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What Is a Centralized Database?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A centralized database is a collection of information at a single location accessible from numerous points, in contrast with a distributed database where the information is spread out across multiple sites. There are advantages and disadvantages to this setup that can become considerations when people make decisions about how to configure databases. This is important to think about when setting up a new database or retrofitting a database to meet new needs.

There are a number of ways to set up the centralized database. Multiple programming languages are well suited to database building and companies can also purchase databasing software rather than developing their own. Users may have a number of ways to access material, and the database can be set up with varying security levels to allow for more access controls. Information technology staff maintain the database with various operations to keep it orderly and address early signs of problems like viral infections. They can also change access levels on request and administer the security system.

One advantage of the centralized database is the ability to access all the information in one location. Searches of the database can be fast because the search engine does not need to check multiple locations to return results. Information may also be easier to organize in a single location. In a database upgrade to handle more information, servers can be added to the database site easily, and the company will not have to balance the needs of a distributed database.

A centralized database can also be easier to physically secure. It can be enclosed in a variety of ways to protect it from theft, sabotage, fire, and other issues. It is also possible to set up an extremely robust computer security system to prevent unauthorized access. For extremely sensitive databases, the computers may not be connected to a network, and users will have to physically enter the database location to pull information. This may be used with some government computers that contain high-security information.

There can also be disadvantages. A centralized database tends to create bottlenecks if multiple users need to access it and their needs are substantial. It can also be very vulnerable if something happens to it and a backup has not been performed or the existing backup is outdated. One advantage of distributed databases is the redundancy factor, which can allow the system to function even if an individual database is down.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By KaBoom — On Nov 04, 2011

@indemnifyme - I see what you're saying, but I think there are a lot of advantages to using a centralized database management system. As you said, it is faster.

However, I think the fact that it's easier to secure physically is a major advantage. A database is a physical object, so it can be stolen or damaged. And then the contents of the database will be damaged too. It seems like it would make a lot more sense to just have to worry about one database instead of several.

By indemnifyme — On Nov 03, 2011

I think if you're going to use a centralized database system, you should be meticulous about backing up. As the article pointed out, in a centralized database, all the information is located in one place.

So, if something happens to the database and you didn't back up, all your information is gone. All of it! I think I would use a distributed database if I were ever in a position to choose a database. I feel like I wouldn't mind sacrificing a little bit on speed if it meant that my data was a little bit safer.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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