ITGS Syllabus

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Topic 55

Flat-file database versus relational database by Sam

Flat-File Database

“A flat file database is a database designed around a single table. The flat file design puts all database information in one table, or list, with fields to represent all parameters. A flat file may contain many fields, often, with duplicate data that are prone to data corruption. If you decide to merge data between two flat files, you need to copy and paste relevant information from one file to the other. There is no automation between flat files.

If you have two or more flat files that contain client addresses, for example, and a client moved, you would have to manually modify the address parameters in each file that contains that client’s information. Changing information in one file has no bearing on other files. Flat files offer the functionality to store information, manipulate fields, print or display formatted information and exchange information with others, through email and over the Internet. Some flat files may be attached to external files, such as text editors, to extend functionality and manage related information.”

Definition by

Relational Database

“A relational database incorporates multiple tables with methods for the tables to work together. The relationships between table data can be collated, merged and displayed in database forms. Most relational databases offer functionality to share data across networks, over the internet, with laptops and other electronic devices, such as palm pilots, and with other software systems.”

Definition by

Advantages of Using Flat-File Database Rather Than Relational Database
To create a flat-file database, there is not much skills needed. Without much design knowledge, people can make a flat-file database with only using simple software. On the other hand, to create a relational database you need to put much more time and effort. With relational database, every input data must make sense in relation with other data. If you make mistake in one part, it might result in an error occurring to the whole database.

When you use the data created in Flat-File databases, they are not linked. This means that for example, if the address data of your company is changed on the original file, it will not affect the documents created in the past. As you don’t want old data to change, this is convenient. However, in a relational database, every document created is linked and related to the original file. So if a change in company address occurs in 2007, it will cause the company address data listed on 1997 document to also change to the new address. This may create problems for the company when they access the 1997 data later.

Advantages of Using Relational Database Rather Than Flat-File Database

- As relational database is linked throughout the database, it has much more possibilities than flat-file database. For example, in relational database you can define certain record fields, such as keys or indexes, to perform search queries, join table records, and establish integrity constraints. Unlike flat-file database where every data is independent, relational database allows you to easily find necessary information and quickly create new file with just the necessary information.

Relational database allows easier access. Relational database can be set up to be connected to networks, where people can search and access necessary data from either within a network, over the internet, mobile devices, etc… With flat-file database, it is much more difficult to access necessary information as most of the time it is not connected to networks but rather accessed only within a computer.

So Which One to Use?

The decision of which database to use is completely up to the user. Often it is said that relational databases tend to be much more advanced than flat-file database as it allows easy access in a complicated format. However, not everyone can handle the complexity of a relational database. So again, it’s a personal choice.


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