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What Is a Connection String?

By T.S. Adams
Updated May 17, 2024
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When accessing information from the Internet or any other network, a user must provide the computer with commands to indicating where and how to access the requisite data. Although the only step for the end-user is typing in a web address, within the computer, much more is going on. The connection string for the computer is a string — a list of characters and information — which provides the computer with parameters about accessing a specific piece of data.

Think of a connection string like a note containing the address of a particular restaurant along with information about a reservation as well as any other relevant information about the dining experience, such as table size and dress code. A typical connection string contains information such as the address of the server containing the information, whether the server containing the information operates using the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) standard, the specific type of SSL mode utilized, the specific database containing the requested information, user identification information, password information, and the connection timeout number.

Although the process is completely transparent to most end-users, the connection string information is transferred from the location where it is stored — whether on the specific computer or on another computer on the same network — to the driver file for the network card. A driver file is a file which tells the computer's operating system how to use a specific piece of hardware, such as the computer's graphics or network card. Once the driver file receives the file containing the connection string information, it can then use the information to establish a connection between the computer's Ethernet or other type of networking card and the remote server or database containing the desired information.

The location to specify a particular type of connection string varies depending on the software program used. For example, some database programs allows users to enter command-line connection strings (manual inputting of the specific connection string information). Alternatively, the user can store the connection string information in a specific file, automating the process of input. In either event, the actual process of using the connection string remains the same: the computer passes the data to the driver which utilizes the networking device(s) on the computer to connect with and retrieve the requested data. The only difference is whether the end-user wishes to use a static string — in a stored file — or enter the string on-the-fly, as might be required for a database with a frequently changing password.

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