A Beginner’s Guide to the SQL Language

Konfinity
January 10,2021 - 5 min read
A Beginner’s Guide to the SQL Language

In today’s day and age, data plays a crucial role. All of our devices, social media and software are heavily dependent on different types of data for their working. One thing to consider is that data has to be processes and arranged in a particular manner before it can be used by any individual or organisation for a specific purpose. The Raw, unprocessed data, isn't very useful.

There are a lot of tools and technologies that comes in picture when we talk about processing data. One basic computer language for database is SQL. It is an acronym for Structured Query Language and is one of the most important languages used for the processing of data.

It is very rightly said that ‘data is the new oil’ because nowadays almost all businesses irrespective of their size or reach, use data to run their daily operations and attract a huge variety of customers. However, the task is not as easy as it sounds. This huge amount of data has to be managed by experts in this field using databases. The growing number of businesses realising the power of data has led to the demand for database administration experts. Handling and working with data using tools, technologies and languages like SQL can be very lucrative career option.

In this article, we’ll have a detailed look at SQL, the database language, and why you should learn it. We would explain the core concept of SQL, the basics involved in SQL programming that are commonly used by industries and some popular SQL database systems. This blog also makes an earnest effort in inspiring and guiding you to start learning the language yourself. Let’s get started!

What is SQL?

As mentioned above, one of the most significant part of many web applications and mobile apps is data. Various applications use data for various purposes, for example, a social networking site holds a user’s information so that their friends on the same platform can identify them, whereas a banking site holds a user’s financial data to process transactions. Whatever might be the utility of the data, in order to hold it, a database system is used. SQL is the programming language that enable developers and database administrators to work with that data. SQL or Structured Query Language is basically a language that allows communication with databases in order to process, extract and maintain all the data that they contain.

There’s always a question in the minds of developers that whether SQL is a Programming Language or not. The straight answer to this question is that, Yes, it is a language! SQL is a language that offers looping, logic directives, variables, and so on. However, it’s not a programming language similar to Java or C++. SQL is a fourth-generation language, whereas Java, C++ and other such programming languages are third-generation languages. SQL is different than other conventional languages as it is used for storing, manipulating and retrieving data in databases.

Now that we have understood the basic scenario of SQL and its usage in the IT industry, let’s get a step ahead and understand how to use SQL for processing data.

Using SQL

Language like Python, Java or C++ are used to build and develop the user interface and the back end of various applications. However, when it comes to storing data, databases are not configured to understand these programming languages. Generally, databases only understand SQL and hence it is important to learn SQL if you intend to work in develop websites or web applications. In this segment, we cover some of the most important concepts of learning SQL.

First of all, SQL has its own mark- up and hence it is necessary for anyone to learn SQL mark- up before they can use it effectively to manage data. Other than mark- up, another important feature in database programming is tables. Tables are pivotal to database and they are represented as number of tables where each table has a specific number of rows and columns. Tables in a database allow us to store all the information we need in the form of a data.

Talking about tables, it’s a good time to discuss some of the most frequently used SQL commands. You should be familiar with these commands even if you are distantly involved in database work. Some of these general commands used in SQL is -

  • CREATE

    The syntax of this command is CREATE DATABASE database-name. This command is used to create a database in SQL. A database is like an organised collection of data.

  • CREATE TABLE

    This command is used to create a table. We have talked a lot about tables and how important they are to database. The complete syntax of this command is CREATE TABLE table-name ( columnA datatype, columnB datatype … );

  • SELECT

    The SELECT command is probably the most important command of SQL. It is used to find or extract some data that fulfils a particular set of conditions from a database. The syntax of this command is SELECT column1, column2 FROM table-name;

  • UPDATE

    The UPDATE command is used to make adjustments or edit the data present in the database. The full syntax of the UPDATE command is UPDATE table-name SET columnA = valueA WHERE condition;

  • DELETE

    As the name suggests, the DELETE command is used to delete some data.

These commands were some of the most commonly used commands in SQL language. However, as you start using more and more complicated database, you would use more commands that are different and varied from the ones we discussed.

These commands are basically used to write queries that allow you to operate data in databases. When you write these commands in the form of a query in a database system, the system interprets and processes these commands and then produces the desirable output. The result can be a new record or a table in the database, creation of a new database or simply a set of columns produced to fulfil a certain condition.

Let’s look at a quick example to understand SQL commands and the output they produce.

CREATE DATABASE konfinity;

CREATE TABLE web_development ( student_name char, mobile_number int, projects_made int );

The first query is responsible for creating a new database by the name of konfinity whereas the second query creates a new table that goes by the name web_development inside the database konfinity.

In reality, applications and websites have numerous databases for various reasons. For example, there might be a database for users that stores all the information about the users of a particular application. There can be a separate database for the geographic locations for users that would contain all the cities around the world in which users of that particular application live.

If you have read the blog till here, I am sure you are well versed with most of the concepts that are crucial to the understanding of SQL. Now, it’s time we explore some real- life applications of SQL.

Applications of SQL

Database is important in any field where significant amounts of data are involved. In this segment we have a look at some of the industries that use SQL the most.

  • Finance

    In the finance industry, there is a greater need to store and operate data about users and their financial transactions. Hence, there is a complicated database behind all the applications and websites of any bank. Also, when we talk about banks, the database system has to be extra secure and also risk compliant. Hence, one of the most popular application of SQL is in the finance industry.

  • Entertainment

    One of the most recent uses of data is in the entertainment industry. Various music applications use database to store vast libraries of music files and albums, on the other hand social media platforms use SQL to store a user’s profile information such as bio and location and update the database when a user creates a new post.

  • IT Industry

    The IT industry uses database extensively and SQL language is used to drive these databases. We talked about social networks, entertainment industry and banking applications which are using some version of SQL. The IT industry boasts a universal applicability of SQL as database programming language is a useful tool that every developer should have and try to polish and update it as much as possible.

These were some of the most common and widespread applications of SQL, the database language. The last part of this beginner’s guide to the SQL language would be SQL database systems.

SQL Database Systems

A database system provides a user interface that allows a developer to work with databases. These systems have ready templates, builders, and constructors that makes it easy for developers to work with data. Some of the most common SQL database systems are Oracle Database, MySQL, PostgreSQL among others. Let’s have a look at each of these SQL database systems in detail.

Oracle Database is the one of the leading SQL database systems as it is used in a wide range of industries. It is particularly popular in sectors involving data warehousing and online transaction processing. Another database system is MySQL which is an open-source database system and is available for free to individuals and businesses. There is a lot of confusion between SQL and MySQL. The difference between the two is that SQL is a language and MySQL is a database system. One major competitor of both these database systems is PostgreSQL. It is a free and open- source database system used widely by technology start-ups because of its free licensing and the fact that it supports all major operating systems.

With this, we come to an end of our guide to the SQL language that is most suitable for beginners. We hope that his serves as a tipping point for you to start with this language and you end up become a expert when it comes to databases.

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