented Databases

Based on object-oriented programming, the data and all of its attributes in Object-oriented databases are all tied together as an object. Like relational databases, object-oriented databases conform to ACID standards.
Examples: Wakanda, ObjectStore

Document Databases

A document database stores data in JSON, BSON, or XML documents to model data instead of rows and columns. Document databases are made to store and manage document-oriented information(also known as semi-structured data)
Examples: MongoDB, Amazon DocumentDB, and Apache CouchDB

History of Database

Databases have played an essential role in the recent evolution of computers. In 1960, Charles W. Bachman designed the integrated database system called the first DBMS, which was based on the network data model. 

Then IBM (International Business Machines Corporation) created its own database system known as the IMS based on the hierarchical database model. 

In the 1970s, Edgar Codd developed the relational database model, which revolutionised the database world. Now, it is considered the standard database mode, and most current database models deploy the relational database model.

Then in the 1980s, IBM developed SQL-  Structured Query Language.
 

Since then, the database has evolved throughout history. Let us see how

  • The 1950s
    Magnetic tapes were developed, which replaced punch cards and paper tape. 1957 was the time when the first commercial computer was installed. And lastly, IBM introduced the Ramnac System in 1959, which reads data in a non-sequential manner, and access to files became more feasible.

 

  • The 1960s
    Charles W. Bachman designed the integrated database system with its wide distribution by 1964, which formed the basis for the Network Data Model. Information Management System (IMS) developed by IBM formed the basis for Hierarchical Data Model. Then the IMS DB/DC (database/data communication) System was the first large-scale DB/DC system which supported network views on top of the Hierarchies. Further, SABRE, developed by IBM and American Airlines which allowed multiple-user access to data involving a communication network.
     
  • The 1970s
    Database technology experienced rapid growth in the 1970s. Then the relational model was developed by Ted Codd which Laid the foundation for database theory. Query Languages were developed in the upcoming years that included SQUARE, SEQUEL (SQL), QBE, and QUEL.

 

  • The 1980s
    Databases were developed for personal computers (DBASE, PARADOX, etc). This allowed PC users to define and manipulate data. They lacked multiview/multi access support and insulation between programs and data. In the following years, expert Database Systems, Object-oriented DBMSs, and client-server architecture for distributed databases were developed, which allowed the new database applications to perform networking and distributed data management.

 

  • The 1990s
    This time period is when the demand for DBMS increased to meet the capabilities of new applications. This resulted in features like spatial, temporal, and multimedia data, incorporating active and deductive capabilities.

Database Components

Database Components

Let us learn the database component in detail. The Database is divided into six major parts. They are:

Hardware

This contains a group of important ‘visible’ & ‘physical‘ components like computers and associated input-output devices, storage devices, and other structural elements. It is used for updating and accessing the database, providing an interface between the real world and the database. Also, this component can run on any system ranging from microcomputers to mainframe computers. Examples include computers, servers, and hard drives.

Software

Software is the main component of the database. It is a set of programs used to manage and control the database. It includes the software of the database, operating system, network software and the applications used to access the data from various devices. This component understands the accessing language of the database and then converts these languages to real database commands and further executes the database. It provides a user interface where the user can store, update, delete and make changes to the data present in the database.
Examples include MySQL, Oracle, SQL Server, dBase, and FileMaker.

Data

The most important part of the database is the data itself. The database can store any form of data, like structural data, non-structural data, and logical data. Structural data in the database are highly specific with a structured format. Whereas non-structural data contains various forms of data and is stored in a native format. 
In a database, the user-saved data is present, whereas the metadata is stored. The metadata is nothing but ‘data about the data’; it is stored by the database to understand the data stored in it easily.

Procedures

Procedures are general instructions and guidelines for the database. Setup, installation, login, logout, backups, reports, managing and modifying the database structure are some of the typical procedures used in the database. Procedures in the database are meant to guide the users in the operation and management of the database.

Database Access Language

The Database Access Language allows the users to write certain commands to perform operations on the data present in the database. Creation of new databases and tables, inserting, accessing, updating and deleting data in the tables are done with the help of database access language. With this language, the database translates the commands and processes them. It then generates the result in a readable format for the user. Database Access Language is comprised of two parts:

  • Data Definition Language (DDL) such as DESCRIBE, ALTER, COMMENT, SHOW, USE, CREATE and DROP.
     
