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Database General Information

What is a database? A database is a container of related data, usually identified by data stored in tabular, row-column format. This differs from a datastore in that a datastore usually refers to a single object. A datastore could be a PDF (Adobe Acrobat format) document, a word processing document, a picture, or some other format or document.

The most common format for databases is now SQL or Structured Query Language. This is an international standard, although there is no formal certification process to determine compliance with the published standard.

SQL is really a set of three languages for databases rolled up into one. It is split into three parts: Data Manipulation Language (DML), Data Definition Language (DDL) and Data Security Language (DSL). Primarily when people talk about SQL they are referring to DML, since once the database is set up the only thing that is performed is the manipulation of the data in the database.

So you as a reader go, "So What?" I'm not really into computers, and I don't want to really learn something as 'geeky' as databases. Besides, I don't use one and have no intention of using one." While that is true, your data is stored in a database of some kind. You r state government stores Drivers License information in a database. Your bank uses many databases to keep track of the balances on your credit cards and other bank accounts. Companies you deal with use databases to track money owed by clients. The Federal Government uses hundreds of databases to track taxes, benefits, and a myriad of other pieces of data to make governing easier. So databases exist all around you, even if you don't use one yourself.

So what is a database? I've seen many definitions over the years. But one of the best I've seen described it as a container that stores data in a regular format, usually graphically depicted as rows of related data in columns that hold the same type of information.

One of the common ways to manipulate data or manage databases is through stored procedures. These are bits of SQL that are pre-compiled (NOTE: While SQL is not normally compiled into machine language, this "compilation" is used to optimize the SQL so it is more efficient and doesn't have to be evaluated when it is executed, speeding up execution.) for more efficient use.