What are the Levels of Data Hierarchy?

Updated on October 11, 2021 | by James Stone

Many businesses deal with endless amounts of data each day. The huge amount of information that they receive from customers and clients requires endless hours of data organization. One way that this occurs is by using a data hierarchy.

There are many different levels of a data hierarchy. We’ll provide a breakdown of what these levels of a hierarchical data structure are.

Hierarchical Data Definition

Figuring out the different levels of a data hierarchy involves first determining what hierarchical data is. When we speak about hierarchical data, we’re focusing on a data structure where items are linked to each other. These all exist within a sort of parent-child relationship inside a tree-like structure. The best example of this might include breaking down your own family as a family tree. This relational model includes data that exits within a hierarchal manner. So as with the case of a family tree where grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren all have their place, the same can be said for the hierarchical model.

This hierarchical structure makes for a simple way of keeping track of data organization. The data proceeds exist with a “top/down” sort of faction through this relational model. When companies such as data science software leader TIBCO use such a model, they utilize this to highlight an organizational chart or even a project with specific tasks. When you create a hierarchy with this form of data organization, there are “children” nodes that have only one “parental” node. A parent node can have multiple children.

The first node at the top of the tree structure is called a root node. If information needs to be pulled from this tree structure, the hierarchical form is scanned from the root node down. This can sometimes make for a slow system. As a result, many modern-day hierarchical databases have evolved to include the usage of multiple hierarchies. This occurs over the same data and allows for faster and easier searching. Hierarchical data is widely used and can be beneficial for the data storage purposes of many businesses.

Bits, Bytes, Fields

Tackling the first level sets of data hierarchy, we’ll focus on bits, bytes, and fields. To begin with, a bit is the lowest level of the hierarchical structure of data. This unit is the tiniest unit of storage on a computer. A bit is a binary digit. This unit of data storage has only two values: 0 or 1. These binary digits are usually found to be assembled into a group of eight to form the next level of hierarchical data, the byte.

The byte is a memory of a unit that contains eight bits. Eight bits are needed to encode a single character or text. For example, a byte can be a combination of bits that are used within computer coding. This ultimately can be used to represent a single letter inside the alphabet. Lastly, you have a field. Within computers, data has several parts. These are known as records and can be divided into fields.

Further, a field can be one or more bytes when speaking about size. When fields are collected, they can make up a data record. For example, you can then organize these in columns on a spreadsheet based on a topic that you’re attempting to organize. You might want to create an organizational structure that focuses on names, addresses, and phone numbers. Bits, bytes, and fields are the first levels of a data hierarchy structure.

Records, Files, Databases

The next level of the data hierarchy includes records. This is the part of the hierarchical model in which you have a data structure that brings together related items of data. These can sometimes be slightly more complex than arrays. You’re storing more than one type of data together. At its simplest level, a record is a collection of fields, where each field contains one value.

Files are simply a resource for a computer that is used to record data in a computer storage device. Programs and data are written into a file and then read from a file. Lastly, you have your database. This is where you have the collection of structured information or data. All these components come together to create the data hierarchy.

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