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Data Hierarchy

Following are the components of data hierarchy (ascending order of complexity) in an information system:

1. Bit
The term ³bit´ is short form for binary digit. It can assume either of two possible states and, therefore, can represent either 0 or 1. In secondary storage, a bit is used to represent data through positive or negative polarity of an electrical charge on a magnetic recording medium, such as tape or disk. Semi conductor storage is usually used for primary storage. In semiconductor storage, a bit is represented by an electrical circuit that is either conducting or not conducting electricity.

2. Byte
An ability to represent only binary digits in a computer system is not sufficient for business information processing. Numeric and alphabetic characters as well as a wide variety of special characters (such as, dollar signs, question marks and quotation marks) should be stored. In a computer system, a character of information is called a byte. A byte of information is stored by using several bits in specified combination called ³bit patterns.´ A widely used bit pattern for personal computers and data communication is the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII). ASCII uses seven bits to represent one character. Each 1 or 0 corresponds to a single bit.

3.Data Field or Item
The next level in data hierarchy is a field or item of data. A field or item of data is one or more bytes containing data about the attribute of an entity in an information system. An entity in a payroll system is an individual employee. Attributes are the employee¶s name, pay rate and so on. The basic pay is a field or item of data.

4. Data Record
A record is a collection of fields relating to a specific entity. For example, a payroll record contains fields of data relating to a specific employee. An analogy can be made between a computer-based record and an individual folder in a manual file. A folder in a payroll file may contain almost the same information as a record in a computer-based payroll file. The field that identifies a record from all other records in a file is the record key. For example, the record key in a payroll record is usually an employee¶s provident fund number or social security number because it is different for each employee.

5. File
A file is a collection of related records. For example, the collection of payroll

records of all employees in a company is a payroll file. The concept of a computer file is very similar to a manual file in a filing cabinet.

6. Database
A database consists of all the files of an organization. It is structured and integrated to facilitate update of the files and retrieval of information from them. The term has often been used rather loosely. Technically, a database consists of those files that are a part of data base management system. However, a database is often used to refer to all the files of an organization. Now, all this is called as data hierarchy because databases are composed of files, files are composed of records, records are composed of filed, fields composed of data bytes and finally, data bytes are a group of bits. This is very well a hierarchical structure.