PostgreSQL vs MySQL: How to Choose the Right Database

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Alex Ptashniy, CTO

This article will be a deep-dive into the difference between two popular database options, MySQL and PostgreSQL.

PostgreSQL vs MySQL

PostgreSQL vs MySQL: What Are the Main Differences and How to Choose the Right One

According to the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020, MySQL is the most popular database at the moment, with PostgreSQL in second place.

You may be wondering, is MySQL better than PostgreSQL? Not exactly, the right choice for you will depend on your unique situation.

By the end of this post, you will know exactly why you would choose PostgreSQL or MySQL, and the benefits and potential drawbacks of that choice.

So What is PostgreSQL?

PostgreSQL is an open-source relational database system that also allows object-oriented database functionality. It is reliable, secure, and has an impressive feature set that helps ensure data integrity.

PostgreSQL boasts a vast and dedicated community that maintains the reliability of the software. PostgreSQL supports most operating systems and has been ACID-compliant since 2001.

So What is MySQL?

MySQL is an open-source relational database system backed by Oracle. It is one of the most popular open-source databases in the world. With its proven performance, reliability, and ease of use, MySQL has become the leading database choice for web-based applications, used by high-profile companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and many more. MySQL works on virtually all platforms.

Oracle is the main force behind MySQL, continually delivering new capabilities and features to enable next-generation web, cloud, mobile, and embedded applications.


Features of PostgreSQL Database

Here are some of the most popular features of PostgreSQL:

  • Table inheritance: PostgreSQL implements table inheritance, which can be a useful tool for database designers. With table inheritance, tables inherit from other tables and a query can access all rows of a table and that table’s descendant tables.
  • Multi-version concurrency control (MVCC): Multi-Version Concurrency Control (MVCC) is an technique that can improve the performance of a database in multi-user environment.
  • Foreign key referential integrity: Foreign key referential integrity is a property of data stating that all its FK references are valid.
  • Nested transactions (savepoints): Transactions bundle multiple steps into a single, all-or-nothing operation. With nested transactions, if a failure occurs that stops a transaction from completing successfully, the database will not be affected whatsoever.
  • Tablespaces: Tablespaces allow database administrators to set specific locations for where the database object files are stored.
  • Point-in-time recovery: This is PostgreSQL's ability to start from the restore of a full backup.

New features are constantly being added with each new release. To see the full list of PostgreSQL features check out this comprehensive table provided by PostgreSQL.org.


Features of MySQL Database

MySQL boasts a robust and complete feature set that is sure to impress its users. Here are some of the standout features:

  • Security: A privilege and password system that is very flexible and secure, and that enables host-based verification.
  • Scalability and Limits: It can support large databases. MySQL reports that some of their users have up to 200,000 tables and about 5,000,000,000 rows.
  • Clients and Tools: MySQL comes with client and utility programs including command-line programs such as mysqldump and mysqladmin, along with GUI programs like MySQL Workbench.
  • Performance: Uses a performant thread-based memory allocation system and can execute very fast joins using an optimized nested-loop join.
  • Statements and Functions: Supports most clauses, functions, and statements typically found in SQL.

These feature lists may help when thinking about how to choose between PostgreSQL and MySQL. Now let’s look at what each database is typically used for. If you have a similar use case, it may help guide your decision.


Should I Choose PostgreSQL or MySQL for my Use Case?

Let’s discuss some of the most popular use cases for databases in general, then state whether PostgreSQL or MySQL would be better suited for the task.

General Purpose OLTP Database

An OLTP system stores and maintains transaction data in a database. In OLTP, an emphasis is placed on fast processing, as OLTP databases are read, written, and updated frequently. If a transaction fails, the built-in logic ensures data integrity. Both MySQL and PostgreSQL are excellent choices for this use case:

  • Large-scale enterprises and startups alike both use PostgreSQL as their database of choice as it allows them to support their websites, applications, and systems at any scale.
  • MySQL is suitable for any application that requires a transactional SQL engine. This includes mission-critical applications and traffic-heavy websites.

eCommerce websites

eCommerce websites and online stores have exploded in popularity in recent years. MySQL is the best choice if you need a database to support your eCommerce site:

  • MySQL is particularly useful for managing transactions, product catalogs, and customer data.
  • MySQL is a fantastic option for eCommerce solutions when used alongside other non-relational databases, and is perfect for syncing order and product data.

LAMP stack

If you use the LAMP stack, consider choosing MySQL. MySQL is excellent if your system already operates on the open-source LAMP stack:

  • LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Python/Perl.
  • LAMP is a popular technology stack and is the system of choice for many web applications and websites.

Geospatial database

Geospatial data is data about an object’s location on, or near, the surface of the earth.. PostgreSQL is the better choice for your geospatial data needs:

  • PostGIS is a spatial database extension that adds support for geographic objects in PostgreSQL.

LAPP stack

The LAPP stack is an alternative to LAMP. Postgres is the obvious choice if you currently operate using the open-source LAPP stack:

  • LAPP means Linux, Apache, PostgreSQL, and Python/PHP/Perl.
  • PostgreSQL can run dynamic websites and apps as part of the robust LAPP stack.

