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<Interview Questions: Database Indexes ⁄ >




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The Question

Most consumer-facing web startups these days use one of the major open source databases, either MySQL or PostgreSQL, to some degree. If you want to prove your worth it's a good idea to get down to the nitty gritty and gain some understanding about these databases' internals.

So, the question: "Explain to me what databases indexes are and how they work."
The Answer

In a nutshell a database index is an auxiliary data structure which allows for faster retrieval of data stored in the database. They are keyed off of a specific column so that queries like "Give me all people with a last name of 'Smith'" are fast.
The Theory

Database tables, at least conceptually, look something like this:



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