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The database development life cycle
The database development life cycle

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1.6.2 Populating the database

After a database has been created, there are two ways of populating the tables – either from existing data, or through the use of the user applications developed for the database.

For some tables, there may be existing data from another database or data files. For example, in establishing a database for a hospital you would expect that there are already some records of all the staff that have to be included in the database. Data might also be bought in from an outside agency (address lists are frequently bought in from external companies) or produced during a large data entry task (converting hard-copy manual records into computer files can be done by a data entry agency). In such situations the simplest approach to populate the database is to use the import and export facilities found in the DBMS. Facilities to import and export data in various standard formats are usually available (these functions are also known in some systems as loading and unloading data). Importing enables a file of data to be copied directly into a table. When data are held in a file format that is not appropriate for using the import function then it is necessary to prepare an application program that reads in the old data, transforms them as necessary and then inserts them into the database using SQL code specifically produced for that purpose. The transfer of large quantities of existing data into a database is referred to as a bulk load. Bulk loading of data may involve very large quantities of data being loaded, one table at a time so you may find that there are DBMS facilities to postpone constraint checking until the end of the bulk loading.

Exercise 6

Why would you postpone constraint checking during bulk loading operations?


Some constraints will involve comparisons between data stored in several tables. Since the importing of data is usually performed one table at a time, these constraints will fail and the import would be prevented. Only when all the bulk data have been loaded should the constraints be checked because, at that time, the data in the database should be consistent.

Those tables for which there are no existing data will be populated using the application processes supporting the normal activities of the organisation, such as enrolling new students on courses or assigning new patients to wards in a hospital.