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Databases 101

March 12th, 2013

With the constant development of database technology, it is important to understand the logic and language of these advancements.  Many experts agree that database development could be one of the most advancing areas of business technologies today.  In the simplest form, a database is the storage of data.  Database software is what drives the technology by computing data.  Whether it is a webpage, a car, or even a sprinkler system, if it has an electronic interface the technology involved is based from computing data.  Understanding database technology and terminology can help you to take advantage of these emerging areas.  You will be able to communicate more effectively and make the most of database technologies.

There is a variety of database software such as FileMaker, Microsoft Access, or in its simplest form Microsoft excel.  A database is created from a list of Fields (columns), Records (rows), and Tables (worksheets) which make up a single file.  A field is a single piece of information; a record is one complete set of fields; and a file is a collection of records.  Database technology is really that simple, three main components.  Yet the logic used to access and perform activities with this data is what makes it complex.

Components of a Database Defined:

Database Software – A programmable tool designed to store, access, and sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations

Database – A collection of data organized for rapid search, retrieval, and updating

Database File – A block of information related to computer storage

Database Table – A set of data elements that is organized by using a vertical column and horizontal row model.  This model uses columns as field names such as name in column 1 and phone number in column 2; it uses rows to track records such as John Smith in Row 1 and Mary Smith in Row 2.

Database Language – SQL (Structured Query Language) – Based on Calculus and Algebraic logic provides a common database language to today’s data management tools

Relational Database – The use of common characteristics or objects found in multiple data sets to link them together, based on mathematical terms attributed to Edward Cob at IBM in 1970 for example variable x in table one = variable x in table two.

Syntax – Common forms, behaviors, and principles for constructing universally used computer language systems

Open Source – Public or free computer code which can be further developed by any end user (similar to Wikipedia)

Data Redundancy – Repeating or duplication of data or fields in multiple locations (tables)

Data Normalization – The process of organizing data into small groups or modules with well defined common relationships eliminating anomalies and potential corruption

If you’re confused, don’t worry that was a crash course.  Hopefully you gathered that a good majority of our database technology is built on old fashioned arithmetic.  However much like calculus and algebra not everyone understands theories, formulas, and logic the same.  With many databases this can be the difference between an effective use of technology and a misunderstood tool.  A database is only as effective as the architect and developer who design it.  Having the end user and daily work flow in mind will help translate advanced logic into simple terms.  In addition, creating an intuitive interface which the user has a good experience viewing, searching for, and updating data is crucial in utilizing a database and its successful implementation.

Using a database with your business could be mission critical to its success, regardless of the industry, company size or internal growth cycle.  Each department has valuable data it works with and without a centralized source for it to be tracked it will get lost, forgotten, or never passed as a shared resource. A database will provide accountability and a quantifiable way to review results.  Many databases are advanced enough to automate simple tasks like sending emails or alerting customers on account related activities.  It is also worth mentioning that a database will provide an insurance policy in the form of backing up and securing your information as well.  A good database will improve overall efficiency, individual operations, and offer reliable accurate information for strategic decision making.

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