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Introduction to SQL: A Beginner’s Guide

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SQL, otherwise known as structured query language, is at the heart of many thousands of databases used around the world today.

If you have heard of SQL before but know little about its features, uses and benefits, this quick introduction should bring you up to speed and help you formulate an approach to any further studies of this topic you decide to conduct.

The basics

SQL is a programming language which is used in relational databases, allowing for information to be identified, interacted with and otherwise used as necessary both by individual users and by any apps and services which rely on the data in question to function.

Having been in use for around four decades, SQL is an established solution for general database management and underpins mobile apps, websites and a wide array of digital services.

The accessibility

What makes SQL relatively straightforward is that its queries are composed with common English words and terms, so the learning curve is relatively shallow compared to other programming languages.

Terms like SELECT, UPDATE and DELETE are all used to perform basic functions to extract and modify data, which is stored in tables.

It is also possible to make use of SQL server integration services by following this step by step guide, meaning that data can be migrated, merged and otherwise aggregated across more than one database. This means that it is fairly flexible and durable, providing long term benefits to the individuals and businesses that use it.

The uses

In terms of where and why SQL is used, there are almost too many examples to list, but it is worth illustrating its power with a few primary areas to which it has been applied.

Financial institutions such as banks make use of SQL to store information relating to users as well as to the transactions that they handle, which gives an indication of the robustness in terms of security that this language can afford, so long as it is deployed optimally.

Social media is another realm which would not be able to function effectively without databases running on SQL, with Facebook and Instagram both being dependent on relational databases for keeping everything from media files to profile information safe and easily accessible.

The competition & alternatives

SQL as a language is not limited to a single database solution, but is rather available in both open source and premium platforms offered by competing developers to customers of all sizes.

Microsoft’s SQL Server is a good example of the latter, while MySQL is a freely offered example of the former open source approach, demonstrating that there is a decent amount of variety for companies seeking to set up their own SQL database.

There are also rival programming languages, such as NoSQL, although the ubiquity of SQL in many spheres and its widespread support means that it remains relevant to this day.

Familiarizing yourself with SQL is ultimately worthwhile even if you will not be directly responsible for using it day to day, as its presence in so many database systems makes it a valuable programming language to understand regardless of your role.