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The Four Basic Structures of Database Software

Database management systems are used to facilitate information access within any one of the numerous database architectures available for business and personal use. What some consumers do not realize, however, is the fact that today's database management systems can be broken down into one of four primary classifications: hierarchical DBMS, network DBMS, relational DBMS and object-oriented DBMS. Understanding the difference between each system is crucial to ensuring you implement a database management system that meets your needs and specifications.

Hierarchical Database Management System

A hierarchical DBMS always includes parent-child relationships between individual items. Under this type of structure, connections exist between any two consecutive records within the database, thereby forming a treelike structure of data storage. One of the original database models in existence, the hierarchical system was originally introduced by IBM 1968 for use in information management. The hierarchical database management system is still commonplace within the industry today, though it is typically seen in mainframe computers.

Network Database Management System

One of the most complicated of all database management systems is the network DBMS. This system maintains data relationships through the use of coded sets and records, which are commonly written using a language such as COBOL, FORTRAN or Pascal. This allows the DBMS to graph the information in a manner referred to as "many-to-many," an algorithm which operates similarly to file sharing programs and public blog sites on the Internet.

Relational Database Management System

In contrast to the network DBMS, a relational DBMS is one of the simpler database structures used today. Acting as a table, the relational DBMS utilizes individual relations, domains and data attributes in order to establish different rows and columns to hold information. As soon as new information enters the database management system, it is easily placed in the appropriate rows and columns within the two-dimensional table. Many of today's most popular database applications use a relational structure, including Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle.

Object-Oriented Database Management System

While the above database management systems are great for storing information such as hard numbers, facts and figures, each one lacks the ability to collate information from sources such as images, audio or video. One of the newest database management systems in existence, the object-oriented DBMS serves as a catalyst for processing, collecting and organizing information from these new types of media. It then translates, via specific protocol, the pertinent information from each source. Moreover, most of today's object-oriented databases are able to merge data from multiple sources into one single multimedia presentation, which makes it much more convenient than other types of database management systems.

However, there are a few disadvantages to object-oriented database management systems. Because the technology is relatively new in comparison to the systems outlined previously, object-oriented systems cost much more to develop and maintain. Secondly, many large businesses and industries already have one of the three other systems from an earlier install. While some are simply reluctant to make the conversion, others, particularly smaller businesses, just cannot afford the added expense.

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