Databases Explained - What They Do

If you are new to the world of databases, it can be very confusing seeing PHP, MySQL, Access and other names floating around. What do databases actually do and will you need one for your site?

A database can be used for several different applications. Shopping carts will commonly use a database to store customer information. Whenever a customer places an order, the information they provide, such as their address and payment information, will be transmitted and stored in your database.

Product catalogs also use databases. This can make it much easier to add products to your shopping cart. All you need to do is enter in your information in a spreadsheet or database program and then upload this data to your site’s database. Once it has been added, your new products will automatically display.

Databases are also used for sites that require member registration. Usernames, passwords and other data are stored in the database and then called when a member logs into your site. This can be used for a discussion forum, chat room or many other applications. While there are some JavaScript applications that don’t require a database, the majority of these applications now use PHP and store your user’s information in an SQL database.

Basically, a database on your website acts very much like a database on your computer. It is used to store, organize and transmit data.

How They Work

A database works by storing this information and providing it to necessary applications when certain actions are performed. For example, if you were using a database on your site with your shopping cart, and you needed to search for a specific order, all you would need to do is go into your database and run a query for the order number. The specified order would then be displayed.

In applications that use a database for a member’s only area, the user will enter in their log-in name and password. Once they have entered this information, the application will compare this data to the data stored in the database. If the entries match this stored data, your user will then be logged in. If there isn’t a match, the database will return a “user not found” answer to the application.

For product catalogs, the catalog application has a certain amount of parameters, such as size, color, weight, etc… When your database is created, all of these fields will be matched up. Then, you can use these fields to enter in the desired information for each product. Once this information is transmitted to your online database, the catalog application sorts through this data and then displays the correct information.

Now that you know what a database does and how it works, it’s time to learn how you can use a database on your site.

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Posted on 12/14/05 9:53 PM

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