Between the drawer and the cupboard
A top manager who is not IT saavy asked me to explain in simple layman language the difference between a desktop GIS and a relational database management system (RDBMS) server. I was caught off guard because I was so familiar with it that I was stumbling hard how to analogue the topic. I put on my thinking hat and thought how best to present the case. My friend offered an analogue approach and choose the task of moving from a slum to a proper house while I preferred to demonstrate by showing the difference in keeping things in a drawer and a cupboard. In a drawer, there is a tendency to dump anything or everything in it although it is possible to keep things neat and tidy. However, GIS data is often voluminous, something inappropriate to be kept in a drawer. Thus if many things were kept in a drawer to the brim, it will be difficult o manage. However, if all the items were transferred to a cupboard it would be comparatively much easier to store, manage, search, find and retrieve specific items because not only is the cupboard larger but also most cupboard have a few drawers and other odd spaces to accommodate items of different size. Thus the cupboard represents the desktop GIS while the cupboard represents the RDBMS server. I wanted to go further to elaborate (but am hesistant) how data kept in a desktop GIS is fundamentally kept in a table of rows and columns known as an Attribute Table but that situations which involve one-to-many could not be accommodated into that Attribute Table unless it was linked to a personal database system like Microsoft's Access or OpenOffice.org's Database alternatively to a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice.org's Calc. So for the time being, I'm going to leave it as such.