Chapter 8. Building the Data

You can't avoid it. If you are developing data-driven sites, you have to use a database. There are also some new technologies to work with and eventually master.

There are a couple things you have to know before you start:

  • You must have access to a database management system (DBMS) if you want to create a database and work with it on your computer.

  • The DBMS should reside on your local server, or if you use an ISP, it should reside on the ISP's remote server.

  • You don't have to be a database "guru." Think like a computer, and you will soon come to understand how data is stored and retrieved.

The database you use has to be a relational database, such as MS Access or MySQL. With a relational database, you store data in various tables and then define how those tables relate to each other. The neat thing about relational databases is they offer you multiple tables. That means the information is stored in a series of tables that use common key fields. With multiple tables, there has to be a method of creating the relationships behind the tables. This is the job of the primary key. A primary key is the database phrase for columns that contain values unique to each row. Each table must contain one field that has been designated as the primary key field. The primary key field contains a unique entry for each record. This enables you to hunt down a list of something like baseball diamonds by searching for the unique value in the field.

Finally, application servers, such as ColdFusion MX, communicate with a DBMS through the use of drivers. Drivers are the software that defines how information is moved in and out of your database. The most common drivers are Microsoft Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) and Sun's Java Database Connectivity (JDBC). A DBMS that connects using one of these two drivers is said to be ODBC-compliant or JDBC-compliant. In fact, one of the first questions you answer in ColdFusion MX is which driver you will be using.