  • Data manipulation language (DML) such as INSERT, LOCK, CALL, UPDATE, and DELETE.

People

Just as the data, the people are also considered to be an important part of the database. These people are the users accessing the database to perform various operations and tasks. The users can include software engineers, end-users, database administrators, end users etc., who design, develop, access and maintain the database.

What is a database management system (DBMS)?

Data is the foundation of any application, and databases are the typical way to store and manage data used by applications. A database management system (DBMS) is a software tool used to manage databases efficiently and allows users to access and interact with the data in the database. It lets the users operate on the data, which ranges from merely querying data to determining the database schemas that fundamentally influence the database structure. 

Database Management System

Typically a database performs the following actions:

  • Configuring authentication and authorization.
  • Providing data backups and snapshots.
  • Performance tuning.
  • Data recovery.

These actions are performed by several components of the DBMS, which are discussed further in the article
 

File management software systems or file tracking software, or file managers, is a DBMS that allows access to single files or tables at a time. Data is stored directly in a set of files which contains flat files having no relation to other files. Here the data is extracted and identified by splitting it into bits and then naming it. But, a file system does not have a crash recovery mechanism, and the data inconsistency is high.


The RDBMS or a relational database management system, is a software which is used to store, manage, query and retrieve data stored, providing an interface between users and applications and the database.SQL, My-SQL, ORACLE are all based on the principles of relational DBMS. In an RDBMS, the data is stored in tabular form and organised in rows and columns.

Difference between DBMS and RDBMS

 

DBMS

RDBMS

Definition

Database Management System.

Relational Database Management System.

Storage

Data in DBMS is stored as a file.

Data in RDBMS is stored as tables.

Access

Each data element is accessed individually.

Multiple data elements can be accessed at the same time.

Relationship

In DBMS, there is no relationship between data.

Data is present in multiple tables, which are related to each other.

Normalisation

Normalisation is not achieved.

Normalisation is achieved.

Distributed database

No support for distributed databases.

Distributed databases are supported.

Codd Rules

Not all Codd rules are satisfied.

The 12 Codd rules are satisfied.

Data Quantity

Deals with small quantities of data.

Deals with large quantities of data.

Redundancy

Data Redundancy is very common in DBMS.

Data Redundancy can be reduced using keys and indexes.

Fetching 

Data fetching is slower in DBMS.

Data fetching is fast because of the relational approach.

User

Only a single user is supported at a time.

Multiple users are supported at a time.

 

Security

DBMS provides low security during data manipulation.

RDBMS has multilayer security during data manipulation.

Necessities

Low software and hardware necessities.

High software and hardware necessities.

Example

File systems, XML, etc.

Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, Postgres etc.

Difference between a database and a spreadsheet

 

Database

Spreadsheet

What it is

A database is a system that stores data arranged in tables

A spreadsheet is a file that contains tabular data

Purpose

Stores large volumes of data

Used for different types of data manipulations such as reporting, analysis, etc.

Learning curve

Requires technological expertise

User friendly

Storage Capacity

Limited by the number of files with tabular data

Limited by the number of cells 

Query

Advanced querying and filtering

Limited querying and filtering options

Formatting

Data is stored, and output is in tabular format

Multiple formatting and data visualisation features are present in Spreadsheets

Budget

Expensive to set up and maintain

Free or low-budget solution

Target user

Organisations, departments and  companies with huge volumes of data

Accountants, marketers, teachers, small business owners, and students.

What is Database Server ?

The hardware that runs the database software is called a database server. It uses a database application that provides database services to other computers. The primary goal of a database server is to receive requests from client machines, search for the required data, and pass back the outcomes. These are used in organisations and companies to store, manage, retrieve, update or change files, information logs and other forms of data. Database servers are comprised of two main components, they are:

  • Front-end, from which the users can access the database from their computers or devices and
     
  • Back-end, which runs on the server and can be used for tasks like modifying, adding to or monitoring and also handles functions like data analysis, storage, etc.

Types of database servers

  • Operational database servers:  This type of database server operates simultaneously. This allows users to instantly update any data on the database server from any approved network device. An operational database server is best suited for companies where the Data and Information flow is between the employees.
     
