Network Databases: Cheat Codes You Must Know

Network Databases

Very few users outside the niche software industry know about network databases. That’s a good indication of the mainstream recognition of these powerful network DBMSs.

However, in our experience, network databases have proven to be a fantastic tool for storing and managing complicated data interactions. These databases use a network concept as a database management system to organize and link data pieces.

This distinct structure enables a more realistic portrayal of real-world scenarios in which data items are interrelated at multiple levels. Navigating the network database is a breeze because relationships link similar records.

Although relational databases have superseded network databases in recent years, they remain relevant in some use cases. Their capacity to swiftly extract data and handle complex relationships makes them a helpful tool in data management scenarios where relationships are more critical to analyzing and using data items.

In this article, we’ll discuss the concept of network databases, the benefits, and drawbacks of network DBMS, and then compare these databases with more traditional ones.

Let’s start with an introduction to network databases.

Table of content

What is a Network Database?

Charles Bachman proposed the network model in 1969 to expand the hierarchical database model.

The term “network” in a network database refers to the data model used to describe the relationships between data components. It arranges data graphically, allowing quick navigation and modeling complicated linkages between records.

A network database is a management system that uses a network-based design to organize and store data.

It provides complex links between data items, making efficient retrieval and navigation across interconnected records possible.

Data is organized as a collection of nodes (representing records) and edges (indicating connections) that link the nodes. This allows for developing numerous parent-child relationships, with a record including several parents and children.

In the early days of computers, network databases were popular as an alternative to hierarchical databases. Relational databases, which provide a more straightforward and standardized approach to data administration, have superseded them in most scenarios.

What is a Network Database Management System?

A database management system (DBMS) allows users to build, manipulate, and govern network databases. It provides tools and features for storing, retrieving, and managing data in a network paradigm.

The network DBMS enables users to specify the database structure, build links between entries, and conduct activities such as searching, updating, and deleting data. It guarantees data integrity by providing features for consistency and protection.

The network DBMS functions as a bridge between users and the network database, allowing for effective and orderly data administration within the linked structure of the network model.

The Operational Details of Network Databases

A network database’s operation entails numerous critical factors. Data in a network database is structured using a network model, which comprises interconnected nodes (records) and edges (relationships). Each record can have several parents and offspring, resulting in a web of connections.

The network DBMS employs multiple navigational strategies to retrieve data. It traverses the relationships between data to follow the network structure. This enables efficient data retrieval and advanced querying capabilities.

The DBMS involves specifying the schema containing record types, relationships, and characteristics while constructing a network database. The schema governs the network’s data structure and organization.

The DBMS allows for adding, deleting, and altering records and relationships during data manipulation. Updates are sent over the network to ensure data consistency.

The network DBMS applies referential integrity restrictions to preserve data integrity, limiting the establishment of erroneous associations or orphaned entries.

Security methods are also in place to manage network database access, secure sensitive data, and ensure authorized usage.

The Pros and Cons of Network Data Model

The network data model used in network databases has benefits and drawbacks that you should understand before finalizing database options for your projects.

Here’s a short discussion about the network data model’s advantages and disadvantages.

The Benefits of Network Databases

  • Flexible Relationships: The network model supports complex interactions between data pieces, allowing for more accurate and detailed representations of real-world data objects.
  • Efficient Data Retrieval: several optimized navigational access in network databases allows efficient data retrieval because records are linked through relationships. Moving across the network structure results in faster access to relevant data elements.
  • Data Integrity: The network model ensures referential integrity, ensuring record-to-record links’ consistency and validity.
  • Schema Evolution: The network architecture supports schema evolution, allowing changes to the database structure without impacting current data.

The Drawbacks of Network Databases

  • Complexity: Compared to simpler models such as hierarchical or relational models, the network data model can be challenging to understand and apply.
  • Lack of Standardization: Unlike the commonly used relational model, the network model lacks standardization. As a result, businesses often can’t find a standard and compatible implementation for their projects.
  • Limited Scalability: The network model often faces difficulties maintaining large-scale databases because the link-based relationships get complicated as the data and the number of records increases.
  • Data Independence: Modifying the network database structure may need major modifications to the entire database. This is a critical point in setting up data independence.

It’s worth mentioning that network databases are less common than they once were, with relational databases being more extensively utilized due to their ease of use and standardization.

Hierarchical vs. Network Model vs. Relational Database Model

Choosing the suitable database model for your projects is a critical decision because of the impact on performance and scalability.

The distinctions between a classic hierarchical data model, a network data model, and the current relational data model are summarized here.






