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Lesson 2 Databases
Objective List the functions of databases.

Database Functions

To understand the role of a database, you must understand the difference between data and information. The best way to understand the difference is through the simple example of the phone book. A phone book contains data. When you look up a needed phone number, that particular portion of the data becomes information. It is that simple. Facts without meaning are data. Facts about something that you want become information. Information is the portion of data that is useful to you.

Store, search, and report

The value of data

History identifies our world's evolution by titling its eras in ages:
  1. the Stone Age,
  2. Bronze Age,
  3. Steam Age,
  4. Nuclear Age,
  5. Jet Age, and
  6. the Information Age.
These titles depict the most vital element of that time around which all human activity has revolved. Our current age, the Information Age, is so named because for the first time on the planet, information has become more valuable than all other commodities (land, wheat, steel, or gold). In highly developed countries, less than 15 percent of all workers produce tangible goods (that is, they manufacture something) and over 50 percent spend their day simply handling information. Information is more precious, then, than manufactured goods.

Working the systems

The computer, and specifically the database, has enabled information handlers to pass off the processing and storage of data to these automated systems. The same workers are now able to request information from these systems and make critical and profitable decisions as a result. Such workers are called Knowledge Workers because they know how to utilize those systems to produce information necessary for improved decisions. Higher-quality decisions result in cost savings, which means greater efficiency, resulting in increased wealth for their organizations. These decisions are all dependent on access to information which, in the Information Age, is almost always accessed through the database. The latest twist to the evolution of information access is the Internet, with its promise to broaden that access through the use of effectively designed Web pages.

Many shapes and sizes

Databases are an integral part of any Web site that goes beyond a rudimentary informational type of site. Clearly, there is a wide array of functionality that can be added to Web sites through the use of databases. You will be learning more about the types of models that databases are constructed on, as well as looking further into ways that robust database applications are leveraged for Web functionality.
In the next lesson, your task is to learn the major types of databases.