  • Centralised database servers: This type of database server operates from one fixed location. A centralised database server is best suited for large companies that directly back up, store and control their data.
     
  • Distributed database servers: This type of database server spreads the data across multiple servers, which helps in accessing different digital information faster and makes it more reliable.
     
  • Cloud database servers: This type of database server connects the users to the database server via the internet. It serves the same functions as a standard database but with the added advantage of cloud computing.

Some examples of Database servers include MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, MS Access, SAP HANA, MariaDB, Oracle and MongoDB Atlas.

What is Database Software?

Database software is a specialized computer program designed to store, manage, and retrieve data efficiently. It serves as a digital repository where data is organized, allowing users to perform tasks like data entry, querying, and reporting. Database software comes in various types, including relational databases (like MySQL and Oracle), NoSQL databases (such as MongoDB and Cassandra), and more. It is a fundamental tool in today's technology landscape, used across industries for applications ranging from customer management to e-commerce.

What is a MySQL Database?

MySQL is a popular open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) known for its speed, reliability, and scalability. It's widely used for web applications and is an integral part of the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python) stack. MySQL stores data in tables with rows and columns, making it easy to organize and retrieve information. It's commonly employed for content management systems (CMS), e-commerce platforms, and various data-driven web applications due to its robust features and community support. MySQL databases are essential in handling large volumes of data efficiently and are a cornerstone of modern web development.

Database challenges

Here are some of the challenges faced by users operating on database servers.

Data safety

Data safety is a significant issue for database servers. Since multiple users can access the information, it becomes a liability to the company. Data breaches can also be a threat to a company's reputation and goodwill.

Mitigation

When it comes to scalability, most software or hardware has some or the other limitations. Hence, organizations and companies have to take up measures to overcome this problem and effectively scale.

Integration & Quality

Without the standardization of the data, the company or the organization may experience integration issues in the database. This limitation occurs when the data types and formats are not aligned across the database.

Data volumes

With the increasing amounts of data being collected and stored, organizations find it challenging to keep up.

Decentralized data management

Many challenges occur when designing and managing a distributed database.

Limitation of Database

  • Large memory and a high-speed processor are necessary for the DBMS software to run. All of this requires expensive hardware.
  • DBMS is complex to set up, configure and maintain for large and sophisticated systems.
  • DBMS gets slower as the number of users increases. 
  • DBMS has less security and may be vulnerable to unauthorised access and hacking.
  • Some DBMS are not able to support specific data or applications.

Advantages of Database

  • DBMS is capable of manipulating data very easily as the data is centralised. Hence data can be easily modified.
  • Multiple users can access the data at the same time.
  • Redundancy is lowered in DBMS. Redundancy leads to wastage of memory, but in DBMS, all files are integrated into a single file.
  • Data integrity makes it easy to decrease data duplicity in DBMS.
  • During an instance of data loss, DBMS has automatic backups.

Application of Database

  • Database has its applications in Banking to store the exchange data.
  • The world of social media has millions of accounts. This means there is a huge amount of data stored and maintained somewhere. This is where the database comes into play.
  • E-commerce Websites use databases to store information like customer details, product details, dealer details, purchase details, bank & card details, transaction details, invoice details, etc.
  • Any organisation with different levels of employees will have database systems to store large amounts of data like joining details, designation, salary details, tax information etc.
  • The telecommunication services ad industry also uses databases to store information such as data like customers, phone numbers, calling details, connection records, network usage, bill details, balance details, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is database and its types?

A database is a systematic collection of data which supports the electronic storage and manipulation of data. The purpose of a database is to operate on large amounts of data by storing, retrieving, and managing. 

What are the 4 types of database?

The four main types of databases are relational databases, NoSQL databases, column-family stores, and graph databases. Each type is designed for specific data storage and retrieval needs.

What are DBMS functions?

Database Management System (DBMS) functions encompass data storage, retrieval, organization, security, concurrency control, backup and recovery, and query optimization. DBMS serves as an intermediary between users and the database, facilitating data management and access.

Conclusion

A database is a crucial tool in the world of technology and data management. It is a structured repository for storing, organizing, and retrieving information efficiently, playing a fundamental role in various applications and industries.

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