Relational Databases 101
Many of my readers come from backgrounds that don't include formal training on the best ways to design and create efficient, business-class relational databases. If you arrive here with Microsoft Access or FoxPro experience, you're at an advantage—you know that, for the most part, the process of creating a database is hidden from you by the application's IDE—you just use drag-and-drop or use wizards to build the databases and tables you want. That's not at all bad, but without an in-depth understanding of how to best create, tune, and protect a relational database, I suspect that the relational "normalcy," relational integrity constraints, performance, and scalability of the result might not be particularly stellar. And, more importantly, the data might not be particularly secure. By "normalcy," I mean how well the database conforms to the recognized standards of relational design where database designers attempt to "normalize" databases to at least the third level. If you're not sure how to do this, or even what this means, have no fear—I'll explain this later. The SQL gurus with whom I work (like Peter Blackburn, Kimberly Tripp, and a litany of others) are convinced that more problems can be solved by efficient database design than by the cleverest, best-written application front-end.