Difference Between DBMS and File System

DBMS vs File System

DBMS (Database Management System) and File System are two ways that could be used to manage, store, retrieve and manipulate data. A File System is a collection of raw data files stored in the hard-drive whereas DBMS is a bundle of applications that is dedicated for managing data stored in databases. It is the integrated system used for managing digital databases, which allows the storage of database content, creation/ maintenance of data, search and other functionalities. Both systems can be used to allow the user to work with data in a similar way. A File System is one of the earliest ways of managing data. But due the shortcomings present in using a File System to store electronic data, Database Management Systems came in to use sometime later, as they provide mechanisms to solve those problems. But it should be noted that, even in a DBMS, data are eventually (physically) stored in some sort of files.

File System

As mentioned above, in a typical File System electronic data are directly stored in a set of files. If only one table is stored in a file, they are called flat files. They contain values at each row separated with a special delimiter like commas. In order to query some random data, first it is required to parse each row and load it to an array at run time. But for this file should be read sequentially (because, there is no control mechanism in files), therefore it is quite inefficient and time consuming. The burden of locating the necessary file, going through the records (line by line), checking for the existence of a certain data, remembering what files/records to edit is on the user. The user either has to perform each task manually or has to write a script that does them automatically with the help of the file management capabilities of the operating system. Because of these reasons, File Systems are easily vulnerable to serious issues like inconsistency, inability for concurrency, data isolation, threats on integrity and lack of security.


DBMS, sometimes just called a database manager, is a collection of computer programs that is dedicated for the management (i.e. organization, storage and retrieval) of all databases that are installed in a system (i.e. hard drive or network). There are different types of Database Management Systems existing in the world, and some of them are designed for the proper management of databases configured for specific purposes. Most popular commercial Database Management Systems are Oracle, DB2 and Microsoft Access. All these products provide means of allocation of different levels of privileges for different users, making it possible for a DBMS to be controlled centrally by a single administrator or to be allocated to several different people. There are four important elements in any Database Management System. They are the modeling language, data structures, query language and mechanism for transactions. The modeling language defines the language of each database hosted in the DBMS. Currently several popular approaches like hierarchal, network, relational and object are in practice. Data structures help organize the data such as individual records, files, fields and their definitions and objects such as visual media. Data query language allow for maintaining and the security of the database. It monitors login data, access rights to different users, and protocols to add data to the system. SQL is a popular query language which is used in Relational Database Management Systems. Finally, the mechanism that allows for transactions help concurrency and multiplicity. That mechanism will make sure same record will not be modified by multiple users at the same time, thus keeping the data integrity in tact. Additionally, DBMSs provide backup and other facilities as well. With all these advancements in place, DBMS solves almost all problems of the File System, mentioned above.

Difference between DBMS and File System

In File System, files are used to store data while, collections of databases are utilized for the storage of data in DBMS. Although File System and DBMS are two ways of managing data, DBMS clearly has many advantages over File Systems. Typically when using a File System, most tasks such as storage, retrieval and search are done manually and it is quite tedious whereas a DBMS will provide automated methods to complete these tasks. Because of this reason, using a File System will lead to problems like data integrity, data inconsistency and data security, but these problems could be avoided by using a DBMS. Unlike File System, DBMS are efficient because reading line by line is not required and certain control mechanisms are in place.