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Formally, a "database" refers to a set of related data and the way it is organized.
Access to this data is usually provided by a "database management system" (DBMS) consisting of an integrated set of computer software that allows users to interact with one or more databases and provides access to all of the data contained in the database (although restrictions may exist that limit access to particular data).
Database servers are usually multiprocessor computers, with generous memory and RAID disk arrays used for stable storage.
RAID is used for recovery of data if any of the disks fail.
Hardware database accelerators, connected to one or more servers via a high-speed channel, are also used in large volume transaction processing environments.
Outside the world of professional information technology, the term database is often used to refer to any collection of related data (such as a spreadsheet or a card index).
This article is concerned only with databases where the size and usage requirements necessitate use of a database management system.