What Is the Difference Between DBMS and RDBMS?

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DBMS stands for Database Management System, and RDBMS stands for Relational Database Management system. While they are both methods of storing data, there are key differences between them. Understanding the basics of the two is vital for a comparison.

[Featured image] A database engineer works with a DBMS on a laptop computer.

To help you understand the similarities and differences between these two types of storage systems, it helps to have a foundational knowledge of key concepts. Consider these important definitions:

  • Database: A database is an organised repository of various data sets stored digitally for easy assessment, modification, and update. 

  • DBMS: A software program that not only stores databases but also maintains and manages them and controls access to them. Data is stored as files. Common examples of DBMS are Windows registry, Microsoft Access, MongoDB, and XML.

  • RDBMS: An advanced form of a DBMS. Data is organised in tables to interpret relations and differences. General examples of RDBMS are SQL, MySQL, Postgres, and Oracle. 

Database management system (DBMS)

A DBMS allows access, operation, and manipulation of databases. It manages the data in files through manipulation like sorting, deletion, and insertion to improve, refine, and control the database. It allows tasks like defining, updating, retrieving, and administration of data.

  • Defining data: It is the modification, creation and removal of definitions, which are the base of data organisation in the database. General examples of data definition commands are create, alter, drop, truncate, comment, rename, and use. 

  • Data updating: Data updating involves modifying data in a database. The "UPDATE" command for data updation comes with "SET" and "WHERE" conditions. The "SET" signifies the values, and the "WHERE" specifies the update location. You can perform these for specific single and multiple columns.  However, you can skip "WHERE" to update all the rows.

  • Data retrieval: Data retrieval or selection is possible in an unambiguous database represented in a structured format. It has a "SELECT" clause, which can be further used with optional clauses such as from, order by, where, as, group by, and having. For instance, the possible combination can be "SELECT", "FROM", and "WHERE". 

  • Data administration: The data administration option is used for security, integrity, conflict resolution, monitoring the performance and action of users, and recovery of information.

Characteristics of DBMSs

The primary characteristics of a DBMS are as follows:

  • Multithreading: Error-free simultaneous usage of multiple databases

  • Security: Secures the database with limited access to users according to the requirements

  • Efficiency: Strong query language

  • Preservation: Backup and recovery

  • Integrity: Better quality and reliability due to data integrity 

  • Self-explaining nature: Self-definition of data

  • Versatility: Takes up any datatype

  • ACID (atomicity, consistency, isolation, durability) compliant: Adheres to crucial database properties of atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability

Components of DBMSs 

Several DBMS components are available in all software. DBMSs are a storage engine to store data, an optimisation engine to optimise the data, a query language that lets you interact with data, and a processor that helps the user and the database communicate.

Additionally,  the log manager contains all histories such as backups, logins, restore and database functions, and many more. The metadata catalogue concerns the record of the newly created object and associated metadata to enable user verification. Reporting and monitoring tools generate and monitor the database while data utilities enable repair, integrity check, and other functions. 

Relational database management system (RDBMS)

A RDBMS is a highly common and structured representation method. It focuses on multiple rows and columns in tables rather than files. Launched in the 1970s, it came with better productivity, innovation, efficiency, and speed than the DBMS. 

It incorporates integrity rules that preserve the accuracy and accessibility of data. RDBMSs also keep physical storage structures separate from logical data structures, allowing for easier data manipulation and access. 

Characteristics of RDBMS

The primary characteristics of RDBMS are as follows:

  • Accuracy: Eliminates erroneous data duplication since data is stored only once

  • Categorisation: Data is easily categorised to filter and extract efficiently

  • SQL efficiency: SQL facilitates complex queries

  • Security: Permissions prevent unauthorised access

  • Flexibility: Data is automatically updated throughout the system when a change is made

  • Automation: Stored procedures eliminate the need for constant coding

  • ACID compliant: Adheres to crucial database properties of atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability

Components of RDBMS

There lies a difference between DBMS and RDBMS in components, where the latter has tables that act as primary components carrying entities or entries of data. Rows comprise records, while the column is a uniquely defined part of the table. The domain is the data or set of values to be incorporated in a column; the schema is the logical, physical, and application part of the database. At the same time, instance refers to the database view at a specific time. Multiple keys exist, like the coordinate, primary, alternate, super, foreign, and composite keys. 

RDBMS vs DBMS: What makes them different?

The significant points of difference between a DBMS and an RDBMS are as follows: 

  • DBMS stores the information in files, but RDBMS stores them in tables. Thus, there exists no relationship or link between the data in DBMS. 

  • DBMS can have repeated data, but RDBMS prevents it by indexing. 

  • DBMS does not allow normalisation, but RDBMS does. 

  • DBMS offers low security and speed. In contrast, RDBMS has a higher speed and is more secure. 

  • DBMSs require less software and hardware. In an RDBMS, hardware and software requirements are comparatively higher. 

  • DBMS allows only one user, while RDBMS allows multiple users.

  • DBMS has less storage capacity.  

  • Usually, small organisations with fewer data and single users prefer DBMS, but RDBMS is preferable in other situations. 

  • DBMS handles navigational or hierarchical format, while RDBMS uses primary identifiers and tables for data handling.

  • Common examples of DBMS are Windows registry, Microsoft Access, and XML. General examples of RDBMS are SQL, MySQL, Postgres, and Oracle. 

DBMS and RDBMS: Career options

If you are aiming for careers in database technology, you can choose several different positions. Jobs that require DBMS skills include:

  • Database manager

  • Data analyst

  • Information security analyst

  • Database administrator

  • Data modeller 

  • Data scientist

  • Software engineer

  • Database programmer

  • Database tester

Following are some examples of systems that opt for relational database management systems:

  • IBM

  • MySQL

  • Oracle

  • Microsoft SQLServer 

  • PostgreSQL

  • MariaDB

  • SQLite

Upgrading your knowledge of RDBMS specific to these systems can help you qualify for jobs with companies that use them.

Key Takeaways

DBMSs and RDBMSs are similar in offering data management through sorting, addition, deletion, updating, and manipulation of data. However, you will find several points of difference between DBMSs and RDBMSs; the latter is a branch of DBMS.

Learn more by gaining detailed and structured information on database management by taking up a course on Coursera. For example, consider building your foundational skills with Database Management Essentials or learning more about RDBMSs with Introduction to Relational Databases (RDBMS) by IBM.  Expand your skill set, apply your knowledge to database jobs, and help your career grow. 

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