Database Model

The data is arranged in a tree-like structure with a single parent-child connection. The data is structured in a network or graph-like structure with many parent-child relationships. Tables contain rows (records) and columns (attributes) of data.
Every child can only have one parent, resulting in a tight hierarchy. Records can have numerous parents, allowing for complicated connections. Keys are used to construct relationships between tables.
The hierarchical model is suitable for describing one-to-many connections. The network model is great for portraying many-to-many connections. The relational model enforces data integrity through various constraints, ensuring data accuracy and consistency.
It lacks flexibility and may make modeling complicated connections difficult. Although more flexible than the hierarchical model, you’d still need significant knowledge of the network structure. Flexible querying is supported using a structured query language (SQL).

Network Database vs. Graph Database

Both network databases and graph database models describe relationships between data items. There are, nevertheless, some significant variations between them:

Network Database Graph Database
The network data model organizes data in a graph-like structure with nodes (records) and edges (relationships). Graph databases are built mainly to store and handle graph-like structures.
Relationships between records are carefully specified and maintained. Relationships are often implicit, which means they are inferred from node connections.
Navigational access is widely utilized to get data by following relationships. Similar to network databases, data is represented as nodes and edges.
Network databases were popular in the past, but relational databases have mainly replaced them. Because of their capacity to manage highly linked and dynamic data, graph databases have grown in popularity in recent years, making them well-suited for applications such as social networks, recommendation systems, and knowledge graphs.

Database Systems Using the Network Model

The network database model was a popular option for organizing large volumes of data. Developers implemented the idea of network databases in several popular options, such as:

Integrated Data Store (IDS): IDS was one of the first network database management systems developed by General Electric in the 1960s. It supported complicated data linkages and gave navigational access via a network model.

IDMS (Integrated Database Management System): IDMS, created by Computer Associates in the 1970s, was a widespread network database management system. It supported sophisticated features like schema evolution, data independence, and an integrated data dictionary.

ADABAS (Adaptable Database System): ADABAS, created by Software AG, was another major network DBMS. It enabled fast access to networked records and high-performance transaction processing.

Cincom TOTAL: TOTAL was a network database management system created by Cincom Systems that provided sophisticated navigational features for handling complicated data connections. It was widely utilized in many early business support systems.

It’s worth noting that as the relational model and SQL language gained popularity, network database solutions began to fade. The relational model underpins most of today’s leading database management systems, including Oracle, MySQL, and PostgreSQL.

Network databases, on the other hand, continue to find niche applications where their unique structure and navigational access are helpful.


Network databases were essential tools in an interconnected world, enabling efficient storage, retrieval, and management of vast data. With the increasing reliance on cloud computing and distributed systems, organizations recognize the significance of robust network databases to support their operations and deliver seamless user experiences.

As businesses strive for high availability, scalability, and data integrity, partnering with reliable hosting providers becomes crucial.

RedSwitches is a notable bare metal hosting provider that offers top-notch infrastructure solutions and exceptional support. By leveraging our hosting services, businesses can enhance their network database capabilities, ensuring optimal performance and reliability while focusing on their core objectives.

Choosing the right hosting provider is critical to building a robust network database foundation that drives success in the digital era.


Q: What is a network database?

A: A network database is a database management system based on a network data model. It allows each record to have multiple parents and multiple children based on the relationships between entities.

Q: What are the advantages of a network database?

A: Network databases offer several advantages. They allow each record to have multiple parents and children, allowing more complex relationships to be represented. They also provide data in a tree-like structure, which can be useful for certain data types and applications.

Q: What is the difference between a network database and other types of databases?

A: The main difference between a network database and other types of databases, such as relational databases, is how they represent relationships between entities. Each record can have multiple parents and children in a network database, whereas in a relational database, relationships are typically represented using foreign key references.

Q: What is the CODASYL model?

A: The CODASYL, or the Network Data Model, is a standard for representing data in a network database. It defines how records, sets, and relationships are structured and organized.

Q: How does a network database handle many-to-many relationships?

A: A network database model allows for many-to-many relationships by allowing each record to have multiple parents and multiple children. This means a record can be related to multiple other records and vice versa.

Q: What examples of database management systems use the network model?

A: Some examples of database management systems that use the network model include Integrated Data Store (IDS), Integrated Data Store II (IDS II), and Integrated Data Store III (IDS III).

Q: What are some common use cases for network databases?

A: Network databases are commonly used in applications requiring complex entities’ relationships. They are often used in scientific research, engineering, and other fields where data needs to be organized in a hierarchical or network-like structure.

Q: How does a network database organize data?

A: Network databases organize data in a hierarchy or network-like structure. Each record is connected to one or more parent and child records based on the relationships between entities.

Q: Can a record in a network database have multiple child records?

A: Yes, a record in a network database can have multiple child records. This is one of the advantages of the network data model, as it allows for more complex relationships and data structures.

Q. Do database servers manage the Network Databases?

Database servers are in charge of maintaining network databases. They are in charge of duties such as data storage, retrieval, and manipulation, as well as data integrity and security. The server supports communication between client applications and the network database, ensuring efficient data access and effective database structure administration.