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CHAPTER
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The World of Relational Databases
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e re surrounded by databases ranging in complexity from a list of weekend gardening chores to data that resides in the archives at the Internal Revenue Service Our ability to succeed in this Information Age is directly related to our ability to manage and track information Managing information means storing it efficiently, and tracking means retrieving it quickly in a form that can be instantly useful The relational database model has been developed to meet those requirements
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What Is a Relational Database
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A database is an organized collection of related information used for a specific purpose, such as keeping track of ongoing work order activities or maintaining a library A collection of data about clothing manufacturers in New York and coal production in Kentucky probably doesn t constitute a database, because the data wouldn t normally be used together for a specific purpose If you collected information about your company s work orders, the customers who contracted for the work, and your employees who would carry out the work, however, this would constitute a database
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NOTE The terms data and information aren t interchangeable Bits of data are combined in a logical
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way to impart specific information For example, the numbers 999090009 constitute an item of data, but they don t constitute information until modified with special characters: 999-09-0009 Then the numbers become information in the form of a Social Security Number When you use a computerized database management system such as Access, the database is called relational The principle behind a relational database is this: The information is divided into separate stacks of logically related data, each of which is stored in a separate table in the file Tables are the fundamental objects at the heart of a relational database They form the active basis for the information storage and retrieval system Once the information is arranged in separate tables, you can view, edit, add, and delete information with online forms; search for and retrieve some of or all the information with queries; and print information as customized reports In Access, the term database is more precisely used to define the collection of objects that store, track, manipulate, and retrieve data These components include tables, queries, forms, reports, macros, and modules
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Part I:
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Getting Started
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NOTE Access 2007 no longer supports the data access page object It makes use of the SharePoint
services to send data over the Internet
Purpose of Relationships
Rather than storing data in one large two-dimensional table, called a flat file, such as you might find in a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet, Access lets you distribute data among individual tables Topping the list of advantages of using a relational database structure is the reduction of data redundancy, which not only reduces the required disk storage space, but also speeds processing Other important advantages gained by implementing a relational database are the following: Flexibility If data changes, you can update the value in only one place All queries, forms, and reports look in that place for the current values Simplicity The flat-file model used as the basis for a relational system dictates a simple, nonredundant method of data storage Each table in the relational design is a single object containing data pertinent to a particular aspect of the database, such as an employee, a product, or an order Power Storing the data in separate related tables allows grouping, searching, and retrieving the information in almost unlimited ways Ease of management With smaller, less-complicated tables, the information is much easier to locate and manage For example, if you re tracking customer work orders, you could put all the data in a single table, creating a flat-file database A separate record would exist for every work order under contract Storing all the customer data with the work order information would mean repeating the same customer information In addition, if a customer s phone number changed, every record containing that customer s information would have to be updated Employee information in the work order table would also be repeated It is far more efficient to have one table for work order information and separate tables for customer and employee information A short field containing a customer identifier could be added to the customer and work order tables to form a connection between the tables, called a relationship Similarly, an employee identifier can link the work orders to the employee who is acting as the job supervisor Figure 2-1 shows how to implement the work order database as a relational database The information is split into an efficient relational database containing three tables, with special fields added to provide the relationships In Figure 2-1, the relationship line drawn between the Customer ID field in the Customers table and the Customer ID field in the Workorders table links the two tables This relationship enables you to look up all the work order information for one customer, as well as the customer s name and phone number for a specific work order Similarly, the three relationship lines from the Supervisor, Principal Worker, and Helper fields in the Workorders table to the Employees table, link the two tables in three ways For example, you can ask Access for the name and pager number of the supervisor on a specific job When Access creates a second relationship with a table, it actually adds another instance of the table to the Relationships layout So you see three instances of the Employees table to accommodate the three links with different fields in the Workorders table
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