The Data Hierarchy

2 minute read

What is Data

Data can be defined as a representation of facts, concepts, or instructions in a formalized manner, which should be suitable for communication, interpretation, or processing by human or electronic machine.

Hierarchy of Data

Data are the principal resources of an organization. Data stored in computer systems form a hierarchy extending from a single bit to a database, the major record-keeping entity of a firm. Each higher rung of this hierarchy is organized from the components below it.

Data are logically organized into:

  1. Bits (characters)

  2. Fields

  3. Records

  4. Files

  5. Databases

Bit (Character) - a bit is the smallest unit of data representation (value of a bit may be a 0 or 1). Eight bits make a byte which can represent a character or a special symbol in a character code.

Field - a field consists of a grouping of characters. A data field represents an attribute (a characteristic or quality) of some entity (object, person, place, or event)(columns in your spreadsheet can represent a single field)

Record - a record represents a collection of attributes that describe a real-world entity. A record consists of fields, with each field describing an attribute of the entity(rows in your spreadsheet can represent a single record)

File - a group of related records. Files are frequently classified by the application for which they are primarily used (employee file). A primary key in a file is the field (or fields) whose value identifies a record among others in a data file.

Database - is an integrated collection of logically related records or files. A database consolidates records previously stored in separate files into a common pool of data records that provides data for many applications. The data is managed by systems software called database management systems (DBMS). The data stored in a database is independent of the application programs using it and of the types of secondary storage devices on which it is stored.

What is a Database Management System

A computer software that the storage, retrieval, and updating of data in a computer system, mainly addition of data, editing data items, deleting data items, sorting the data items etc.

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