What Is the Difference Between Database, Database Management System, and Database System?

A database is a repository where data and its metadata are collected for future reference within a specific context (Coronel et al., 2011). In the book Database Design, a database is described as “a mechanism used to store information or data” (Stephens & Plew, 2001).

A DBMS or Database Management System is the software that works as a layer between the Database and the users that helps to manage the database (Coronel et al., 2011). The DBMS is in charge of supporting the schema, access methods, data clustering, data definition language, manipulation of the data, transaction management, crash recovery, etc. (Buxton & Al, 2009).

The Database System refers to the combination of the database storage, the DBMS, and personnel working together in order to manage the database (Coronel et al., 2011). A broader definition is provided by the book, which refers to the database system to the components in an organization that defines and manages the collection, storage, use, and management within the database environment, and those components are software, hardware, people, procedures, and data (Coronel et al., 2011).

Why is it important to note the distinction?

The importance of the distinction depends on the context. For example, normally this is not very important and most people use database systems, interchangeably with database and DBMS. However, at the moment on designing and implementing the architecture of a database system or while communicating between DBA’s or designers it is necessary to distinguish its core components in order to understand what really they are talking about. But in general, the distinction is not necessary in most cases because when we talk about a database, we usually refer to the DBMS as the combination of all three technologies.


Coronel, C., Morris, S., & Rob, P. (2011). Database Systems: Design, Implementation, and Management. Course Technology.

Buxton, S., & Al, E. (2009). Database Design: Know It All. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers/Elsevier.

Stephens, R. K., & Plew, R. R. (2001). Database Design. Sams.

Teylor Feliz
Teylor Feliz

Teylor is a seasoned generalist that enjoys learning new things. He has over 20 years of experience wearing different hats that include software engineer, UX designer, full-stack developer, web designer, data analyst, database administrator, and others. He is the founder of Haketi, a small firm that provides services in design, development, and consulting.

Over the last ten years, he has taught hundreds of students at an undergraduate and graduate levels. He loves teaching and mentoring new designers and developers to navigate the rapid changing field of UX design and engineering.

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