What is an SQL database?
Tags: Support  
7/09/2011 6:22 PM

In the world of Business Software, SQL databases are the standard. That's not just a claim – that's official, as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has declared it to be so. But what is an SQL database? In this article, we'll endeavour to give you a greater understanding of this topic. We'll start out by explaining exactly what a database is, and then look at SQL in more detail.

What is a database?
In order to understand the function of SQL, you need to understand what a database is. After all, everyone has heard the word 'database', but not everybody knows exactly what it means in terms of business software.

Essentially, a database is something that stores, manages and retrieves information. Database software, then, is anything that achieves these goals electronically. Microsoft Office, for example, has database software called Access, however, many of you probably prefer to use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. For the most basic purposes, this is fine, but eventually you'll discover that databases are capable of much more than spreadsheets can achieve.

Some of the things you can do with a database that you can't do with a spreadsheet include:

  • Retrieving all records that match a certain criteria
  • Updating records in bulk
  • Cross-referencing records in different tables
  • Performing complex aggregate calculations
  • Handling and processing large amounts of data

Microsoft Access is an example of a desktop database. A desktop database is generally only utilised by a single user and is only really suitable for basic data storage – and when it comes to running a business, the storage and management of data is rarely simple.

For businesses, then, a server database is required. These allow large amounts of data to be managed, and have the advantage of allowing multiple users – your employees, for example – to access and update the data simultaneously. Which leads us onto our next question...

What is SQL?
SQL stands for Structured Query Language and refers to the language that is used to communicate with a server database. It is SQL which gives the server various instructions, including...

  • To create a new database
  • To create new tables in a database
  • To create views in a database
  • To retrieve data from a database
  • To update records in a database
  • To delete records from a database

When you use basic accounting software such as MYOB, the stresses of business growth, additional employees and a higher number of transactions can eventually take its toll. As the business grows more complex, a more robust business system is required. Say, for example, several employees are trying to access your database at once. Basic accounting software is unable to handle these stresses, but with SQL this becomes possible. SQL-based databases can handle multiple requests at the same time.

Modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) software should be based on this new standard of technology in order to maximise efficiency and provide a scalable, flexible model for business growth. ERP Software is becoming increasingly affordable, too, and is now as suitable for small businesses as it is for large corporations.

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