By Robbert van Os
Posted on 2023-02-04T00:00:00.000Z

Database explained for dummies

Unlocking the power of data for your business involves understanding databases. But technical jargon and terminology can make it seem intimidating.

Databases are an integral part of the modern world and understanding them is key to unlocking the power of data for your business. But for many people, databases can seem like an intimidating topic, with lots of confusing jargon and technical terminology. Let's clear up some of that confusion by breaking down databases in a way that's easy to understand even for beginners. We'll explore what a database is, how it works, and why they're so important - all without any technical language or jargon. So whether you're new to databases or just need a refresher, this post will help you get up to speed on the basics.

What is a database?

A database is a collection of data that can be accessed by computers. The data is organized into tables, and the tables are linked together by relationships. Databases can be used to store information about anything, such as customer records, product inventories, or financial transactions.

Databases are usually managed using database management system (DBMS) software. This software provides a way to enter and update data in the database, as well as to query the data. Most DBMS software also provide a way to create reports based on the data in the database.

Why do we need databases?

We live in a world where we are constantly creating and storing data. From the moment we wake up and check our phones, to the moment we go to bed and set our alarms, we are creating data. Even when we're not actively using our devices, they are still collecting data about us. All of this data needs to be stored somewhere, and that's where databases come in.

Databases provide a way for us to store all of this data in a organized and accessible way. Without databases, our data would be scattered across multiple different locations, making it difficult to find and use when we need it. Databases give us the ability to quickly search through large amounts of data to find the specific information we are looking for.

There are many different types of databases, each designed for different purposes. Some common examples include relational databases (like MySQL or Oracle), NoSQL databases (like MongoDB or Cassandra), and graph databases (like Neo4j or Titan). Each type of database has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it's important to choose the right one for your needs.

No matter what type of database you use, they all serve the same purpose: to help us store and manage our ever-growing amount of data.

How do databases work?

Databases store data that can be accessed by computers. The data is organized into tables, and the tables are connected by relationships. Tables are similar to folders in a file system, and relationships are similar to links between files.

Databases use a variety of algorithms to optimize performance and ensure data integrity. For example, when you search for a record in a database, the database uses an index to quickly find the record. An index is like a table of contents for a book; it contains pointers to the locations of records that match your search criteria.

The different types of databases

There are four different types of databases that are commonly used: relational, object-oriented, graph, and NoSQL. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to choose the right type for your needs.

  • Relational databases are the most common type of database. They store data in tables, which are like folders in a file system. Tables are connected by relationships, which are like links between files. Relationships can be one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many. Relational databases are easy to understand and use, and they’re very efficient at storing and querying data.

  • Object-oriented databases store data in objects, which are like pieces of information with their own attributes and methods. Objects can be connected to other objects by relationships. Object-oriented databases are more flexible than relational databases, but they’re also more complex and harder to use.

  • Graph databases store data in graph structures, which are like networks of interconnected nodes and edges. Graph databases are good at representing complex relationships between data points, but they can be difficult to query and update.

  • NoSQL databases don’t have a fixed schema like relational or object-oriented databases. This means they can be more flexible and easier to scale, but they’re also less organized and harder to query.

What common mistakes less experienced developers make on using a database?

  • Not organizing data in a clean and efficient way: This can result in a lot of duplicated information and make it difficult to keep track of what's accurate.

  • Not using the right tools to search for information: This can make it slow to find what you're looking for in the database.

  • Not being careful about who has access to the information: Neglecting security can expose sensitive information to people who shouldn't have it.

  • Making too many requests to the database at once: This can slow down the system and cause it to crash or lose data.

  • Not checking the database thoroughly before using it: This can cause problems and unexpected results because of bugs or mistakes in the code.

  • Writing code that is difficult to change: Hardcoding values can make it challenging to update the database in the future.

  • Not planning for the database to grow: As the amount of data in the database increases, it can become slower and less efficient if not properly managed.

  • Not using proper tools to manage the flow of information: This can cause problems with the accuracy and consistency of the information in the database.

  • Not making backups: Backing up the information in the database is important in case something unexpected happens and the data is lost.


We hope this article has provided a basic understanding of what databases are and how to use them. Databases can be daunting for people who don't understand the technical aspects, but with our simple explanation you should now have a better idea of how they work and why they are so important. If you want to learn more about creating or using databases, feel free to research the topic further and gain more knowledge on the subject.