What Are the Different Database Types?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 8 September 2021 | Published 2 August 2021

Updated 8 September 2021

Published 2 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Companies require databases to store, maintain and update a wide range of data from employee information to customer data. Each database has different capabilities and storage capacity depending on how much data a company needs to store, how many users they have and how complex their data is. Learning the different database types can help you determine which might be best for a business. In this article, we define databases and look at the different types of databases along with some of the top database programs.

What are databases?

A database is a collection of information stored within a computer. Professionals use databases to store files on your computer to maintain records like customer data. Databases allow computers to store essential information in an organised and easily searchable way.

As database technology has improved over the years, so have the different databases. There are many types of databases, each with its strengths and weaknesses based on its design. It is especially important for businesses to understand the different databases, to ensure they have the most efficient setup.

What are the two primary database types?

The two primary types of databases are as follows:

  • Single-file: single-file, or flat-file databases, use simple structures and individual files to represent one piece of data or information.

  • Multi-file relational: relational databases are more complex databases that use tables to show the relationship between data.

Related: Database Interview Questions for Freshers and Experienced Professionals (With Sample Answers)

14 other types of databases

Companies use different databases for the various tasks they perform. Depending on the industry and business requirements, a company may use one or many of these:

1. Centralised database

A centralised database is one that operates entirely within a single location. Bigger organisations like corporations or universities typically use centralised databases. The database itself is on a central computer or database system. Users can access the database through a computer network, but it is the central computer that runs and maintains the database.

2. Cloud database

Cloud databases run on cloud computing networks. Rather than storing data on local devices or purchasing dedicated storage hardware, companies can install software to access large amounts of data in the cloud. Companies often choose cloud databases because they are easy to use. They can easily increase storage capacity and they often back up the data on remote servers. There are two main types of cloud databases:

  • Traditional: traditional cloud databases are databases where companies host the database on their servers and the IT team troubleshoots any issues.

  • Database-as-a-Service: DBaaS is when companies offer their cloud databases to companies with additional services like automation and technical support.

3. Commercial database

Commercial databases are databases created by companies and sold to other businesses. Businesses typically pay a licensing fee for these. The vendor often provides technical support to the businesses rather than internal IT teams or community support. These are high-performing databases that are reliable and scalable for growing businesses.

Related: Backend Developer Skills: Definition and Examples

4. Distributed database

Distributed databases store data at various physical locations. This can mean companies store data on different physical computers at a single location or hardware across different locations on a network. Distributed databases use processes called replication and fragmentation when storing data. Replication is when the database stores two or more copies of the same file at different locations while fragmentation is when the database divides files into smaller pieces that they then store in different locations.

5. End-user database

End-user is a term used in product development that refers to the person who uses the product. An end-user database is, therefore, a database that is primarily used by a single person. A good example of this type of database is a spreadsheet stored on your local computer if you own a business.

6. Graph database

Graph databases focus on the relationships between data along with the data itself. The database uses structures of connected graphs of nodes and edges for users to run queries. Companies may choose graph databases if they have datasets with complex relationships.

7. Hierarchical database

Hierarchical databases store data in categories that get more specific. The databases store data as tree diagrams, showing the relationship between data elements. The top-level data is the root or parent, below that is the child or level one and below that is level two. For example, if the data is information about a particular technology market, the parent may be a category like computers, the child might be laptops, and the level two could be a specific brand.

8. Network database

Network databases allow the data to be linked to over one parent file. Visually, companies represent this as an upside-down tree where each piece of data links to the primary data. With network databases, users link many data points to other bits of information, creating a web or network. Different from the hierarchical model, relationships span multiple categories or trees.

9. NoSQL database

There are essentially two major types of databases, NoSQL and Relational, with all the others being different versions of these. A NoSQL database has a hierarchy similar to a file folder system and the data within it is unstructured. This lack of structure allows them to process larger amounts of data at speed and makes it easier to expand in the future. Cloud computing regularly makes use of NoSQL databases.

Related: What Is SQL? Definition and Benefits

10. Objected-oriented database

Object-oriented databases are ones in which the data is represented as objects and classes. An object is a real-world item, such as a name or phone number, while a class is a group of objects. Objected-oriented databases are a type of relational database. Consider using an object-oriented database when you have a large amount of complex data you want to process quickly.

11. Open-source database

An open-source database is a public database that all people can use for free. Unlike commercial databases, users can download or sign up for open source databases without paying a fee. The term "open source" refers to a program in which users can see how companies make it and they can edit the program to fit their needs. Open-source databases are typically much cheaper than commercial databases, but they can also lack some of the more advanced features found in commercial databases.

12. Operational database

The purpose of an operational database is to allow users to modify data in real-time. Operational databases are critical in business analytics and data warehousing. Companies set these up either as relational databases or NoSQL, depending on needs. Conventional databases rely on batch processing, where they process commands in groups. Operational databases allow you to add, edit and remove data at any moment, in real-time.

13. Personal database

A personal database is one that is designed for a single person. You typically find these on a personal computer and has a very simple design, comprising only a few tables. Personal databases are not typically suitable for complex operations, large amounts of data or business operations.

Related: Basic Computer Skills: Definition and Examples

14. Relational database

Relational databases are the other major type of database, opposite of NoSQL. Relational databases store data in a structured way and about other data. A good representation of a relational database would be a sales associate and their client's purchase history. Companies prefer relational databases when their primary concern is the integrity of their data, or when they are not particularly focused on scalability.

Top databases

Companies in almost every industry require a database for their information and processes. Some of the most popular databases that companies use are:

MySQL

MySQL provides one of the most popular open-source relational databases in use. It is a free database where users can store data and run queries. Companies can choose to use this as a web database or for other features like e-commerce. You can integrate MySQL with other web applications and programs as well.

MongoDB

MongoDB is a NoSQL application, meaning it is a single-file database structure. Its main features include querying, indexing, replicating, load storing, and storing files. This is popular because the company stores its database in the cloud, allowing for large storage and it automatically deploys security patches and updates to ensure file safety.

Microsoft SQL server

Microsoft developed this relational database management system (RDBMS). They offer free licences based on roles such as developer, standard and enterprise. This database can handle structured, semi-structured and spatial data. Companies can use this database on location or in the cloud, depending on their needs.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles