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By Steve Suehring, Janet Valade

MySQL is a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS). Your MySQL server can manage many databases at the same time. In fact, many people might have different databases managed by a single MySQL server. Each database consists of a structure to hold the data and the data itself.

A database can exist without data, only a structure, be totally empty, twiddling its thumbs and waiting for data to be stored in it.

Data in a database is stored in one or more tables. You must create the database and the tables before you can add any data to the database. First you create the empty database. Then you add empty tables to the database.

Database tables are organized like other tables that you’re used to — in rows and columns. Each row represents an entity in the database, such as a customer, a book, or a project. Each column contains an item of information about the entity, such as a customer name, a book name, or a project start date. The place where a particular row and column intersect, the individual cell of the table, is called a field.

Tables in databases can be related. Often a row in one table is related to several rows in another table. For instance, you might have a database containing data about books you own. You would have a book table and an author table.

One row in the author table might contain information about the author of several books in the book table. When tables are related, you include a column in one table to hold data that matches data in the column of another table.

Only after you’ve created the database structure can you add data.