Five Reasons You Need to Understand Database Design

The word database is not one that you hear in everyday conversation. It’s one of those technical terms that’s used by business and I.T. people. It might evoke images of computers and long reports of names and numbers or indecipherable data. Some people might think of marketing or mailing lists. In fact, a database is simply any collection of data that’s organized so that it can be retrieved and used as needed. Usually, it refers specifically to data that has been stored within a computer system so that it can be quickly manipulated into reports. Databases take many forms but anytime a computer needs to present information of any kind, whether it be a store’s customer data or patient data at your doctor’s office, that data has to be retrieved from somewhere and it’s usually in a database of one kind or another.

This means that, in one way or another, you are probably working with information in your daily life or your job, maybe large amounts of it. While the people who actually design databases such as database administrators, software programmers and developers make up around 1% of the U.S. population and likely a similar percentage worldwide, an understanding of how to organize and store data is helpful to anyone who needs to work with information or understand how software works.

You specifically need to know more about database technology if you can say “yes” to any of the following:

  • You work with large amounts of information on a regular basis and would like to know how to organize and understand it better. This can be true even if you never work directly with an I.T. department. Maybe you’re an accounting professional trying to make sense of expense data or an administrative assistant who’s been asked to put together a database for payroll or employee information. Regardless of your job, an understanding of how databases work will enable you to produce better results and save you work in the long-term.
  • You work with I.T. professionals regularly and need to do it more effectively. Even if you never design a database yourself, knowing the principles involved goes a long way toward understanding the abilities and limitations of the software you work with. This will save you a lot of misunderstandings when asking for new reports or system enhancements.
  • You want to enhance your career and need a better understanding of software. A promising career can start simply by being the person in the office who can produce results nobody else can. Database design is a valuable skill that will continue to be relevant for many years to come. While reading this book won’t add it to your resume immediately, knowing the basics can put you in the position to volunteer for that project that will get you noticed later.
  • You’re a hobbyist with a copy of Microsoft Access or another database program and you want to organize your media collection or exercise program.
  • Finally, you’re an I.T. professional, maybe even a programmer or software developer, who is still a little fuzzy on the details of database design. Maybe you’re just coming back to it after years of doing other work and need a refresher course. Having a reference by your side can be very helpful when working on your latest project.

Our everyday lives are constantly influenced by electronic data of one kind or another whether it’s the web pages and e-mails on our computers or the uplink from a credit card terminal when we buy gas. In June 2011, the EMC corporation, a worldwide I.T. consulting firm, released a study which stated that the world’s collection of electronic data was doubling every two years and forecasted that in 2011, 1.8 zettabytes or 1.8 billion gigabytes of information, would be created or copied. To show you what that figure means, the average new home computer in 2012 might have had 500 gigabytes of storage included with it. That means the amount of data estimated to be generated in 2011 would fill 3.6 million home computers or more than 2.7 billion CDs. That’s a lot of data to store.

If you would like to learn more about database technology and software, my book MySQL Explained provides a clear and helpful introduction to the principles involved and some of the software titles that you’ll encounter. The priority is on plain English explanations and the book includes multiple examples based on everyday solutions. Although the book specifically focuses on design with Oracle’s MySQL software, the book presents the overall concepts that will help you understand database design regardless of which software you’re using. Software and programming languages come and go and new ones can be learned by experienced people in a short time. It’s more important to know the concepts behind software so that when a new system comes along, you will know what to expect from it and be able to evaluate and learn it that much faster. I have been working with database software including Microsoft Access and Microsoft SQL Server for around 20 years and wrote this book to share the knowledge that I’ve gathered with you and others who want to acquire these important skills.

MySQL Explained remains the #1 MySQL book on Check out its product page to see the reviews, download a sample to your Kindle or buy the book in Kindle or softcover format.