What is normalization?
Data normalization is the process of structuring information within a relational database to reduce redundancy. Normalizing data ensures that the tables in a database function as efficiently as possible, eliminating ambiguity so that each table serve a singular purpose.
When moving from a denormalized database to a normalized one, you’ll probably need to break out your existing tables to create additional, smaller tables. Those new tables will have a narrower focus, and will link to other tables through entity and foreign keys. With normalization comes the added benefit of reducing your overall database size and easing database maintenance, since you’re no longer storing the same information in several places.
Example of data normalization
The normalization process is carried out according to rules that build upon each other, known as normal forms. First normal form (1NF) states that fields should not store multiple values within a single cell, and that each field within a table should be unique. Here’s an example:
You’ll notice that we have two fields containing similar information, about product color. To bring this table in accordance with 1NF, we need to break this table out into two separate tables that can be joined together.
Normalized product name table
Normalized product color table
Check out our Learn article for examples of 2NF and 3NF. While normal forms beyond these three exist, their use is largely theoretical and the first three should be sufficient for most practical database needs.
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