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For data storage, the database is one of the fundamental building blocks. They provide a method for storing information in an organized manner that ensures it remains accessible while providing the mechanisms to protect the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of the information they hold.
There are many kinds of databases available, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the right type requires balancing business needs against the defining characteristics of each type. In this article, we’ll look at what are the different types of databases and which is the most common. Also, we will list and describe the different types of databases to help you better understand the options available.
As the name suggests, a centralized database stores information in a single physical location and manages access to specific elements within the database based on data categorization and which users have permission to access which category.
The alternative to a centralized database is the storage of information distributed across multiple locations with access mechanisms to direct users wishing to access information to the correct distributed resource. Implementing this database type can be homogeneous or heterogeneous.
A homogeneous distributed database is one where the underlying database technology is identical for all distributed database elements. This includes the database vendor, underlying operating system, and the hardware infrastructure components.
This type of database can be autonomous, with each instance of the distributed database operating independently from the others. Alternatively, it can be non-autonomous, where a central control function manages all the distributed database instances.
A heterogeneous distributed database has one or more differences in the hardware, operating system, data management application, or access mechanisms across the distributed database elements. This requires complex interfacing between the distributed database instances to manage different operating mechanisms and interfaces.
This type can be a federated database, with each instance of the distributed database operating independently from the others. Alternatively, it can be a non-federated database, where a central control function manages interfacing with all the distributed database instances.
The characterization of cloud-deployed databases revolves around their network accessibility, allowing users located anywhere with access to the required network access. Public cloud databases are accessible over the internet, while private cloud databases are accessible over a private network. The database can be physically located anywhere, either in a centralized location or implemented as a distributed database.
The characterization of data center deployed databases revolves around their deployment within one or more managed data centers. These can be third-party managed facilities or owned and managed by the organization operating the database. Users access the database by connecting from anywhere with network access to the data center, over the internet, or a private network.
The characterization of on-premises center deployed databases revolves around their deployment on hardware located within a facility owned and managed by the organization operating the database. Users within the organization access the database using internal network access.
A relational database organizes data into tables that contain links between data elements that define their relationships. This allows quick access to information based on the connections between data elements.
The implementation of relational databases for storing and managing information typically employs a structured query language (SQL). The relationships between each data element are the principal information of value for a business. They allow fast access to specific information based on search criteria by storing the data and its relationships. Implementation standards ensure compatibility between different SQL-based technologies and applications while the technology is fully scalable, portable, and has wide adoption and support.
SQL databases are vertically scalable; increasing the size of the database will require adding additional processing and storage resources to the existing database infrastructure.
As data must conform to a defined structural format, future changes to data that affect the structure will require revision of the entire database to reflect the necessary changes.
A NoSQL database offers an alternative where information structure is nonlinear and non-relational. For this data type, SQL databases would be inefficient and impractical. However, NoSQL databases can efficiently store large volumes of unstructured information and offer faster access by removing structural processing requirements. It is also ideal where data types evolve and expand by eliminating structural constraints.
NoSQL databases are horizontally scalable; adding additional processing and storage facilities to manage new instances of the database will increase the size of the database.
There are four common types of NoSQL databases in use:
- Document databases store semi-structured data using standard document formats that cope with any form and composition.
- Graph databases organize data into discrete elements and the connections between each element. Their design lends them to applications where the data connections are the primary information of value.
- Key-value stores use data models that pair a data array records with a unique key that identifies the record.
- Extensible record stores use tables to store data similar to a relational database table but do not require the notation and formatting of table columns to be consistent between rows.
When looking at databases and choosing options, there’s a whole new lexicon of terms in use for the diverse types of databases available. Below are some of the more common terminologies you may encounter when looking at database categories. These often appear in articles that list types of databases and can be confusing as they refer to implementation methods rather than types.
- Personal Databases are small single-purpose data stores with a limited group of users, typical one individual or department.
- End-user databases are those whose design focuses on their ease of use by users who do not require visibility of the technology or processes within the database that manage data.
- Commercial databases are commercially available applications provided by a vendor to meet general corporate needs, offering specific business benefits. The licensing of such databases is based on factors such as number of users, number of user interactions, or data volumes. As a result, each vendor typically offers a bespoke solution in terms of functionality, features, and deployment options.
- Object-oriented databases are a type of relational database implemented using the object-oriented philosophy that focuses on data objects rather than their interactions.
- Open-Source databases are those implemented using open-source software. Such databases typically have lower or no licensing fees, and source code is available for independent inspection and validation. The downside is that development relies on volunteers, resulting in fewer features and slower innovation compared with commercial databases.
- Operational databases are databases used to hold operational information for organizations to manage business processes and monitor performance metrics.
Data processing and storage requirements continually evolve and expand as businesses seek to leverage the information contained within the data that is accessible. In addition, recent organizational changes, including integrated supply chains and digitization of business processes, have dramatically increased the volume of data that businesses can access.
Data storage must be in a manner that enables quick and easy access to the inherent information it contains to maximize the value of the data. The format for storing data plays a critical role in this process.
Databases are the more common method of implementing data storage, and there are many different database types available. We have seen what are different types of databases and their applications. Choosing the correct database type can play a critical role in the success of a business as it seeks to extract maximum value from the information it holds.
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See all of Stephen Mash's posts.
Stephen is a UK-based freelance technology writer with a background in system development and assurance, primarily focused on high-integrity applications.
Learn more about Stephen @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/steve-mash-exosure