Three primary types of geodatabases exist: file geodatabases, personal geodatabases, and enterprise geodatabases.
File geodatabases are an essential component of storing and managing spatial data in an ArcGIS environment, due to their superior performance and data management advantages over personal geodatabases (such as MS Access).
A file geodatabase, similar to a personal geodatabase, is a collection of files in a folder that can store, query, and manage both spatial and nonspatial data.
File geodatabases are comprised of 7 system tables including user data. Users may store data using the following datasets:
- Feature classes
- Feature datasets
- Mosaic datasets
- Schematic datasets
- Raster catalogs
- Raster datasets
Feature datasets add another level of data management structure to file geodatabases by allowing users to store data independently within these “containers”. Feature datasets can contain feature classes as well as the following types of data:
- Feature-linked annotations
- Geometric networks
- Parcel fabrics
- Relationship classes
- Network datasets
A file geodatabase boasts superior data management capabilities over personal databases, in part due to the ability to create subtypes and domains and participation in checkout/check-in replication and one-way replicas.
File geodatabases have few size limitations, and are only limited by the available disk space. By default, however, individual tables and feature classes can be up to 1 terabyte.
On the ArcGIS platform, file geodatabases can be created in any Catalog window of the associated ESRI software suite.