What are MySQL Databases?

February 9th, 2012 @ 11:07 am

Getting started in the world of web development means getting acquainted with a slew of new terminologies and technologies, and one of the very first things you’ll come across is SQL and MySQL databases. For someone who isn’t familiar with database technology it can be a bit daunting at first, but it really isn’t as complicated as it seems once you learn a bit about how it works.

How Databases Work

A database is an organized collection of information stored as a digital file that can be constantly accessed, read, maintained, changed based on the needs of the owner. Almost any business, website, or collaborative group makes use of some sort of database. A library uses one to keep track of its inventory of books and whether they are in or out, even if they are late and how much they owe. A service provider might use a database to keep track of clients, orders, and finances. Their implementations are limitless and almost every major operation dealing with lots of data usually has one running behind the scenes.

You can picture a database as a collection of charts that you’d see in a program like Excel. They have definable rows and columns which can be filled with values that then define a certain record. So in other words, we can make a table in a database where each row represents a different book in a library, and each column is a piece of data describing that book. So we would have a row for the book’s Title, Author, ISBN, Status (out, in, late), maybe even its location in the library and other descriptors as well. This record can be instantly accessed and edited by a computer system to keep track of the inventory. Now you can see just how essential database technology is, they practically run the whole world.

So what is SQL?

SQL stands for Structured Query Language and is usually pronounced as ‘sequel’ or ‘S Q L’. It’s a technology that allows us to access and manage databases, think of it as the software that serves as a middleman between us and the database. A database can be written in a variety of different formats and languages, SQL is one of them and it’s a very popular and widespread platform that’s almost universally adaptable.

So what does all of this mean for someone who’s setting up a relatively simple website? Unless you’re using very straightforward HTML pages, chances are your platform requires the use of an SQL database. For example, WordPress installations need to have an SQL database to store information about your site that needs to be accessed and changed. When a user creates a profile there needs to be a database to store it, and when that same user comments on one of your posts a database is needed to record it. The good news is that it’s a very low maintenance process, once the database is created you’ll never need to worry about it again as long as there aren’t any technical problems that need addressing (knock on wood).

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