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Database Examples, Schema & Types

Jennifer Carnevale, Szymon Machajewski, Christianlly Cena
  • Author
    Jennifer Carnevale

    Jennifer taught 9th grade ELA and AP Literature for over 8 years. She has a dual master's in English Literature and Teaching Secondary Ed from Simmons University and a BS in Psychology. She is also a contracted freelance writer and certified AP Test Reader.

  • Instructor
    Szymon Machajewski

    Szymon has a PhD in Education, an MS in Information Management and a BS in Computer Science. He has taught Computer Science at a number of Higher Education institutions.

  • Expert Contributor
    Christianlly Cena

    Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

What are databases? Learn about the different types of databases and what database management systems are. Also learn about database software and challenges. Updated: 04/15/2021

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What is a Database?

To answer the question what is a database, it's important to understand the concept of data. Data are units of information, such as facts and statistics, that when analyzed in digital form, can provide insight for business purposes and scientific discovery. Therefore, a database is a computer structure that saves, organizes, protects, and delivers data.

Essentially, a database is an online container that houses data, just as a library houses books. Databases are commonly represented by a cylindrical diagram and are comprised of database schema which are objects such as tables and columns.

What is Structured Query Language (SQL)?

Structured query language, or SQL, is a programming language that is used in database management systems to edit, remove, and request information. SQL turns large amounts of data into usable information by inquiring, manipulating, and organizing the data sets and has become the standard for programming data management systems due to its easy user accessibility and efficiency.

Evolution of a Database

While the computers and database systems used today are highly advanced, database systems started on paper when people would write down important information and store it in hand-written columns and tables. As technology advanced, so did the concept of a database.

A punch card programmed with Fortran

 Punch card photo

In the 18th century, punch cards were developed to originally help program machines. These physical pieces of paper held data according to holes placed on the card. Data was stored in specific patterns on the cards and presented information based on the presence or absence of a punch hole. IBM took this basic system and doubled the amount of data a card could hold. This technological advancement led the way for companies like UNIVAC to completely transfer data to computers and away from punch cards.

In the 21st century, almost all computer systems are beyond punch card technology, but punch cards are still used in events like political voting.

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  • 0:01 Defining Databases
  • 0:39 Types of Databases
  • 4:00 Databases Categorized…
  • 5:55 Example: Text Database
  • 6:49 Lesson Summary
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Database Management and Types of Database Management

A database management system, or DBMS, is a system that contains databases. This system allows a user to store, organize, and retrieve information from a computer. Some of these systems are designed as single-user systems and include:

  • Text databases - the simplest type of database where data is organized in a text file by rows and columns and includes lists such as names, important dates, locations, etc.
  • Desktop database programs - provide a container to house information and are more complex as they can manipulate data on a quicker and larger scale.

While most computer users are familiar with single-user systems, there are more complex databases that allow for multiple users and advanced security. See the list below for more types of database examples.

Relational Databases

Relational Database Management Systems, or RDBMS, are the most common database management systems and are characterized by the following:

  • Multiple users can work on the same data at the same time
  • Little to no system performance issues
  • Advanced security for sensitive data to be stored safely
  • Puts data into columns and rows which create tables through a process called normalization

Normalization organizes data by breaking it up into the smallest possible parts. For example, instead of putting someone's full name in one cell, normalization asks you to separate the name by first and last which will allow a user to sort and search that data in smaller sections.

Object-Oriented Databases

Object-oriented databases are the most innovative structures for storing data as they do not follow the table/row/column approach. Essentially, object-oriented databases build bookshelves of elements where a user can access the data on each shelf. The system will scan the bookshelves and search for specific books to find the data a user is seeking.

SQL Databases

SQL databases, such as NoSQL, work in the same way as object-oriented databases in that they do not follow the table/row/column approach. However, SQLs specifically store data in a denormalized way which means they store and group data in large chunks and point a user in the direction of the needed data. This type of data processing allows a user to access large quantities of data at a time.

Network Databases

A network database is where multiple pieces of data can connect to a single record and those overarching records, or parent records, can connect to other records. Think of this type of system like a tree with multiple branches or a spider's web with multiple intersectional points. With a network database, you can connect data through multiple relationships which means a user can access and organize the data in multiple ways.

Graph Databases

A graph database, sometimes known as a graph-oriented database, is used for large sets of distributed data and is typically used to analyze relationships between data sets. It's considered a non-relational database because it uses graphs instead of tables.

Visual representation of a graph database with nodes and edges

graph database with nodes and edges

The graph database uses nodes and edges to store and organize data. Nodes are used to represent entities such as people, and edges are used to build the connections between the nodes.

Diagrams: How Different Databases Connect

While each database is different, a programmer can use UML (Unified Modeling Language) to connect databases and allow databases to speak to each other. This process synchronizes the information within different databases and analyzes relational data relevant to the project in question. In turn, the software will create diagrams to help a user better understand and analyze data sets.

What Are Databases Used For?

It's clear databases are used in business, but what are databases used for in everyday life? Since databases house information in various ways and can be used to edit, store, and organize any data a user wishes to collect, it seems programmers aren't the only people using databases on a daily basis. See the list below for common/everyday database uses.

  • Medical Records
  • Online Television Streaming
  • Social Media
  • Finances
  • Online Shopping Platforms
  • Photo/Document Storage
  • Gaming

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Additional Activities

Modified True or False Exercise on Databases


Exercise

Check your knowledge of the lesson on the examples and types of databases by determining whether the following statements are true or false. For this activity, print or copy this page on a piece of paper. Write TRUE if the statement is valid and FALSE if otherwise on the blank space provided. If the statement is FALSE, write down the word or phrase that makes it wrong.

_____ 1. Desktop database programs are the most innovative structures for storing data as of today.

_____ 2. Normalization is the process of organizing data in a database by breaking up data into its smallest possible parts.

_____ 3. A library is an organized container of data, generally stored and accessed electronically from a computer system.

_____ 4. Text databases are intended for a single user and provides the ability to store large amounts of data while keeping manageable system performance.

_____ 5. A number of schemas create a database and multiple databases can be created on a single server.

_____ 6. A database is typically represented by a cylindrical diagram.

_____ 7. An operational database provides support for transaction processing especially in managing, changing and storing data in real time.

_____ 8. Warehouse databases are designed for query and analysis of business performance and long-term changes.

_____ 9. NoSQL specifically attempts to simplify bookshelves by storing data in a normalized way.

_____ 10. Object-oriented databases are the most common database systems.


Answer Key

For False answers, the correct word or phrase is written in italic right next to the incorrect word for comparison.

1. FALSE, Desktop database programs, NoSQL and object-oriented databases

2. TRUE

3. FALSE, library, Databases

4. FALSE, Text databases, Desktop database programs

5. TRUE

6. TRUE

7. TRUE

8.TRUE

9. FALSE, normalized, denormalized

10. FALSE, Object-oriented databases, Relational databases

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