In the broadest sense, business databases are organised collections of data for each specific business. The data is organised into groups of rows (records) called tables. Each row stores the data elements that are related to an instance of a single thing. A “thing” might be a customer, an order or a stocked item. Further, how these things relate to each other is also taken into consideration. For instance, an order is created for a customer. An order is made up of different quantities of stocked items.
Business databases can literally store data about anything that is relevant to your business. They can range in size from a handful of rows (records) to many millions of rows. I, personally, have worked on a database of 80 million rows. This was owned by a telephone company. Its primary function was to store customer details. Then using these details generate a monthly bill. This meant that all of those 80 million rows had to be processed fast enough to allow every bill to be sent out within a month. There are 2,419,200 seconds in 28 days. So their database had to process over 33 rows/second, day and night. So business databases don’t just enhance your business, they do it fast! This, however, isn’t the end of the story. Not only did we get the bill run operating inside a month. The entire 80 million rows were processed in approximately 8 hours – 28,800 seconds – one record every 0.00036 seconds.
This speed is impressive. However, the best thing about business databases is they never forget. This allows you to make every decision you make now by going back and reviewing literally every similar decision and action you took in the past. Hence, earlier mistakes shouldn’t be repeated. Also, new decisions are more consistent.
So, I will sum up using an analogy with Twentieth Century terminology. A business database is like a massive filing cabinet that contains hundreds of folders (tables). Each of these folders contains up to millions of pieces of paper (records). However, there are three huge advantages to computerised business databases. 1) A computerised database doesn’t require a lot of physical space. 2) Searching through even millions of records takes microseconds. 3) The records can be connected and reconnected in many ways to reveal patterns