What is a database



A database collects structured information or data, usually electronically stored on a computer. A database is typically managed by a database management system (DBMS). The data, the DBMS and the associated applications are referred to as a database system or simply a database. 

In most types of databases used today, data is usually organised into rows and columns in a series of tables to facilitate efficient data processing and retrieval. The data can then be easily accessed, managed, modified, updated, checked and organised. Most databases use Structured Query Language (SQL) for writing and querying data.

Why do we use databases?

Databases are essential for storing, processing, and modifying data, and businesses rely on data to make informed decisions. Here are some examples of how companies and industries use databases:

Improving business processes

Businesses collect data on their processes, such as sales, order processing, and customer service, which can be analysed to identify areas for improvement and take action. Businesses can use databases to store this information to track their performance and make data-driven decisions to optimise their operations.

Tracking customers

Data on individuals, such as customers or users, is often stored in databases. Social media platforms, for example, use databases to store user information such as names, email addresses, and user behaviour. This data is used to recommend content to users and improve the user experience. By tracking customer behaviour, businesses can tailor their marketing efforts to reach their target audience better.

Securing personal health information (in healthcare)

In healthcare, databases are used to securely store personal health data, such as medical histories, test results, and treatment plans, to help better understand patients. This information is kept confidential and is accessible only to authorised healthcare professionals.

Storing personal data

Personal information is also stored in databases, such as private cloud storage for individual users to store photos in a managed cloud. This allows individuals to access their data anywhere without needing physical storage devices.

Types of databases

There are various databases; the best one for an organisation depends on how they want to use the data. Here are the most used databases:

Relational databases

In the 1980s, relational databases emerged as the dominant database technology. This type of database organises data into tables that have columns and rows. Relational databases offer an efficient and flexible way to access structured information.

Object-oriented databases

Data in an object-oriented database is represented in the form of objects, similar to object-oriented programming.

Distributed databases

A distributed database consists of two or more files located in different locations. The database can be stored on multiple computers, in the exact physical location, or spread across other networks.

Data warehouses

A data warehouse is a central repository for data, a type of database designed explicitly for fast querying and analysis. 

NoSQL databases

With a NoSQL, or non-relational database, unstructured and semi-structured data can be stored and manipulated (as opposed to a relational database, which dictates how all data entered into the database should be composed). NoSQL databases became popular as web applications became more common and complex.

Graph databases

A graph database stores data as entities and the relationships between entities. 

OLTP databases (Online Transaction Processing)

An OLTP database is a fast, analytical database designed for large numbers of transactions by multiple users.

These are just a few of the dozens of types of databases in use today. Other less common databases are custom-made for particular scientific, financial or other functions.

In addition to the different types of databases, changes in the approach to technological development and tremendous advances, such as the cloud and automation, are causing databases to take entirely new directions. Some of the latest databases are listed below.

Open-source database

An open-source database system is a system whose source code is open-source Such databases can be SQL or NoSQL databases.

Cloud databases

A cloud database is a collection of data which can be structured or unstructured. The data can be found on a private, public, or hybrid cloud computing platform. There are two cloud database models: traditional and database as a Service (DBaaS). With DBaaS, administrative tasks and maintenance are performed by a service provider.

Multi-model database

Multi-model databases combine different types of database models into one integrated backend. This means they are suitable for different kinds of data.

Document/JSON database

Document databases are designed to store, retrieve and manage document-oriented information and are a modern way to store data in JSON format instead of rows and columns.

Self-driving databases

The newest and most innovative type of database is a self-driving database (also known as an autonomous database. These are cloud-based and use machine learning to automate database security, backups, updates, and other routine tasks. 

How is a database structured?

Despite the differences between different types of databases, they all consist of the same five essential components:

Database management system (DBMS)

A DBMS is an interface between the database and end users or programs. It enables users to retrieve, update, and manage information. A DBMS also facilitates the monitoring and control of databases, allowing a few administrative tasks such as performance monitoring, backup and recovery.

Challenges for databases

Setting up, using, and maintaining a database presents a few common challenges, such as the following:

Coping with extreme amounts of data in a short period

The massive increase in data from sensors connected to machines and dozens of other devices keeps database administrators busy managing and organising their company's data efficiently.


Data is leaked everywhere these days, and hackers are getting smarter. It is more important than ever to ensure that data is secure and easily accessible to users.

Keeping up with the demand

In today's fast-paced business environment, companies need real-time access to their data to support timely decision-making and seize new opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions
What is a database and how does it work?

A database is a collection of structured data that is organised in a way that allows for easy retrieval and manipulation of the data. It works by using software to store and organise the data in a structured format that can be easily accessed, queried, and modified.

What are the different types of databases?

There are several types of databases, including relational databases, NoSQL databases, object-oriented databases, and graph databases. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the choice of database type depends on the specific needs of the project.

What is a relational database?

A relational database is a type of database that stores data in tables with columns and rows. The tables are related to each other through a common field, which allows for efficient querying and manipulation of the data.

What is SQL?

SQL (Structured Query Language) is a programming language used to manage and manipulate relational databases. It is used to perform tasks such as querying, inserting, updating, and deleting data from a database.

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