SQL Database Overview

By:   |   Updated: 2022-05-16   |   Comments   |   Related: More > Database Administration


Learn about what a SQL database is, what is stored in a database and how to interact with a database.


The following SQL tutorial gives you an idea of what a SQL database is and some of the things that can be done with a SQL database.

What is a SQL Database?

A SQL database is a logical container to hold a collection of data and code. It is stored in a computer and most of the time it is managed by a RDBMS (Relational Database Management System). To interact with the data and the code we typically use SQL (Structured Query Language) to manage the data, objects, security, and more.

There are several important RDBMS in the industry. MSSQLTips is mainly focused on Microsoft SQL Server, but other popular database systems (open source too) include Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, DB2, and MariaDB. There are other also NoSQL databases like MongoDB, Amazon DynamoDB and Redis (these databases do not use SQL and are outside the scope of this tutorial).

SQL Database - Logical and Physical

Using SQL Server as an example, the container which we interact with is the logical name of the database as shown below in the screen shot from SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).

SQL Databases

Each database also has physical files that are assigned to the logical database name. If you right click on a database and select Properties from within SSMS and go to the Files page you can see the physical location of the files. As you can see below, each physical file also has a logical name with SQL Server.

Logical name and physical file name

SQL Database Objects

There are several types of database objects and the most used are the following:


The table object is an entity that stores information in columns and rows. It can be a list of customers, employees, invoices, sales data, etc. This is the actual SQL data that gets keyed into systems or loaded into systems from external sources. In addition to tables that you might create, there are also system tables that the database system uses to track and organize all of the database objects.


A view is a virtual table defined by a query. A view can be a query from a table, multiple tables, from another view or multiple views, and can include one or many columns. There are also system views that exist to help you easily retrieve data about various objects in a database.

Stored Procedures

A stored procedure is nothing more than prepared SQL code that is saved and can be reused over and over again. This allows for reuse of code and these stored procedures are stored within the database. There are also system stored procedures that allow you to interact with the database.


Functions are also prepared SQL statements that execute specific tasks. This allows you to write a function one time and reuse it over and over in various places within your code. There are also system functions that can be used to simplify processing such as GETDATE() that returns the current date and time.

Database objects

SQL Database Operations

In order to work with a MS SQL Server database, the following shows simple examples of creating a table and interacting with the table using SQL code.

Create Table

The following SQL command will create a table called dbo.student (i.e. schema dot table name) with numerous column names and data types specified.

CREATE TABLE dbo.student
  id smallint,
  firstname varchar(60),
  lastname varchar(60),
  email varchar(60),
  address varchar(60),
  phone varchar(15),

For more information and examples about creating tables please refer to these links:

Create Indexes

Indexes allow for faster access (i.e. optimization) to specific data stored in a table. It is like an index you find in a book to quickly find the page you want to read.

The following syntax creates an index on the dbo.student table:

CREATE NONCLUSTERED INDEX [IX_student] ON [dbo].[student]
   [id] ASC

For more information about indexes, please review this tutorial:

Insert Data

Another important operation is inserting data into a table. The following example will insert two rows in the table we previously created.

INSERT INTO dbo.student 
(1,'John','Rambo','[email protected]','Mount Street 234','1-2345533434'),
(2,'John','McClaine','[email protected]','Great Valley Street 234','1-2347783434')

For more information about the SQL INSERT command, please check this tutorial:

Select Data

The SELECT statement is used to get data from the table. The following SQL query will return all columns and rows from the table dbo.student.

FROM dbo.student

The following SQL query shows how to get specific columns from the table.

SELECT firstname, lastname 
FROM dbo.student

The following SQL query shows how to get the email of the student with lastname equal to 'McClaine'.

SELECT email 
FROM dbo.student
WHERE lastname = 'McClaine'

For more information about SELECT statements, refer to these links:

Update Data

We can also update the data in a table. The following example will change John Rambo’s phone number from '1-2345533434' to '1-2345533435'.

SET phone = '1-2345533435'
WHERE lastname = 'Rambo'

For more about UPDATES refer to this link:

Delete Data

Lastly, we can also delete data from a table. The following example shows how to delete student McClaine:

DELETE FROM [dbo].[student]
WHERE lastname = 'McClaine'

For more information about the DELETE statement, refer to this link:

SQL Database Security

In SQL Server, we have two main types of authentication, SQL authentication and Windows authentication. SQL Authentication uses a login created inside of SQL Server and is specific to SQL Server. Windows authentication uses operating system authentication (such as Active Directory or a local Windows user).

In order to interact with the database and SQL Server a user has to login to SQL Server using one of these two authentication methods. There is then server level permissions and database level permissions.

There is also the ability to grant, revoke and deny permissions to objects, so only authorized users have access.

Server Roles

These provide different types of permissions at the SQL Server level.

Database Roles

These provide different types of permissions at the database level.

Next Steps

For more information refer to the following:

sql server categories

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sql server tutorials

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Daniel Calbimonte Daniel Calbimonte is a Microsoft SQL Server MVP, Microsoft Certified Trainer and 6-time Microsoft Certified IT Professional. Daniel started his career in 2001 and has worked with SQL Server 6.0 to 2022. Daniel is a DBA as well as specializes in Business Intelligence (SSIS, SSAS, SSRS) technologies.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Article Last Updated: 2022-05-16

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