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InformIT Visual Tutorial 2: Databases for Web Businesses (Using Microsoft Access 2000)

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The database is the central technology in a business Web site. In this database tutorial, you'll learn how to use Microsoft Access to create a GuestBook table and manually fill the table with data.
Nick and Nancy Flor are the authors of Small Web Businesses--a business and technical guide to creating profitable personal Web businesses.

The database is the central technology in a business Web site. In this database tutorial, you'll learn how to use Microsoft Access to create a GuestBook table and manually fill the table with data.

After completing this tutorial you should be able to do the following:

  • Explain what a database is

  • Define the terms table, record, and field

  • Create a table

  • Define a primary key for a table

  • Manually enter information into a table

Introduction

People unfamiliar with databases think of them as something complex and mysterious. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, you should think of a database as merely a technology that stores and retrieves data. Information is stored in tables and each table contains one or more records. All the tables together make up your database. To use a real-world analogy, a database is like one of the drawers in a file cabinet. Each drawer can have multiple folders, which correspond to database tables. Each folder, in turn, can have multiple pages inside, which correspond to the records in a table. That's all there is to it. If you can use a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel, you shouldn't have any problems using a database.

A Web site with one or more pages that are dynamically generated from information in a database is known as a database-driven Web site. There are many kinds of value-added, custom, interactive applications you can have on your site, such as community forums, marketing polls, service reminders, email announcements/newsletters, and product support and knowledge bases—just to name a few. Without a database, such applications are difficult or even impossible to implement. In general, any time you need to get information from a user or generate Web pages based on user information, you ought to use a database.

What makes a database powerful are the built in operations for quickly and efficiently storing data, modifying/deleting it, combining it, and retrieving different views of the data. You invoke these operations by communicating with the database in a language known as Structured Query Language (SQL). We'll cover SQL in the next tutorial. In this tutorial, we'll focus on creating a database. Specifically, we'll create a database to store information from a Web site "guest book." We'll assume that we have an HTML form already created that asks users for their name, email address, age, gender, and a comment. As you'll see, there are many steps involved in creating such a database, but each individual step is relatively straightforward.

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