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Types of Data Sources

Although application servers can do much more than communicate with data sources, that functionality is, by far, most commonly used to create dynamic Web sites. A data source is any application or file that stores structured data. It’s the structure that’s important in a data source; given a known structure, data can be extracted by other applications and processes. Relational databases, XML, spreadsheets, and even text files can serve as data sources.

Most often, however, data-driven Web sites extract their information from the output of a data source application. Data source applications are either file-based or server-based. File-based data source applications, such as Microsoft Access, save their data in computer files that you can copy, transfer, or rename. Server-based data source applications, such as Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL, maintain the data in a dedicated server. Although file-based data sources tend to be easier to develop for, server-based data sources are more robust and better suited for Web work. Some developers work in both worlds by developing in Access and transferring their work to SQL Server through a process called upsizing, which is discussed later in this chapter.


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