In terms of logical structure and layout within the computer, shapefiles are at the surface. The files that constitute a shapefile may reside anywhere on a hard disk, provided that they are all in the same folder. Attribute data is always stored in dBASE tables. Only a single feature type—point, multipoint, line, or polygon—is stored in a given shapefile.
A personal geodatabase is a single file in Microsoft Access. A file or enterprise geodatabase may use any of several commercially available database management systems.