How Are Databases Used in the Real World?

By AJ Graham

Databases are obviously used in business applications and financial transactions; however, databases are not just used for business applications. Your grocery store, bank, video rental store and favorite clothing store all use databases to keep track of customer, inventory, employee and accounting information. Databases allow for data to be stored quickly and easily and are used in many aspects of your daily life. This article was stored in a database and its content was retrieved and displayed in your browser.


Several types of databases have been around since the early 1960s; however, the most commonly used type of database was not created until the early 1970s. Relational databases are the most commonly used type of database. Created by E.F. Codd, relational databases have given rise to a digital organizational tool used by countless companies and individuals. Computer systems replaced outdated forms of paper communication and paper file storage. Computer databases were used as a way to store and manage large amounts of information digitally. Companies began to use databases for a means of inventory tracking, customer management and accounting purposes.


The move from paper to computer databases was a huge leap in information management and storage. Databases are much more efficient than paper storage in that they take up less space, are easily accessed by multiple users at once and can be transferred long distances with virtually no delay. The use of databases allowed for the rise of corporate infrastructure, credit card processing, email and the Internet. Databases allow for data to be shared across the world instead of being housed in one location on a physical piece of paper.


Databases are used just about everywhere including banks, retail, websites and warehouses. Banks use databases to keep track of customer accounts, balances and deposits. Retail stores can use databases to store prices, customer information, sales information and quantity on hand. Websites use databases to store content, customer login information and preferences and may also store saved user input. Warehouses use databases to manage inventory levels and storage location. Databases are used anywhere that data needs to be stored and easily retrieved. The filing cabinet has all but been replaced by databases.


There are several types of databases that can be used in real-world scenarios. Flat-file databases are generally plain text files that can be used by local applications to store data. Flat files are not as popular as relational databases. Relational database are databases with related tables of information. Each table has a number of columns or attributes and a set of records or rows. Relational databases are popular because of their scalability, performance and ease of use.


Because databases are stored digitally, multiple users in different locations can view the data in more than once place. Because banks store their customer information and balances in a database, you can use any branch for deposits and withdrawals. Databases allow more flexibility because they are in a digital format. Companies use databases for inventory and item pricing. A retail chain can see when stores are low in inventory and automatically order more. Prices can be updated across the country instantly as compared to having to manually do it at each store. Databases are used to distribute data quickly and easily because they are only updated once and can be read by many users.

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