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Why Are Databases at All Useful?

by Rosina S Khan

posted in Computers and Technology

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Nowadays there is a growing need to organize, store and retrieve information of any organization fast and conveniently. Lots of paper files need manual work for updates and to throw away paper clutter, retaining the important ones. All of this can be done smoothly and speedily by making the information computerized via databases. That is where the usefulness of databases comes in. In order to know more, please read on.
Before the advent of databases, organizations stored information using a typical file-processing system. In this system, permanent records were stored in various files, and different application programs were written in order to extract records or add records to the appropriate file systems.
Databases are a collection of interrelated data in the form of software. They have a number of advantages over file-processing systems. These are outlined as follows:
  • Getting Rid of Data Duplicity: Different programmers may write the files and application programs over a passage of time. As a result files may have different structures and the programs may be written in several programming languages. Also the same information may appear in different files. Data inconsistency results when the same information is updated in one place but not in another place in addition to higher storage and access cost. Databases have the upper hand in this respect.

  • Accessing Data Easily: Data retrieval may be problematic in case of file-processing systems. They need to have new application programs written as the need or demand arises or it has to be done manually as per condition, both of which are unsatisfactory. But with databases, everything is automated and data access and retrieval are easy, reliable and convenient.

  • Integrity Constraint Advantage: The data values stored in the database must satisfy certain conditions called integrity or consistency constraints. For example, in case of file-processing systems, let us assume the bank balance of a customer must never fall below USD $500. Developers impose these constraints by writing appropriate code in the various application programs. To enforce a new constraint such as, the bank balance of customers should not exceed 100 million dollars, it becomes difficult for the developer to enforce the new constraint and change the programs. However, databases have this kind of integrity constraint advantage.

  • Atomicity Advantage: Atomic transactions mean they either occur completely or none at all. For example, consider a program to transfer USD $500 from Account A to Account B. If system failure occurs during the transaction, it is possible USD$500 was debited from Account A but not credited to Account B, resulting in an inconsistent database state. It is important that to maintain database consistency, either both the debit and credit occur, or that neither occurs. It is difficult to ensure atomicity in conventional file processing systems but not in databases.

  • Solution of Security Problems: Every user of the database system should not be able to access all the data. For example, in a banking system, payroll personnel needs to see only that part of the database that has information about the various bank employees. They do not need to access information about customer accounts. As another example, bank tellers see only that part of the database that has information on customer accounts. They cannot access information about salaries of bank employees. Enforcing such security constraints on a file-processing system is difficult because application programs are added to the system in an ad hoc manner but databases have the upper advantage in this respect.

So, I guess you get the idea why every organization including banks, hospitals, universities, post offices, airline ticket agencies or even a fast food restaurant are all computerizing their data from manual paper clutter to partially computerized model or from a partial model to a fully computerized model via databases. The advantages I have shown you are great but it also requires routine maintenance, updates and recovery on the part of database administrators who play very important roles in the whole process.
About the Author: This article has been written by Rosina S Khan, where she highlights the importance of databases in our daily lives and why any organization would need to computerize their data via databases.
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