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Database Access


Database access in computer systems refers to how users, applications, or other systems interact with a database. Databases are organized data collections that provide an efficient way to store, manage, and retrieve information.

More specifically, database access encompasses a variety of operations that allow users and applications to interact with the data stored within a database.

The core operations include Create, Read, Update, and Delete, which are also called the “CRUD” operations for databases. 

Brief History

Early databases were simple file systems that stored data in files with little structure. With the advent of computers, more advanced methods like hierarchical and network databases emerged, allowing for better organization and faster data retrieval.

Two IBM researchers, Raymond Boyce, and Donald Chamberlin, created SQL (Structured Query Language) in the 1970s to make manipulating and managing data in a relational database much more straightforward. Today, SQL remains the standard language for interacting with most databases.  

Relational databases are the most popular, using a table-based structure for efficient data management.  

Data Everywhere

With the rise of the Internet, connected devices such as mobile phones, and social media, the amount of data generated daily has exploded. And in recent years, technologies such as the Internet of Things (think “smart devices” like thermostats, cameras, etc.) Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning generate even more data that requires new ways to store, access, and analyze information.

This growth in data has led to the development of new database technologies, like NoSQL databases and distributed databases, that can handle vast amounts of unstructured or semi-structured data.  

Key Database Access Details

Fundamentally, database access is about “working with the data” in a database and having it work in such a way that it performs well. These core database access operations include:

  1. Create: This operation involves creating new database objects, such as tables, indexes, or views. For example, in a relational database, a user might create a table to store customer information.
  2. Read (Query): This operation retrieves data from the database, allowing users or applications to access specific information based on certain criteria. Queries can involve a simple data selection, filtering based on conditions, or joining multiple tables to obtain a combined result.
  3. Update: This operation modifies existing data within the database, such as changing a customer’s address or updating the price of a product. Updates ensure that data remains accurate and up-to-date.
  4. Delete: This operation removes data from the database, such as deleting a customer record when they close their account or removing an obsolete product from inventory. Deletion must be performed carefully to maintain data integrity and prevent unintended consequences.
  5. Schema manipulation: Database access also involves operations that alter the structure of the database itself, such as adding, modifying, or removing tables, columns, indexes, or constraints. Database administrators typically perform these operations during maintenance or when updating the database to accommodate new features or requirements.
  6. Performance optimization: Database access may involve operations aimed at optimizing query performance, such as creating or updating indexes, analyzing query plans, or tuning database configuration parameters. These optimizations help ensure efficient data retrieval and manipulation.

The Role of Database Management Systems

These database access operations happen in the larger context of the Database Management System, or DBMS, which is a separate topic.   

Any database access requires establishing a connection between the user or application and the DBMS before anything can happen. Connection strings, which include information such as the database server’s address, user credentials, and database name, are used to establish this connection.  

Database systems generally also require user authentication and authorization to control access to data. Authentication verifies the identity of a user, while authorization determines the user’s permissions and access level within the database.  

Conclusion

With databases containing increasing amounts of personal information, the general public has become steadily more concerned about privacy and data security.

Consequently, database administrators must implement strict security measures, such as encryption and access controls, to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access or data breaches.  

What is SQL? – 5 mins

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