DATABASE: WORD OF THE WEEK

Database.  No matter what anyone tells you, a spreadsheet is not a database.  Like a replicant in Blade Runner, they may look the same – but they are not.

Databases are repositories to hold data in a structured format, and yes, so are spreadsheets.  However, a spreadsheet is not a database.  A database has powerful relationships that help keep your data intact, safe and accessible through time and trouble.

There are two major types of databases in the world today: relational and object databases.

Relational databases store your data in a very similar format as a spreadsheet, in rows and columns, but that’s where the similarity ends.  Databases have many tables and each table is meant to represent a piece of data in your business.  The tables are connected together by rules. The rules are a sort of protection called Referential Integrity (RI).  RI keeps your data safe by making sure a related record in one table has an associated record in another.  It can also update and delete records automatically if a row in one table is associated with a row in another.  Relational databases are constructed using a method called the Normal Forms.  There are three popular Normal Forms, and then a bunch that are used sparingly in specific instances.

Object databases store information as a “document” or a hierarchal object.  Object databases have been around for a while, but have just recently started gaining momentum.  In an object database each entity is held as a separate object and its separate associated properties.

Bottom line, databases are the right way to store data. So the next time a co-worker tries to get you to store your data in a spreadsheet tell them, “Hey, we should talk to a database guru and learn the right way to do this."

Trust me. It’ll save you trouble and headaches in the future.

Tags: wow, matt, development

2 Comments

  • MIKE BRANSKI -

    I spent the better part of summer converting multi-sheet Excel "applications" into full-fledge, proper web apps. I never want to have to scour hidden fields for cryptic, cross-sheet formulas ever again.

  • SUSAN -

    It's amazing how often I pine for a proper database.

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