What is a Distributed Database? - Architecture, Principles & Advantages

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  • 0:06 Databases in Organizations
  • 2:38 Distributed Databases
  • 5:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Zandbergen

Paul has a PhD from the University of British Columbia and has taught Geographic Information Systems, statistics and computer programming for 15 years.

As databases get larger, it often becomes more efficient to keep them in more than one location. Learn about the use of distributed databases by multiple users at different computer network sites.

Databases in Organizations

Organizations use large amounts of data. The most common data types are text and numbers, but data can also include images, photographs, sound, video and other mediums. Data is organized in a database. A database management system, or DBMS, is a software tool that makes it possible to organize data in a database.

A database consists of one or more files that need to be stored on a computer. In large organizations, databases are typically not stored on the individual computers of employees but in a central system. This central system usually consists of one or more computer servers. A server is a computer system that provides a service over a network. One of these services is data storage.

In a typical setting, the database files reside on the server, but they can be accessed from many different computers in the organization. One of the advantages of using a database management system is that multiple users can use the same database at the same time. The server is often located in a room with controlled access, so only authorized personnel can get physical access to the server.

Consider for a moment how this is different from using a regular document stored on your hard drive. If you open a word processing or spreadsheet document on your computer, you are the only user. If you want to share this document with a colleague, you could email it to them so that they can save it on their hard drive. However, this creates a copy, and now there are two versions of the same file. Both you and your colleague can work with the data, but what happens if you both start making changes? You can see how this is going to get confusing.

As the number and complexity of databases grow, we start referring to it as a data warehouse. A data warehouse is a collection of databases that work together. A data warehouse provides an architecture and tools to systematically organize and understand data from multiple databases. This can give new insights into the data.

Distributed Databases

As databases get larger, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the entire database in a single physical location. Not only does storage capacity become an issue, there are also security and performance considerations.

Consider a company with several offices around the world. It is possible to create one large, single database at the main office and have all the other offices connect to this database. However, every single time an employee needs to work with the database, this employee needs to create a connection over thousands of miles, through numerous network nodes. As long as you are moving relatively small amounts of data around, this does not represent a major challenge. But what if the database is huge? It is not very efficient to move around large amounts of data back and forth over the network.

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