The Disadvantages of a Flat-File Based System

Updated July 20, 2017

Flat-file databases are database structures that store all data records in a single table, usually using a single line of text to store a record. They are suitable for small applications because their data records takes up less disk space than other database structures. However, the flat-file system does come with several disadvantages.

Low Reliability

As the flat-file database grows in size, there is increasing risk of data corruption. This is due to the single table structure of the flat-file database. If this table exceeds the resources available to the database server, the data may become corrupted.

Low Security

Unlike competing database structures, the flat-file database does not have any built-in security features. Anyone who has access to the database can freely view its records.

No Relationships

The flat-file database stores records as lines in a text file. This does not allow database designers to organise records according to relationship. For example, a relational database features multiple tables that describe different aspects of the same set of data. One table describes a list of clients and their job numbers, and another table has job numbers and work description. This allows the data to be viewed in many different ways. This flexibility is impossible with the flat-file database.

Rigid Format

The flat-file database follows a very rigid format. This means that a program must be knowledgeable of the format in order to read the data records. This limits the number of computers capable of reading the specific flat-file database to those with specific software installed on them.

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About the Author

Mike Wallace began writing professionally in 2009. He is currently employed as a software engineer who designs, develops and tests software systems. He holds a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering and a Master of Science in electrical and computer engineering from California State University, Chico.