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Database Fundamentals: Everything You Need to Know

Jul 11, 2023 | computer design programs, News

Are you interested in organizing information in databases and helping people and businesses share that information across networks? The functions of databases and networks are essential in today’s world, but the concepts can seem complex at first. For a breakdown of all the important terms and fundamental elements of databases and networks, keep reading.

What is Data?

First, to understand what exactly you’re working with in a database, you should refresh yourself on the definition of data. Data are pieces of information or facts related to whatever object is being considered. For example, data relating to a person could be their name, age, birth date, and more. Data can also be in the form of images and other files.

What is a Database?

In the simplest terms, a database is an organized collection of data or a collection of related tables. It’s meant to be easily accessed, updated, and managed. It can contain end-user data, raw facts of interest to the end user, and metadata, data that describes other data.

What is the Role of Databases in an Enterprise?

Businesses, colleges, and other enterprises typically make use of both internal and external databases. Internal databases can store organizational information that is used in accounting, sales, finance, and HR. There are also data warehouses, which store business intelligence information such as point-of-sale transactions, marketing automation, customer relationship management, and more. Data warehouses are used for reporting and analytics, often contain large amounts of historical data, and are not used as often in day-to-day business operations.

External databases are databases that exist outside of the organization, usually on the Internet, and are used for some business or organizational purpose. An example of an external database is the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) database.

Components of a Database

The five major components of a database are hardware, software, data, procedure, and database access language. The hardware is the computer or server, the software is the program you use to manage and control the data, and the data is raw facts and information that needs to be organized and processed. The procedure is the instructions in the software you are using, and they tell you things like how to set up and install the software, take backups of data, and generate reports. The database access language is the language used to write commands to access, update, and delete data. A common example is SQL or structured query language.

Databases contain tables, queries, reports, views, and other objects that help you pull relevant information from the data. Queries are questions you can ask about data, and a query language is a computer language that you use to ask the question, like SQL.

What is a Database Management System (DBMS)?

You’ll interact with a database using a computer software application called a database management system (DBMS) like Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, or Oracle. A DBMS allows you to manipulate, maintain, report, and relate data.

Other fundamentals of databases include relational databases, tables and data types, data selection and manipulation, views, stored procedures, functions, normalization, constraints, indexes, security, and backup and restore.

What Type of Information is Stored in a Database?

Operational databases store data inside of an enterprise. They are essential to data warehousing and business analytics operations, as they allow users to modify, retrieve and manage data in real time.

If you were building an eCommerce app, here is some of the data you might access and store in your operational database:

  • Customer data like usernames and email addresses
  • Business data like product prices and ratings
  • Relationship data

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Become a Certified Network and Database Professional with Erie Institute of Technology and Secure Your Path to Success.

Types of Database Structures

  1. Single-File or Flat-File Database
    A flat-file database stores data in one table in a plain text file. Each line of text usually holds one record, and commas or tabs separate fields. This simple structure cannot contain multiple tables and relations.
  2. Multi-File Relational or Structured Database
    Relational databases contain multiple tables of data with rows and columns that relate to each other through a unique key or field. These databases are more flexible and functional than flat-file databases for reading, creating, updating, and deleting data. They use SQL for database interaction.

Tables, or relations, and table records, or rows, can be connected in several ways:

    • One to One: One table record relates to another record in another table.
    • One to Many: One table record relates to many records in another table.
    • Many to One: More than one table record relates to another table record.
    • Many to Many: More than one table record relates to more than one record in another table.

Main Types of Databases

There are almost a dozen types of databases, but these are some of the most common types.

1. Relational Databases

Relational databases are the most commonly used type of database, and they exist on almost all types of computers, from personal computers to large servers. In relational databases, data is stored in one or more tables (or “relations”) of columns and rows, with a unique key, or field, identifying each row. The relational data model introduced high-level query languages, like SQL, and made it faster to write new queries.

2. Non-Relational Databases or NoSQL

NoSQL databases are any type of database that doesn’t use a relational model. They have become a popular alternative to traditional SQL databases because of today’s increasingly complex modern web applications. NoSQL databases don’t use the rows and columns table structure and allow you to store and manipulate large amounts of unstructured and semi-structured data. There are four types: document databases, key-value stores, column-oriented databases, and graph databases. Examples include MongoDB and Redis.

1. Document Databases

These databases store data in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), BSON (binary-encoded JSON), or XML (Extensible Markup Language) documents, and they make it easier to use and access your documents across different applications such as eCommerce platforms, trading platforms, and mobile app development. In traditional SQL databases, data must often be assembled and disassembled when moving between applications. Document databases are popular with developers because document structures can be reworked to suit whatever application they’re using. This speeds development, as SQL databases sometimes require intervention by database administrators to change the structure of a database.

2. Key-Value Stores

Key-value stores are the simplest type of NoSQL database. Every element is stored as a pair consisting of an attribute name or key and a value. The structure is similar to a relational database, but there are two columns instead of rows and columns. Key-value stores can be used to store information about shopping carts, user preferences, and user profiles.

3. Column-Oriented Databases

Column-oriented databases are organized as a set of columns, as opposed to relational databases, which read data row by row. This type of database is good for running analytics because columns are of the same type, allowing you to read data faster, and the database can aggregate the value of a given column.

4. Graph Databases

Graph databases focus on the relationship between different data elements. Each element is a node, and the connections between elements are links or relationships. These databases are optimized to capture and search the connections between elements. They can store data in a structured document, similar to JSON, in key-value format, or as nodes to represent objects and edges to describe the relationship between them. Uses for graph databases include fraud detection and social networks.

3. Hierarchical Databases

Hierarchical databases look similar to family trees. The “parent” object has one or more objects beneath it, and no child can have more than one parent. This makes it efficient for accessing and querying data, but it is also confined to specific uses. Because users must pass a level of hierarchy to access data, it is mainly relevant when collecting information about concrete hierarchies like certain departments, employees, or company assets that are all associated with specific higher-level data elements.

4. Network Databases

In network databases, multiple records or files can be linked to multiple owner files and vice versa. Each record can have multiple “parent” and multiple “child” records, and the database will look like a web of networked records. Network databases allow for more natural modeling of the relationships between records, as opposed to the hierarchical model.

5. Object-Oriented Databases

An object-oriented database has a model where information is represented by defined objects. “Objects” are the ability to create a product, define and name it, and then reference it later as a unit, without having to go into its complexities. Objects in object-oriented programming are very similar.

Become a Network and Database Professional at EIT

Databases are used in countless industries, including banking, air travel, higher education, sales, and manufacturing. If you are interested in joining the rapidly growing sector of networking and infrastructure management in IT, Erie Institute of Technology offers a Network and Database Professional Program.

The 21-month associate in specialized technology degree will prepare you to deploy networks, ensure their reliability and connectivity, and manage data backup, security, performance, and reports.

Apply online today or visit our website for more information regarding our programs.


Ross Aresco


Ross Aresco is the CFO of Erie Institute of Technology. Erie Institute of Technology (EIT) is an Erie Pennsylvania technical/trade school providing training programs for medical, computer, electronics, manufacturing, and technology careers. EIT offers programs in many different areas to suit your interests and talents.

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