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Difference between SQL vs. NoSQL Database

by Rajni
SQL vs. NoSQL differences
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Introduction

Basically, what an SQL and NoSQL database does is help you store and manage your data efficiently. But how are these two different? Before doing a comparison between these two, let’s understand what exactly is an SQL database and a NoSQL database.

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What is an SQL Database?

Introduced in the 1970s, SQL or Structured Query Language is a standard way of interacting with relational databases. Relational databases store data in the form of tables, and include rows and columns. Relational databases use primary and foreign keys to connect them. SQL databases are a perfect choice if you are looking to manage consistent, structured data. It is also great to perform complicated transactions and queries 

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What is a NoSQL Database?

Introduced in the 1960s but came to fame in the early 21st century, NoSQL, or Not only SQL stores and retrieves data in different forms such as graphs, documents, key-value pairs, columns, etc. It basically covers various non-relational databases. Unlike the typical tabular structure of a relational database, NoSQL databases store data inside one data structure. NoSQL databases are perfect for managing dynamic, unstructured data. It is also great for horizontal scaling and distributing data across multiple servers. NoSQL databases are regularly used in big data and real-time web applications

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Fundamental Difference between SQL Database and NoSQL Database

SQL Database NoSQL Database
Relational Database Non-relational Database
Predefined Schema Dynamic Schema
Vertical Scalability Horizontal Scalability
Follows ACID properties Follows Brewers CAP theorem
Examples:MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, MS-SQL Server, etc Examples:MongoDB, GraphQL, HBase, Neo4j, Cassandra, etc

Let’s look at the major differences between SQL and NoSQL Databases.

Type

SQL Database is a relational database management system whereas NoSql is a non-relational database or distributed database management system 

Structure

SQL databases store data in table form including rows and columns. It stores data in a structured form. However, on the other hand, NoSQL databases are present in different forms such as documents, graphs, wide-column stores, key-value pairs, etc. 

Schema

SQL databases have a predefined schema and use a structured query language (SQL). On the other hand, NoSQL databases have dynamic schemas for unstructured data. 

Scalability

SQL databases are vertically scalable. What it means is that you can raise the load on a single server by increasing CPU, RAM, or SSD. On the contrary, NoSQL databases are scalable in a horizontal manner. With a NoSQL database, you can manage more traffic by sharding. You can also add more servers to your NoSQL database. This makes NoSQL more powerful. Thus, making it to be the preferred choice for ever-evolving large data sets. 

Followed Properties 

SQL databases use Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability properties or ACID properties. On the other hand, the NoSQL database follows the Consistency, Availability, and Partition tolerance properties, that is, the Brewers CAP theorem 

Support 

The vendors of SQL databases extend great support while deploying and managing it. However, for some NoSQL databases, you still have to rely on community support. There are a few vendors or consultants with expertise in setting up or deploying large-scale NoSQL databases.

Use Cases 

SQL databases are a great choice for multi-row transactions. On the other hand, a NoSQL database is better for unstructured data including documents or JSON.  

SQL databases are also generally used for legacy systems developed around a relational database structure.  

You can make use of an SQL database for applications with several attached operations. SQL schema helps you determine ACID properties and enhance data compatibility. These databases are a great pick if you have to quickly look for data from the database without any hassle.  

On the other hand, a NoSQL database is perfect for applications with active and dynamic data not including any attached operations. NoSQL is also perfect for applications with missing data sets that will not affect business efficiency. 

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When to use SQL vs. NoSQL

SQL is perfect when the data is: 

  • Smaller 
  • In the tabular or structured form 
  • Systems where consistency is essential. 

Think small business’ accounting systems, sales databases, or transactional systems like payment processing in e-commerce.

NoSQL is generally preferred for: 

  • Graph or hierarchical data 
  • Large and expanding datasets.  
  • Continuously growing applications with no data schema  
  • In terms of use cases, this can be translated to online content management systems, social networks, streaming analytics, or mobile applications. 
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Conclusion

Choosing between these two database really depends on the type of application you are developing and the data requirements it involves.  

Having a clear understanding of the features and benefits of each database will help you choose the one that is the best for your project.  

You should also consider the scalability and performance of each database. Having an understanding of which database aligns with your project can enhance your data performance, ensure data integrity, and finally, help you create a successful application. 

In general, SQL databases are suitable for structured data, where data is consistent, and relationships between tables are well-defined. In contrast, NoSQL databases are suitable for semi-structured or unstructured data, where the data does not conform to a predefined schema, and relationships between data elements are not well-defined. SQL databases are typically used in applications that require complex queries and transaction management, whereas NoSQL databases are used in applications that require high performance and scalability, such as web applications and mobile apps.

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FAQs

SQL database is a relational database that stores data in the structured form of tables including rows and columns. On the other hand, the NoSQL Database is a non-relational database which means it doesn’t have a defined structure and cannot be examined through predefined templates. It retrieves data in different forms such as graphs, documents, key-value pairs, columns, etc.

Both SQL and NoSQL databases serve the same purpose of storing data, but they differ in their ways of storing it. SQL databases are perfect for predefined structured data. They are perfect for smaller, structured data where consistency is essential. Examples include accounting systems, sales databases, or transactional systems like payment processing in e-commerce. On the other hand, NoSQL databases are flexible, scalable, flexible, and simple to use with no rigid schema. They are perfect for unstructured data without specific schema definitions such as online content management systems, social networks, streaming analytics, or mobile applications.

Their speed depends on their usage. SQL databases are best in speed for joins, queries, and updates. On the contrary, NoSQL databases which are used for unstructured data, prioritize faster read or write operations on individual data entities due to their non-partitioned storage approach.

NoSQL is the best choice for big data applications. Thanks to its dynamic schemas for unstructured vast data.

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