What is the need of data structures?

The needs of data structures include the following: efficiency, reusability, and invisibility. Data structure provides a means of organizing, managing, and storing data efficiently. It also includes the collection of data as well as the operations that can be applied to that data.

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Reflect for a moment on how much data our computers (and our brains!) process every day. We are surrounded by numbers, lists, spreadsheets, and databases all the time. Somehow we have to use our computers to manage and access all this data, and that's where data structures come in.

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Reflect for a moment on how much data our computers (and our brains!) process every day. We are surrounded by numbers, lists, spreadsheets, and databases all the time. Somehow we have to use our computers to manage and access all this data, and that's where data structures come in.

Data structures are the means by which computers store, organize, and access data. They are necessary, first, to allow for reasonable processor speeds. The more data a computer must handle, the faster its processor must work. As data increases, the processor can fail to keep up unless that data is well organized into a data structure. Second, data structures make data searchable. We've all looked at a long list of numbers or an overwhelming spreadsheet and wondered how we are ever going to find what we need. Data structures have search functions built right in, so we can access what we require simply and quickly. Third, data structures are necessary to handle high levels of requests for data. Sometimes a company's clients seem to request data all at once, and without data structures in place, those requests can easily crash a server. Data structures help computers handle these multiple requests more efficiently.

To carry out these critical jobs, data servers need to allow for several important operations. First, data structures must support traversing; the computer needs to be able to visit every element in the structure to sort or search. Second, data structures must allow for the insertion of new data. Third, data structures must permit deletion of data that is no longer relevant. Fourth, data structures must support searching; after all, this is what a data structure is primarily used for. Fifth, data structures must be able to sort data into useful categories and patterns. Sixth, data structures must have the ability to merge data, to bring together various lists and avoid duplicates. If a data structure can do all this, then it will likely meet the needs of its users.

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Computing systems are continuously performing tasks on data other than the primitive data of the operating system. There must therefore be a system for the computing system to determine how to best implement and organize memory of abstract data types and how to efficiently implement various operations using specific algorithms.

Data structures provide this organization; they are the physical implementation of abstract data types which are generated by specific procedures. A data structure will consist of both a collection of variables for storing data as well as algorithms for implementing operations.

Data structures need to demonstrate three core capabilities:

  • They should be efficient. Data structures make programs more productive with regards to time. Consider the data structure built into search engines, for example. Once a search operation is performed, the results are presented in a way that prioritizes some results over others. Hopefully, the most pertinent results are displayed near the top without taking long to return that information. This helps users sort through potential information without having to wait or scroll for long periods of time.
  • They should be reusable. Once a data structure is implemented, it needs to demonstrate an ability to be used for other, similar data needs. These data structures can then be compiled, shared, and used by others.
  • They should remain hidden. When performing a search operation, for example, the data structure which sorts through various potential results is hidden from the user.
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Data structures are used as a framework for organizing and storing information in virtual memory forms. In computing, RAM and virtual memory, such as the Cloud or other shared storage systems, store large quantities of data rapidly and efficiently. However, there is a twofold dilemma: first, how can it be stored efficiently, and second, how will we be able to retrieve it over time if it’s just stored away in cyberspace?

Data structures are the solution to these dilemmas. Data structures organize and prioritize information into datasets and databases that can be compressed efficiently to save storage space. These organizational structures are also structured logically so that retrieving information from them is simple and straightforward, making the data usable once more.

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Data structures, as the name implies, are organizational configurations of data in Information Technology. Data is stored in computers and via the Cloud on RAM or dispersed storage systems, and either way, the data is meant to eventually be accessed (that’s the entire point of storing it in the first place). Unfortunately, computers have to process extremely high quantities of data on a daily basis, so that information can rapidly be jumbled or lost.

Cue data structures. These conformations place data into predictable sequences, locations, and arrangements. This way, the information can quickly be withdrawn because it is placed in a retrievable location. Without this structure in place, information would be practically lost to the ether for all time. Fortunately, we are able to create very functional structures that allow easy access to all of our data.

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Data structures are used in computing to make it easy to locate and retrieve information. Primitive data structures are simple ways for programming languages to represent basic values. These include data types like integer, char (character), Boolean, pointers, and the like. Non-primitive data structures provide ways of storing multiple values in a single variable. These include arrays, lists, stacks, trees, and so forth. Data structures can also be used to group and organize other data structures. In databases, a record can be thought of as a data structure that contains all the data structures related to a given key; in object oriented programming languages like Java, a class is a data structure that organizes attributes and functions in such a way that they can be easily replicated. In each case, the way the data is "structured" makes it easy to retrieve or manipulate.

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