The Pros and Cons of 8 Popular Databases

By Cody Arsenault
Updated on November 10, 2022
The Pros and Cons of 8 Popular Databases

Databases store information, and its contents can be everything from product catalogs to repositories of customer information. For information to be easy to access, use and understand, database management systems are required. Database management systems can help sort information, link databases to each other, and provide reports about changes and trends in the information in databases.

In this post, we'll go over some of the most popular databases currently used and outline the pros and cons of each.

What to look for in a database?

Although database management systems all perform the same basic task, which is to enable users to create, edit and access information in databases, how they accomplish this can vary. Additionally, the features, functionality, and support associated with each management system can differ significantly.

When comparing different popular databases, you should consider how user-friendly and scalable each DBMS is as well as how well it will integrate with other products you're using. Additionally, you may want to take into account the cost of the management system and the support available for it.

Database management engines also need to be able to grow with your organization. Small businesses may only need limited features or have small amounts of data to manage, but requirements can grow substantially over time, and switching to another database management system can be a hassle.

There are a number of popular databases systems available - both paid and free. To help you decide which management system might be right for you or your organization, check out the list below of 8 popular databases.

1. Oracle 19c / 21c

It's no surprise that Oracle is consistently at the top of lists of popular databases. The first version of this database management tool was created in the late 70s, and there are a number of editions of this tool available to meet your organization's needs.

The current long-term release, Oracle Database 19c, offers the longest timeframe for support and bug fixes at this, as well as the highest level of release stability.

Oracle's latest release, 21c, has added many innovative features, such as autonomic management, multi-workload verbosity like AutoML, and improved multi-model support, that will make it an attractive option in the years to come.

Pros

  • You'll find the latest innovations and features coming from their products since Oracle tends to set the bar for other database management tools.
  • Oracle database management tools are also incredibly robust, and you can find one that can do just about anything you can possibly think of.
  • Oracle promises ACID transaction guarantee. In CAP terms, it offers instant consistency as a single server.
  • Oracle data management tools are advanced multi-model databases that support semistructured data (JSON, XML), spatial data, RDF storage, and structured data (SQL).
  • Depending on the data model, it provides multiple access patterns.
  • Supports both OLAP and OLTP workloads and offers blockchain tables.

Cons

  • The cost of Oracle can be prohibitive, especially for smaller organizations.
  • The system can require significant resources once installed, so hardware upgrades may be required to even implement Oracle.

Ideal for: Large organizations that handle enormous databases and need a variety of features.

2. MySQL

MySQL is one of the most popular databases for web-based applications. It's freeware, but it is frequently updated with features and security improvements. There are also a variety of paid editions designed for commercial use. With the freeware version, there is a greater focus on speed and reliability instead of including a vast array of features, which can be good or bad depending on what you're attempting to do.

This database engine allows you to select from a variety of storage engines that enable you to change the functionality of the tool and handle data from different table types. It also has an easy to use interface, and batch commands let you process enormous amounts of data. The system is also incredibly reliable and doesn't tend to hog resources.

Pros

  • It's available for free.
  • It offers a lot of functionality even for a free database engine.
  • There are a variety of user interfaces that can be implemented.
  • It can be made to work with other databases, including DB2 and Oracle.
  • It supports structured data (SQL) as well as semi-structured data (JSON).
  • It offers ACID transactional guarantee and immediate Consistency in terms of CAP.

Cons

  • You may spend a lot of time and effort to get MySQL to do things that other systems do automatically, like create incremental backups.
  • There is no built-in support for XML or OLAP.
  • Support is available for the free version, but you'll need to pay for it.

Ideal for: Organizations that need a robust database management tool but are on a budget.

3. Microsoft SQL Server

As with other popular databases, you can select from a number of editions of Microsoft SQL server. This database management engine works on cloud-based servers as well as local servers, and it can be set up to work on both at the same time.

SQL Server 2022 is the most Azure-ready version of SQL Server yet published. The latest version offers further innovations in security, performance, and availability.

SQL Server 2022 enables users to integrate with Azure Synapse Link and Microsoft Purview to gain deeper insights and predict data at scale. In addition, the latest version has enhanced cloud integration with real-time analytics. This is intended to provide greater flexibility and minimal end-user impact in terms of managing data assets.

Pros

  • It is very fast and stable.
  • The engine offers the ability to adjust and track performance levels, which can reduce resource use.
  • You are able to access visualizations on mobile devices.
  • It works very well with other Microsoft products.
  • It offers ACID transaction guarantee. In CAP terms, it offers instant consistency as a single server.
  • It is a multi-Model database supporting Spatial Data, Structured Data (SQL), and Semi-Structured Data(JSON).

Cons

  • Enterprise pricing may be beyond what many organizations can afford.
  • Even with performance tuning, Microsoft SQL Server can gobble resources.
  • Many individuals have issues using the SQL Server Integration Services to import files.

Ideal for: Large organizations that use a number of Microsoft products.

4. PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL is one of several free popular databases, and it is frequently used for web databases. It was one of the first database management systems to be developed, and it allows users to manage both structured and unstructured data. It can also be used on most major platforms, including Linux-based ones, and it's fairly simple to import information from other database types using the tool.

This database management engine can be hosted in a number of environments, including virtual, physical and cloud-based environments. The latest version, PostgreSQL 15.1, offers more options for compression, support for structured server log output in JSON format, and performance improvements (especially in-memory and on-disk sorting).

