A data pack is a collection of information stored in a ready-made database. The purpose of a data pack is to "teach" a computer program the information stored within the pack, providing a one-stop solution for instructing items such as software agents, programs which act to provide references and other information to other programs. Data packs streamline the exchange of information between two sources in the computer, obviating the need for the end-user to manually input long lists of information.
Think of a data pack as an injection of knowledge for the computer. Common uses for data packs include long lists of raw facts, such as a list of the different capital cities of major countries around the world or a list of employee names and phone numbers for an organization. Compressing all of this information into the format of data packs allows an end-user to quickly disseminate information across a large number of computers without forcing each computer user to sit there and type in the list verbatim.
This is largely a time-saving device for both the end-user and the computer, but in addition, the use of data packs tends to enhance concurrency concerns across a network. Concurrency concerns refer to the need for everyone on the network to have access to identical data. In other words, it would not do for one network computer to have the capital of the United Kingdom listed as London while another computer has it listed as Madrid. By installing the information from data packs, human error from typos is largely minimized: all of the information installed to the computer or computers will be identical in every way.
It's crucial that data packs be set up correctly, because mistakes in the initial creation of data packs can undermine the integrity of the data, turning what would be otherwise minor errors into errors that can go now system-wide. This emphasizes the need for strict fact-checking when it comes time to evaluate the information contained in the original data pack. Without fact-checking, serious problems can easily arise across the breadth and width of a network.
Once a data pack is installed, the host computer can thereafter search through the information to answer queries. As data packs are miniature databases, information retrieval is typically accomplished through the Structured Query Language (SQL). For example, in considering a data pack containing countries and their capitals, the SQL query "Select capital From countries Where country='Russia'" would immediately return "Moscow" to the end-user. In this way, data packs can turn computer terminals into ready-made encyclopedias for elementary fact retrieval.