Database software organizes and stores data in such a way that the tables are searchable and questions may be answered. These tools are available in a number of different configurations, scalable to use by the individual or a globally-dispersed corporation. Some are user-friendly, with visual interfaces to the database while others, at the enterprise end of the spectrum, require specialized training and tools to be useful.
Access is a personal database system from Microsoft. It is a visually oriented software product, making it easy for non-programmers to develop useful databases. While the Access database structure can scale up to serve corporate needs, the most common use for this database is for small individual databases or limited-use multiuser programs. It integrates the Visual Basic for Applications language, making it a complete development environment.
FoxPro is a relational database system, also produced by Microsoft, that is tightly coupled to its programming language. FoxPro is less friendly as an end-user database, requiring more technical expertise then Access. This database system is known for its fast processing engine and the ability to handle numerous simultaneous transactions.
MySQL is a server-based database that enables multiple users to access multiple databases. The software runs on multiple platforms, including most varieties of UNIX and Windows. It offers limited front-end usability, and is designed as a back-end database server. MySQL separates from other database products and their costs; the non-enterprise version is distributed for free.
SQL Server is an enterprise-level scalable database server. This product differs from the personal database in that it doesn’t provide the front-end tools that an individual database product would provide. The database engine focuses on quickly responding to client requests in the form of SQL queries. These queries can be generated directly in SQL Server, or through a separate user interface developed in a multitude of programming languages. SQL Server is designed to handle databases with millions of records.
The Oracle database is another enterprise-level scalable database. The SQL-based database supports distributed corporate databases, enabling the user to access data locally or from remote databases in a transparent transaction. Distributed databases help to overcome the physical limitations of a physical computing environment. The maximum database size for an Oracle database is 8 million terabytes, requiring physical storage beyond the capacity of most single installations.