4 Differences between MySQL vs PostgreSQL

  • PostgreSQL is object-focused

    The first difference between these two database options is that PostgreSQL is an object-relational database management system meaning that it includes features like table inheritance and function overloading.

    This difference is representative of the key differentiator between MySQL and PostgreSQL.

  • Complexity and features

    MySQL is a simpler tool that requires less expertise to manage and often boasts higher performance than similar PostgreSQL use cases.

    However, Postgres offers a wealth of advanced features that can be difficult to set up but can result in a more robust database for specific use cases.

    PostgreSQL is more popular for more complex websites and apps that need a highly customizable database solution.

    It’s used by several big tech companies such as Apple and Cisco and it's most popular with businesses that already have a skilled IT team with specialized database technicians that can create and implement custom PostgreSQL functions using a variety of programming languages such as C, C++, and Java.

    For example, with PostgreSQL you can useUNION, INTERSECT, and EXCEPT clauses in SELECT statements.

    MySQL does not support INTERSECT or EXCEPT. You will have to perform a workaround using JOINs in the query.

  • Speed and Performance

    MySQL is also a popular choice for any application where speed is a big concern. Excluding some of the more advanced features that are provided by PostgreSQL, allows MySQL to be lightweight and high performance.

    If speed is your biggest concern, MySQL should be the first RDBMS that you look at, especially if you're looking for an easy-to-use solution. Check out The MySQL Benchmark Suite to see how MySQL performs compared to the other databases.

  • Community and Support

    An interesting differentiator between MySQL and PostgreSQL is their community and how they provide support.

    Both tools are open-source and thus the biggest supplier of support resources are user communities that provide tutorials, recommendations, forums, and mailing lists.

    Although both tools provide community support MySQL is the most popular DBMS and as a result, it has more resources than any other tool.

    In terms of support, its ease of use and lower customizability also make it less likely that users will need complex support.

    PostgreSQL provides fewer resources compared to MySQL but it does still offer a wide variety of user support. The biggest issue with PostgreSQL support is that it's highly customizable.

    If you have a niche use case or a specific feature need there may not always be a support resource that directly relates to your need so you might need to do a little more work on your own to troubleshoot a specific problem.

    There are also a number of services that provide dedicated third-party support for MySQL and PostgreSQL, this can make PostgreSQL a more viable option.


How to Choose Between PostgreSQL and MySQL

You should now be in the position to make a more informed decision When it comes to making your choice, I would seek out the typical uses for each of these databases. The use cases we have covered should also help inform your decision. Look at existing leaders in the technology field and learn how they use each database to the best of their ability.

For example, this revealing blog post from Uber detailed how and why they migrated to MySQL from PostgreSQL. Getting an inside look into the difficulties these massive technology companies face when scaling with a specific database is extremely helpful.

Our Experience with MySQL and PostgreSQL

Here at Integrio Systems, we have used both MySQL and Postgres when designing innovative, scalable, and highly optimized solutions for our clients.

PostgreSQL vs MySQL

Since 2000, Integrio Systems has partnered with startups and enterprises from the USA, Canada, and Western Europe to provide custom software development services.

With over 20 years in business and the successful completion of 200 projects, we know a thing or two about the trials and tribulations of selecting the right database for a particular project.

At Integrio Systems, we have experience with both PostgreSQL and MySQL. This is demonstrated by our many case studies, demonstrating our ability to provide a complete end-to-end software development service that helps clients convert their complex ideas into impressive products or enterprise-level solutions.

Solutions

One such case study is our collaboration with Volo Innovations (acquired by Member Solutions, a part of Jonas Software in 2012), a startup in Vancouver, Canada.

They looked for a system that could manage the day-to-day operations of their gym, but no such solution existed.

Integrio Systems designed and developed a SaaS product that fit these needs and Volo quickly became a leading web-based application for scheduling and billing.

The MySQL database we used supported functionality like scheduling, billing, marketing data, reporting, and a robust member portal.

But what about some of the PostgreSQL databases we have designed? One stand-out example is our work with Homebuzz.

Homebuzz is a startup with the mission to help real estate and property management companies from the United States and Canada manage their property portfolio more effectively.

We designed a PostgreSQL database that supported marketing campaigns, email and call tracking, IVR and recording, day-to-day real estate operations, and seamless POS integration.

You can find more example use cases of PostgreSQL and MySQL here, which will help you decide which is the best choice for your business.

Final Thoughts

We’ve covered everything from the features of MySQL and PostgreSQL, the use cases for the databases, and the main differences between the two. This article was designed to help inform your decision when it comes to choosing a database solution for your business or project.

If you still feel overwhelmed by this process consider making use of the services offered by Integrio Systems such as upgrading a legacy system, developing a prototype, or creating a web application.

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So What is PostgreSQL?So What is MySQL?Features of PostgreSQL DatabaseFeatures of MySQL DatabaseShould I Choose PostgreSQL or MySQL for my Use Case?4 Differences between MySQL vs PostgreSQLHow to Choose Between PostgreSQL and MySQLOur Experience with MySQL and PostgreSQLFinal Thoughts

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