A Guide To Relational Databases

The modern world runs on relational databases.


Today, we?ve thrown away all the manila folders and three-ring binders that once stored and organized information. Digital tools and database systems like Microsoft Excel, QuickBooks, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems store information.


We?ve come to rely on computers to store data, but in the past, they were a little better than a piece of paper and a pencil. Modern computers, however, are much more efficient. We can type a query, swipe on a screen, or use a menu and instantly access information from almost anywhere in the world. In just a few brief moments, the data we need is at our fingertips. Near real-time access to facts and figures is not only possible but easy.


If you think about it, with the world wide web and instant access to information, we carry the sum of human knowledge in our pocket. We have relational databases to thank for that.


Let?s take a closer look at relational databases and where they came from. We?ll dive into how they work and what the future might hold for our data.

A History of the Relational Database

a lady looking through the relational database of a library

Image Source: Pixabay

For many of us, the database is the dull, boring center of the computer revolution that transformed our world.


But the digital revolution we are living today really started with data. As humans began accumulating and using data, we needed a better way of storing and accessing information.


Using data has really been the spark that ignited past revolutions in human knowledge. Whenever humans are faced with too much information, we?ve found a better way to organize it ? a data revolution. Written language, the printing press, and even newsprint are all leaps in technology that helped us better organize data. Punch cards and filing systems like the Dewey Decimal System are all database methodologies for connecting us to information.


That?s how the relational database helped unlock the digital revolution.

Flat Files and Early Computers

Relational Databases and the Beginning of SQL

What Is a Relational Database?

graphics showing how relational databases work

Image Source: Pixabay

Rather than use flat text files to collect and organize information, a relational dat​​abase (RDB) stores data sets in tables, rows, and columns. This organization creates a defined relationship between the data in a row, a record, and a table.

Using Edgar Codd?s ideas, the RDB and SQL map the data in the tables, making it easy to organize, search, identify, and report on the data. You can quickly find specific information. Here?s how it works.

Building a Table in a Relational Database

Keys in a Relational Database

Other Methods of Organizing Data in Relational Databases

A Final Word on the Relational Database

Image Source: Pix​​abay

With the rise of Big ​​Data and the Internet of Things (IoT), we?re on the edge of another data revolution.


Already, data scientists are looking at ways to better organize and use data, and that starts with the relational database. Even with faster processors and better storage, we need to more efficiently organize and access information.


Data experts have begun examining non-relational databases, also known as NoSQL, to meet a growing need in modern software applications. Many applications today, especially in the IoT field and in modern software development, generate massive amounts of unformatted and rapidly shifting data. Relational databases aren?t suited to managing data like this.


NoSQL database types include document store databases that link complex data to an object with key-value pairs known as a document to organize the data, rather than a table. Graph databases organize data as a network of objects to simplify data visualizations and analytics.


It?s an exciting time in data management, as Big Data is changing our world. In fact, an estimated two-and-a-half quintillion bytes of data are generated across the world every day. Technology like the relational database, and the new NoSQL database technologies, are unlocking the potential in the data and having a positive impact on our lives every day.

 

Featured Image Source: Pixabay

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