3aIT Blog

In this month's jargon busting blog, we will explain exactly what a database is.

A basic description of a database is system that stores information in such a way that it can be retrieved again in the future.

Most people interact with many databases every day of their lives. This can be in very obvious ways, such as grabbing information in a report at work. However, most of these interactions occur in more subtle ways. Now that tax discs are a thing of the past, your registration plate is constantly being checked against a database to ensure that you've paid your road tax. Your store loyalty card links you to a vast amount of information stored about you in a database. These very words on this website have been pulled out of a database so that you can read them!

A table in a database consists of 3 basic parts.

  1. Column titles - These explain the context of the data in that column
  2. Records - This is a row of infomation that contains all the data about a single entry in the database - across all the columns
  3. Fields - A field is a single data point in the database.

These basic elements (coupled with the ability to link these tables together - a "relational" database) are what powers the smallest to the largest databases.

There are various different types of database. This website (and many others) is powered with a database called MySQL. There's many others, such as Oracle and MSSQL. However, these variations are more about the methods used to get the information out of the database. If you were to look directly at the data in the database in any of these cases, it would look fairly similar.

Once you have all your data stored in this manner, it is then possible to find all sorts of useful ways to present it - be that in plain text reports, charts + graphs, or various other interactive methods. However, no matter how fancy the presentation, the system behind it is always just the same combination of columns and fields.