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12.5: Describe Three Types of File Organization

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    A physical file contains the actual data that is stored on the system and a description of how the data is to be presented to or received from a program. Physical files can be separated into extents. Extents are a spreadable section of disk storage space. Many database management systems store many different kinds of data in one operating system file. According to (Venkataraman, R., Topi, H. 2011) a “tablespace is a named logical storage unit in which data from one or more database tables, views, or other database objects may be stored.” A tablespace consists of one or several physical operating system files. Thus, “Oracle has responsibility for managing the storage of data inside a tablespace, whereas the operating system has many responsibilities for managing a tablespace, but they are all related to its responsibilities related to the management of operating system files” (Venkataraman, R., Topi, H. 2011). 

    Because an instance of Oracle usually supports many databases for many users, a database administrator usually will create many user tablespaces, which helps to achieve database security, since the administrator can give each user selected rights to access each tablespace. As stated by Venkataraman, R. and Topi, H. (2011) “each tablespace consists of logical units called segments consisting of one table, index, or partition, which, in turn, are divided into extents .... these consist of a number of contiguous data blocks, which are the smallest unit of storage”. Each table, index, or other so-called schema object belongs to a single tablespace, but a tablespace may contain one or more tables, indexes, and other schema objects. Physically, each tablespace can be stored in one or multiple data files, but each data file is associated with only one tablespace and only one database. 

    Modern database management systems have an active role in managing the use of the physical devices and files on them; for example, the allocation of schema objects (e.g., tables and indexes) to data files is typically fully controlled by the DBMS. A database administrator does have the ability to manage the disk space allocated to tablespaces and a number of parameters related to the way free space is managed within a database. Because this is not a text on Oracle, we do not cover specific details on managing tablespaces; however, the general principles of physical database design apply to the design and management of Oracle tablespaces, as they do to whatever the physical storage unit is for any database management system 

    File Organization 

    A “file organization is a technique for arranging the records of a file on secondary storage devices” (Venkataraman, R., Topi, H. 2011). With modern relational DBMS it is not necessary to design file organizations, but you are to be allowed to select an organization and its parameters for a table or physical file. In choosing a file organization for a particular file in a database, consider seven important factors: fast data retrieval, high throughput for processing data input and maintenance transactions, efficient use of storage space, protection from failures or data loss, minimizing need for reorganization, accommodating growth, and security from unauthorized use. 


    In a sequential file organization, the records in the file are stored in sequence according to a primary key value. To locate a particular record, a program must normally scan the file from the beginning until the desired record is located. A common example of a sequential file is the alphabetical list of persons in the white pages of a telephone directory. A comparison of the capabilities of sequential files with the other two types of files can be seen in Figure 1.3. “Because of their inflexibility, sequential files are not used in a database but may be used for files that back up data from a database” (Venkataraman, R., Topi, H. 2011). 


    In an index file organization, records are stored either sequentially or nonsequentially, and an index is created that allows the application software to locate individual records. “A card catalog in a library, an index is a table that is used to determine in a file the location of records that satisfy some condition” (Venkataraman, R., Topi, H. 2011). Each index entry matches a key value with one or more records. An index can point to unique records or to potentially more than one record, and an index that allows each entry to point to more than one record is called a secondary key index. Secondary key indexes are important for supporting many reporting requirements and for providing rapid ad hoc data retrieval. An example would be an index on the ProductFinish column of a Product table. Because indexes are extensively used with relational DBMSs, the choice of what index and how to store the index entries matters greatly in database processing performance. 

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Three Types of File Organizations (Venkataraman, R., Topi, H. (2011)) 

    When the address of a record within a file is to be determined or computed, the technique of hash file organization may be considered and implemented as an algorithm or function. A hash algorithm is an algorithm that takes an input of random size and proceeds to transform the input such that the hash result is an output of fixed length. Once the output is determined or computed, the hash result is irreversible, meaning that the algorithm can only process data in one direction. The use of hashing algorithms is commonly found in databases for practically any website that requires a password to login to an account and is illustrated in Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\).

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\):

    Hashing Algorithm, by jscrambler. Copyright 2020 by jscrambler 

    In other hashing algorithms, the primary key value of a record is typically divided by a prime number that is suitable for use and the remainder of the divided value is used as a relative storage location. Due to limitations in which only one key is used for storage retrieval through hashing, hashing and indexing are used in combination to address this issue. According to Jeffrey A. Hoffer, Venkataraman Ramesh, and Heikki Topi, a hash index table uses hashing to map a key into a location in an index (sometimes called a scatter index table), where there is a pointer (a field of data indicating a target address that can be used to locate a related field or record of data) to the actual data record matching the hash key (Hoffer et al., 2015). 

    In an effort to preserve memory space, database management systems may allow for several rows of related tables to be joined together and store the same amount of units of storage (data block). An example of this is seen when a common primary key between related tables such as a CustomerID or ItemID are utilized to join rows of separate tables together which are related by these two primary keys. According to Jeffrey A. Hoffer, Venkataraman Ramesh, and Heikki Topi, time is reduced because related records will be closer to each other than if the records are stored in separate files in separate areas of the disk. Defining a table to be in only one cluster reduces retrieval time for only those tables stored in the same cluster. This technique of file organization is known as clustering files and is illustrated in Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\)

    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\):

    A clustering file for Ordering, by Hoffer et al., 2015, Modern Database Management 12e (E-Reader Version). Copyright 2015 by Pearson Education, Inc 

    When considering security to protect files from damage, types of control are useful elements of database files to use for unforeseen file corruptions. Database files are stored in a proprietary format by the database which allows for access controls over the files. Some useful procedures to consider are backups to ensure that stored data may be retrieved in the event that data may be compromised. Another technique employs the utilization of encryption to encrypt data contained within files and allow for only programs with access to decrypt them. There are two main methods of encryption: symmetric encryption and asymmetric encryption. Symmetric encryption makes use of a single key for all parties communicating and is used for both encrypting data and decrypting data. Asymmetric encryption makes use of two keys for all parties communicating where the first key is used for encryption and the second key is used for decryption. 

    12.5: Describe Three Types of File Organization is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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