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A web database is a system for storing information that can then be accessed via a website. For example, an online community may have a database that stores the username, password, and other details of all its members. The most commonly used database system for the internet is MySQL due to its integration with PHP — one of the most widely used server side programming languages.
At its most simple level, a web database is a set of one or more tables that contain data. Each table has different fields for storing information of various types. These tables can then be linked together in order to manipulate data in useful or interesting ways. In many cases, a table will use a primary key, which must be unique for each entry and allows for unambiguous selection of data.
A web database can be used for a range of different purposes. Each field in a table has to have a defined data type. For example, numbers, strings, and dates can all be inserted into a web database. Proper database design involves choosing the correct data type for each field in order to reduce memory consumption and increase the speed of access. Although for small databases this often isn't so important, big web databases can grow to millions of entries and need to be well designed to work effectively.
Content management systems commonly use web databases to store information such as posts, usernames, and comments. Using a database allows the website to be updated easily and without the need to edit the HTML code for each individual page. Not only is this a much more efficient way of creating and updating a website, but it also makes the process more accessible to people who aren't fluent in the programming languages of the Internet.
An example of where a web database may be used is for an online forum. Forum software often creates a database with a number of tables, including one for users, posts, and settings. It is important for the relationships between the database tables to be properly set and defined so that posts and users can be linked together easily.
In some cases, web databases can be bought with information already included. For example, a database could include a list of all the dentists in the US along with state and address. These databases are commonly integrated into related websites using PHP and HTML, along with additional content.
If you have a blog, the database is one of the most important things to backup regularly. Just ask anyone who has lost everything during an odd malfunction and couldn't restore from a backup.