So just what is a database?

Discovering what exactly is a database is a good place to start! In almost any business you will frequently hear the phrase “I need to update our database” or “according to our records…..”

Well if you do an internet search to find a definition of the word “database” you will see a whole bunch of different definitions. Some are very technical, “A collection of interrelated data items stored together without unnecessary redundancy, to serve one or more applications”, others less so.

I prefer to think of a database as any collection of information that has been organised in some way shape or form. Also most definitions refer to the use of computers to store data but that is not necessarily the case.

Before the explosion in the use of Blackberry’s and pocket pc’s and the ever increasing versatility of the mobile phone, one of the most important business tools in use was the personal organiser! It seemed like every business person carried around (and many still do!) a leather bound bundle of paper which contained everything he or she needed to conduct business! It has the diary to record all appointments. The contacts section where every important phone number and address is written down. It has the meeting notes section where every last detail of each meeting can be recorded. Your tasks can be organised and just about anything else you want to record for both business and personal use!

How many businesses rely on paper? Orders in paper form, hand written invoices or sales slips/receipts, all neatly filed away in folders ready for the book keeper or the accountant. This information is the life blood of any and every business and in the truest sense of the word any such collection could be defined as a “database”

Having said that database’s do not always have to be in electronic format when we talk about the world of business, many are! But even here there are so many ways in which you can store data electronically. The most obvious one is the electronic version of the personal organiser, for most this is Microsoft’s Outlook.

Many also use word processing documents and spreadsheets to collect and record information. All of these formats can be called “databases” BUT sooner or later most will recognise the need to use a true “database” program to store that much needed collection of information and “Why” will be the subject of my next blog!

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