mysql vs postgresqlUpdated on August 24, 2015

If you’re looking to learn open source technology, you’ll need to know a database language and architecture. For years, the obvious choice was MySQL, but PostgreSQL has popped up and gained popularity with some programmers.  Even with PostgreSQL’s popularity with some programmers, the better choice is still MySQL. Why? Here are some reasons why MySQL is the language to learn not only because it’s embedded into most applications, but because learning MySQL will give you a better overall understanding of relational databases.

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Learning Standard SQL Syntax

mysql if statement

One issue with off-shoot SQL database engines is the fact that it is more specialized. SQL has a standard that is uniform across several database engines. While PostgreSQL does follow many of the changes, it has a lot of additional coding that is not regulated as part of SQL standardization. When you’re learning a language, it’s best to learn a language that follows basic standards. Essentially, PostgreSQL is an advanced type of SQL.

When you create your own applications, it’s also better to implement more basic languages. First, there are more resources to look up syntax and problems. Second, there are more resources and it requires less time to learn when things change. Finally, when you implement standards in your projects, you can turn over your code to another programmer who will more easily be able to pick up where you left off and maintain your current code because SQL is more widely known.

When choosing a database language, you want to make it scalable and easy to implement. MySQL has been around since the 1990s, and it’s an easy application to install. While PostgreSQL has also been around since the early 1990s, it was only introduced to the open source world toward the end of the decade.

Ultimately, PostgreSQL only gives you an advantage when you are working with proprietary software (such as Oracle) because it more easily integrates their modifications. As a more advanced language, it is incredibly powerful, but really not necessary in most instances. You wouldn’t use a power tool to put a nail in the wall to hang a picture, and you wouldn’t use PostgtreSQL to work with an Access database. For most relational databases, simplicity is best because it is easier to review and make changes without requiring brushing up on the language and changes.

New Development and Web Applications

New development for any web application is fun and exciting. One of the main advantages of web development is watching your idea turn into a workable website that users love. With any dynamic website (and let’s face it, most websites are dynamic), you need to code a SQL database with your application.

MySQL is easily installed, and it’s compatible with both Windows and Linux. PostgreSQL is also compatible with Windows and Linux, so which one do you choose? If you decide to go with shared hosting for your website, you probably don’t have a choice. MySQL is integrated into several hosting packages. The “LAMP” (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) standard is a part of most hosting packages. This means that when you order hosting on a Linux server, the host probably uses MySQL as its customers’ database solution. This is another reason why it’s probably best to learn MySQL, because you will run into its use more often when ordering hosting solutions.

Although it’s unusual, there are some hosts that offer MySQL databases with Windows servers. MySQL is completely compatible with Windows as well as the PHP language. While this is an unusual setup, it’s not too far out of the ordinary if you order cheap hosting on a Windows server.

New development is one of the most important features with a startup, especially if your startup is in technology. Your product will probably be more secure if you choose PostgreSQL, but it will be more scalable if you choose MySQL. If you plant to do multiple upgrades and versions, MySQL is probably your option. If you plan to keep your application in-house without too many other programmers adding to your application, then PostgreSQL might be a viable option.

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Hosting Your Own Database Servers

mysqlvspostgresqlYou don’t always need to pay for shared hosting. You can also choose virtual private servers (VPS) or dedicated servers. These hosting options let you have complete control of your server’s operating system, settings and the software you install for your websites.

When you have more freedom to do more with your servers, you can make different choices for your backend database. There are some advantages to using a more proprietary SQL engine. For instance, if your server gets hacked, you might be safe from the hacker hacking your database server.

SQL injection is a common hacking technique. The hack uses poorly formed form submission code to insert SQL statements. The hacker normally uses scripts to set up an attack, and in the case of sites such as WordPress sites, the hacker can download scripts. Having a proprietary or non-standard SQL database engine would protect you from standard SQL injection hacks. For this reason, having the PostgreSQL server option would be an advantage when you host your own web servers.

However, where MySQL would be more advantageous is when you have managed web hosting. Managed VPS or dedicated web hosting is when you control the servers but the host takes care of any updates or security patches. The host must be familiar with your database solution, so it might be more convenient to allow the host to upgrade and maintain a MySQL server.

Additionally, make sure PostgreSQL and MySQL work well with your hosting package. If your host isn’t familiar with PostgreSQL, it can mean disaster if you need help from the host during a critical issue. It’s somewhat the same with MySQL. If you choose a host that is primarily a company that supports Microsoft SQL Server, then using MySQL (even with its popularity) might be just as disastrous. Overall, it’s best to choose a host that has some kind of expertise in the products you want to use.

