5 things beginners should know about databases

Content
  1. Tips for Simplifying Database Operations
  2. SQL is at the heart of relational databases
  3. The choice of primary keys is an extremely important decision
  4. NULL not null or empty string
  5. Converting spreadsheets to databases saves time
  6. All database platforms are NOT created equal

Tips for Simplifying Database Operations

Data organized in a particular format can be considered as a database. There are many uses for databases and they are used in almost every program and service that stores or retrieves information.

If you’re new to databases, below is a summary of the most important things you need to know before moving on. These facts are guaranteed to make working with databases easier and increase productivity.

SQL is at the heart of relational databases

This cannot be avoided: Structured Query Language is at the heart of all relational databases. It provides a single interface to Oracle, SQL Server, Microsoft Access, and other relational databases and is a “must-learn” for all database novice users.

Take an introductory SQL course before attempting to learn any particular database software. The time investment will help you build a good foundation and get started in the world of databases.

W3Schools.com is a great place for beginners interested in SQL.

The choice of primary keys is an extremely important decision

Choosing a primary key is one of the most important decisions you make when designing a new database. The main limitation is that you must ensure that the selected key is unique.

If it’s possible for two records (past, present, or future) to have the same value for an attribute, that’s a bad choice for a primary key. When assessing this limitation, you need to think creatively.

You should also avoid sensitive values ‚Äč‚Äčthat raise privacy concerns, such as social security numbers.

NULL not null or empty string

NULL is a special value in the database world, but it’s something newbies often get confused about.

When you see a NULL value, interpret it as “unknown”. If the count is NULL, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s zero. Likewise, if a text field contains a NULL value, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an appropriate value – it’s just unknown.

Think, for example, of a database with information about children who go to a certain school. If the person entering the input does not know the student’s age, NULL is used to indicate an “unknown” placeholder. The student, of course, has an age – it just isn’t in the database.

Converting spreadsheets to databases saves time

If you already have a lot of data stored in Microsoft Excel or another spreadsheet format, you can save a lot of time by converting those spreadsheets into database tables.

All database platforms are NOT created equal

There are many different databases, each with many unique features at different prices.

Some are fully featured corporate databases designed to host huge data warehouses serving multinational corporations. Others are desktop databases that are better suited for inventory tracking in a small store with one or two users.

Your business requirements determine the database platform that meets your needs. See Database Software Options for more information, as well as our list of the best free online database creators.

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