Databases are systems used for the storage, maintenance and retrieval of data.
In the modern ‘internet age’, databases are used widely to power ‘dynamic websites’, meaning prices, product details, mailing lists and other large groups of data can be easily updated and searched.
Website content management and customer relationship managements (CRM) systems use databases to improve services and marketing.
As well as commerce and service provision businesses, databases are also frequently used in other industries such as manufacturing, to facilitate logistics, inventory, distribution and invoicing. These are called enterprise resource planning databases.
For example, a large e-commerce website that sells a range of products will probably use:
- A dynamic website powered by a relational database that contains prices, product details and specification, reviews, etc. Data can be filtered and retrieved easily using queries that can be built-in to the website’s User Interface (UI).
- A website content management system which uses a simplified database interface so data can also be updated and changed easily by a site administrator without much technical knowledge.
- A customer relationship management system that tracks metrics such as number of visitors, time spent on site, purchases made, etc. This data can be retrieved and reported to provide insights for the business owners on how effective sales and marketing efforts are, for instance.
Hierarchical databases are designed using a ‘tree structure’, that has groups of parent/child relationships. They are fast to create and easy to use, but limited and inflexible as they contain lots of one-to-many relationships.
Relational databases consist of a set of related tables. They are flexible as they can be rearranged in various ways without having to reorganise the tables. They are fairly easy to create, maintain and make data retrieval simple.
Object-oriented databases use object-oriented programming languages. Each object belongs to a class. These types of database are limited as they don’t all support Structured Query Language (SQL), thus making data retrieval difficult.