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Working with Open Source Projects


Open source has many advantages over its competitor, closed source. Windows and any Microsoft product is closed source, and it’s a high cost to host these solutions. MySQL and PostgreSQL are both open source options for any website owner including enterprise business websites.

The advantage of open source varies for each business, but the primary reason to work with open source is its affordability. PostgreSQL has fast become popular from its data protection capabilities. As your megabytes of data turn into gigabytes or even terabytes, you’ll come to realize that data is the heart of your business’ value. If you plan to collect several terabytes of data, you might choose PostgreSQL for its data organization and protection.

MySQL is still a leading database engine, so it also has elements of data protection. MySQL also has several security elements and redundancy options to protect your data even if the hard drive crashes.

When you choose between the different platforms, research into the support options for each database engine. As a new programmer, you’ll need to support your code and the database design.  You want to have plenty of communities to choose from where you can find help for even the most basic of problems. You can also find companies that will help you support your product. PostgreSQL and MySQL both have support options for enterprise businesses. Open source companies make money in support, but you want to find the company that best supports its product.

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Asynchronous Data Calls

Asynchronous data calls became popular for websites and networking projects. Asynchronous calls mean your database can run queries without waiting for the previous query to finish. Asynchronous can be applied to multiple types of code including website code (Ajax) or SQL queries. Currently, PostgreSQL is the database that handles asynchronous database calls.

Asynchronous calls are beneficial when you have several queries on one of your web pages that don’t depend on the others. This means that the query runs for one part of the page, and other queries can also run without waiting for the first to finish. The result is that your web pages can display data as the data set is returned without loading when all queries are finished. It’s not only a faster data query technique, but it’s also better for your website viewers, because they see data right away without seeing a blank page while all queries load.

If you have several queries that run on one page, PostgreSQL might be the better option. However, MySQL still beats PostgreSQL in speed and performance, so it might not matter when you benchmark both database engines against each other. If you run a development shop, you can learn the ins and outs of both PostgreSQL and MySQL and benchmark the two database engines against each other in development tests.

ACID Compliance

ACID compliance is something you should look for when you want to learn any SQL or other database language. Both PostgreSQL and MySQL are ACID compliant.

ACID is an acronym for atomicity, consistency, isolation and durability. You’ll need to know each of these properties when working with your database engine.

First, atomicity is a term used to describe the transactions run against the database engine. When you have a relational database (both PostgreSQL and MySQL), one failed transaction can cause problems for subsequent transactions. So, your database must follow an “all or nothing” rule, which means that if one transaction fails, the database aborts the rest of the queries.

Consistency means the database will only store valid data. If you create a table column that is set to only allow dates, a transaction will fail if you try to store an invalid date or a value that isn’t a date. If you try to store a string in a column set as a number, the transaction will fail. The consistency element provides you with some protection from storing the wrong values in your table columns. When you learn how to design databases, you learn how to properly set your columns’ data types to provide data consistency across your application.

Isolation is a process that sandboxes one transaction from another. This means that when you have multiple queries running on multiple pages, the database engine is able to handle the queries all at once without one interfering with another. PostgreSQL has an even better advantage than MySQL with its asynchronous data calls.

Finally, the “D” in ACID stands for durability, and as a database student, you’ll learn that this is probably the most important part of any database. Disaster recovery is an important part of any database plan and design, because it saves you from losing data if a hard drive crashes or your server gets hacked. Both MySQL and PostgreSQL adhere to this part of database engineering, because it’s essential to enterprise networks.

Which SQL Language is Best to Learn?

mysqlUltimately, the choice comes down to preference. If you want to market your skills to the widest range of employers, the best option is to probably learn both. However, most employers are looking for MySQL database designers, engineers and administrators. If you want to work in any type of database field, you should know MySQL. If you want to market to a smaller market but command a higher salary for proprietary database knowledge, you can learn PostgreSQL.

Overall, you should learn as many languages as you are comfortable with and the languages you enjoy. Programming is a career that requires you to continuously learn, so if you always like learning new things, you’ll love being in the programming field. SQL is a language that is required for most programming jobs, especially if you want to work in the web design and programming field.

PostgreSQL is more difficult and specialized. It’s a good secondary language to learn after you learn standard SQL programming languages. However, if you want to learn a language that several businesses use as well as what you can market more easily, MySQL is one of the most widely used database engines used in the web design industry.

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