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  • Writer's pictureKamil Zawadzki

In a comparison of NoSQL and SQL, which database should you choose?


Webchefs_Software _for_humans_NoSQL_vs_SQL_article

What is a database? A database is a structured collection of data. It organizes information in a manner that allows for easy access, management, and updating. This concept of databases dates back to the 1960s when the need for efficient data storage solutions first arose. Various types have emerged with the increasing demand for databases, notably SQL (Structured Query Language) and NoSQL databases. At some point, every application or website creator will need to choose between these options, depending on their specific requirements. The decision hinges on the nature of the data being handled and the desired functionality.



What is SQL?


"SQL" stands for Structured Query Language, a standardized language for managing and manipulating data within a database system.

Databases such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MS SQL, known as relational databases, utilize relationships to connect pieces of information across multiple tables. This method ensures data is organized naturally and logically, with a well-defined structure. SQL databases handle consistent data over time, such as customer information in online stores, including names, order types, or usernames. This data remains static until an update is necessary. The efficiency of SQL databases lies in their ability to avoid duplication by linking data through relationships. For instance, using a customer ID to reference data in related tables allows for easy retrieval of specific information without replicating it in multiple locations.


Key features of an SQL database include:

  • It has a static and predefined structure, which means the organization and format of the database are established in advance.

  • This structure is modifiable through specific queries, allowing for adjustments and updates as needed.

  • Every record in the database shares the same properties, ensuring uniformity and consistency across data entries.

  • SQL databases are well-suited for structured data, making them ideal for managing organized information.

  • They are appropriate for complex queries, offering robust data retrieval and manipulation tools.

  • SQL databases allow only for vertical scaling (scaling up), meaning that while you can upgrade a single server to enhance performance, adding more servers (horizontal scaling) is difficult.

SQL databases are among the most commonly used in the market. They excel in systems focused on transactions, such as managing customer relationships, utilizing accounting software, or encompassing e-commerce. These databases provide a reliable framework for handling data's structured and relational aspects within these contexts.



What is NoSQL?


NoSQL databases, alternatively known as non-relational or distributed databases, offer a distinct approach to data management compared to traditional SQL databases by not enforcing rigid relationships among data points. Key features of NoSQL databases include:

  • The capacity to accommodate documents with diverse structures, owing to their lack of a fixed schema. This flexibility enables data storage in various formats without the constraints of a predefined structure.

  • Enhanced flexibility, as each record can exhibit unique properties. This adaptability is ideal for storing many data types and structures within a single database environment.

  • Proficiency in managing semi-structured, nested, and intricate data makes NoSQL databases well-suited for contemporary applications that encounter a variety of data formats.

  • Ease of incorporating new data types without the necessity for schema modifications. This capability is invaluable in environments where the nature of data is subject to rapid changes.

  • A general limitation in executing complex queries is a feature where SQL databases typically excel due to their structured and relational design.

  • Support for horizontal scaling allows for the expansion of database capacity by integrating additional servers into the database infrastructure. This scalability feature is crucial for applications facing fluctuating demands and the need for resource scalability.

NoSQL databases excel in scenarios requiring unstructured or semi-structured data analysis, providing a practical solution when data characteristics are likely to change unpredictably. This makes them a preferred choice in dynamic environments where the limitations of traditional SQL databases could introduce significant complications.



The most popular database services


Several web services on the market aim to streamline database configuration and scaling, offering ready-to-use database systems that facilitate information organization. Among the most popular are:

  • Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service): This service simplifies data management by allowing users to upload information to Oracle, MySQL, or Microsoft SQL Server databases. Amazon handles the administration and management of the data, offering a hands-off approach to database maintenance and scalability.

  • Amazon DynamoDB: Another offering from Amazon, DynamoDB, is a NoSQL database service. Like Amazon RDS, users provide their data. Amazon manages the rest, including database maintenance, scaling, and security. It is an attractive option for applications requiring fast, flexible NoSQL storage solutions.

  • DigitalOcean Managed Databases: This cloud platform provides a slightly different approach than Amazon RDS and Google Cloud SQL but is built around the same principle of simplifying data organization. DigitalOcean offers managed databases for several database engines, including PostgreSQL, MySQL, and Redis. It focuses on providing an easy-to-use platform for deploying, managing, and scaling databases without the complexity of manual configuration and maintenance.

These services are designed to reduce the complexity involved in database management, allowing developers and businesses to focus more on their core activities and less on the technical intricacies of database administration.


Deciding between SQL and NoSQL databases hinges on numerous vital considerations. Firstly, assess the sector your business falls into: does it lean towards analytical work, or is it predominantly transactional, necessitating a rigid structure and complex query capabilities? The nature of your data and the type of scaling that best aligns with your needs are also critical to evaluate. Ultimately, there's no universal solution that fits every scenario. The choice is entirely dependent on your specific requirements and circumstances.

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