Pros

  • This database management engine is scalable and can handle terabytes of data.
  • It supports JSON.
  • There are a variety of predefined functions.
  • A number of interfaces are available.
  • It is a multi-model database supporting Spatial Data, Key-Value, Structured Data (SQL), and Semi-Structured Data (JSON, XML).

Cons

  • Documentation can be spotty, so you may find yourself searching online in an effort to figure out how to do something.
  • Configuration can be confusing.
  • Speed may suffer during large bulk operations or read queries.

Ideal for: Organizations with a limited budget that want the ability to select their interface and use JSON.

5. MongoDB

Another free database that also has a commercial version, MongoDB is designed for applications that use both structured and unstructured data. The database engine is very versatile, and it works by connecting databases to applications via MongoDB database drivers. There is a comprehensive selection of drivers available, so it's easy to find a driver that will work with the programming language being used.

Since MongoDB wasn't designed to handle relational data models, even though it can, performance issues are likely to crop up if you attempt to use it this way. However, the database engine is designed to handle variable data that isn't relational, and it can often work well where other database engines struggle or fail.

MongoDB 6.0 is the latest version and has been available since 2022. The new version promises new capabilities to help you address more use cases, improve operational resilience at scale, and protect and secure your data, among other things.

Simplification is at the core, with new MongoDB capabilities enabling you to develop, iterate, test, and publish applications faster.

Pros

  • It's fast and easy to use.
  • The engine supports JSON and other NoSQL documents.
  • Data of any structure can be stored and accessed quickly and easily.
  • Schema can be written without downtime.

Cons

  • SQL is not used as a query language.
  • Tools to translate SQL to MongoDB queries are available, but they add an extra step to using the engine.
  • Setup can be a lengthy process.
  • Default settings are not secure.

6. MariaDB

This database management system is free, and like many other free offerings, MariaDB also offers paid versions. There are a variety of plugins for it, and with its many innovations and distributed SQL features, it is the fastest growing open source database on the market.

The database engine allows you to choose from a variety of storage engines, and it makes great use of resources via an optimizer that increases query performance and processing. It's also highly compatible with MySQL, and it is a drop in replacement with exact matching of commands and APIs because many of the developers of MySQL were involved in its development. Compared to MySQL, MariaDB is more community-driven.

Pros

  • The system is fast and stable.
  • Progress bars let you know how a query is progressing.
  • Extensible architecture and plugins allow you to customize the tool to match your needs.
  • Encryption is available at network, server and application levels.

Cons

  • For Semi-Structured Data (JSON data) and when sophisticated query capabilities are needed, MariaDB is not very suitable.
  • As with many other free database engines, you have to pay for support.

Ideal for: Organizations looking for an affordable MySQL alternative.

7. IBM DB2

Created by IBM, DB2 is a database engine that has NoSQL capabilities, and it can read JSON and XML files. Unsurprisingly, it's designed to be used on IBM's iSeries servers, but the workstation version works on Windows, Linux and Unix.

The latest version, DB2 11.5.8, is provided as a cloud-first release and offers a number of improvements and over 50 updates. The highlights of the new version include a performance increase of up to 40% with RDMA support and up to 1.5x improvement in LOAD times. In addition, DB2 pureScale is designed to ensure the continuous availability of the DB2 database. DB2 pureScale is designed to run business-critical workloads at scale, enabling customers to achieve business continuity and mitigate data-related outages.

Pros

  • Blu Acceleration can make the most of available resources for enormous databases.
  • It can be hosted from the cloud, a physical server or both at the same time.
  • Multiple jobs can be run at once using the Task Scheduler.
  • Error codes and exit codes can determine which jobs are run via the Task Scheduler.

Cons

  • The cost is outside of the budget of many individuals and smaller organizations.
  • Third party tools or additional software is required to make clusters or multiple secondary nodes work.
  • Basic support is only available for three years; after that, you have to pay for it.

Ideal for: Large organizations that need to make the most of available resources and handle large databases.

8. Redis

Redis is open source and can be used by anyone free of charge. The main sponsor of Redis is the company Redis Labs. This offers paid cloud versions of the software. Redis stands for Remote Dictionary Server and is thus suitable for fast data storage.

Redis offers an in-memory database and a key-value store as a database management system.

Pros

  • Usability and simplicity
  • Consistency and replication: The standard replication of the data increases the reading speed, and a large amount of Dataset is quickly available
  • Data can be queried from different instances.
  • Highly scalable with built-in replication, automatic failover, and sharding via Redis Cluster.
  • Advanced cache functionality

Cons

  • Redis (like other in-memory databases) requires an extremely large amount of memory, which can be prohibitively expensive.
  • You have to expect to provide more memory than the data actually occupies.
  • If an OLAP database is needed, Redis is unsuitable.

Ideal for: Organizations whose data needs to be written and queried quickly (for example, in caching, chat and messaging, game leaderboards, session storage, and live streaming).

Summary

There are multiple popular databases to choose from, which means that you're basically guaranteed to find one that will fit your needs. Thanks to the fact that there are a number of excellent free options, individuals and small organizations will still be able to find a database management tool that meets their criteria. On the other hand, if your organization requires a more feature-intensive solution, there are also many paid database solutions available.

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