How to choose the right database for your business

By James
21st July 2021

Pros and cons of the 5 most commonly used solutions


Choosing the right database for your business is not an easy task. Nowadays, there are several different types of Database Management Systems (DBMS) and while they share many similar features, the key differences between them rely on how user-friendly they are, how scalable they can be, and how much they cost.


SQL relational databases vs NoSQL databases

The first element to understand in order to choose the right database for you is the difference between SQL and NoSQL databases. A SQL (Structured Query Language) database is a relational database that deals with tabular, structured data. On the other hand, NoSQL databases are particularly useful for storing unstructured data, which is growing more rapidly than structured tabular data. In fact, a NoSQL database is generally useful for the storage of documents, chats, messages etc. Additionally, NoSQL database has high horizontal scalability while a SQL database offers support for flexible queries and vertical scalability. You can find out more detailed information about these two types of database technology here: SQL vs. NoSQL Databases: What’s the Difference?


The 5 most commonly used databases

To help you select the most suitable database strategy for your needs we asked our experienced DBAs (Database Administrators) to point out the pros, cons and trends of the 5 most popular data storage solutions:

1.      Oracle

2.      Microsoft SQL Server

3.      MySQL

4.      PostgreSQL

5.      MariaDB


1. Oracle

Oracle is considered the leading DBMS and for years has been recognised as one of the highest-ranking software companies in the industry. It provides users with a high quality database solution that supports multiple ‘data models like document, graph, relational and key-value pairs within a single database’, although it is currently refocusing on cloud computing. Oracle is renowned for providing superior information security, while its architecture allows users to easily manage multiple databases as well as a vast amount of data.




  • The cost can be prohibitive, especially for small and medium size organisations.
  • It requires a large amount of disk space because of its powerful infrastructure.


Ideal for: Large organizations that manage large and complex database estates and require robust features and options.

Companies using Oracle: LinkedIn and Ebay.


2. Microsoft SQL server

As another of the most popular DBMS, Microsoft SQL Server is well known for effectively storing, managing and retrieving relational data. It offers a licence free entry-level edition that, while it might not be suitable for everyone, is ideal for server data-driven applications; on the other hand, the business editions provide tools for data administration, online analytical processing, and reporting.




  • Depending on the edition that is chosen, the cost may be beyond small organisations’ budgets.
  • It may require a powerful server or an upgrade of an existing one, unless users utilise the Azure cloud.


Ideal for: Suitable for any size company, depending on which edition is chosen, that already employs other Microsoft products.

Companies using SQL: Accenture and JPMorgan Chase.


3. MySQL

As an open-source DBMS, there is no licencing cost. However, for any kind of support users will have to pay.

MySQL is frequently updated with new features and security improvements that make the infrastructure reliable. The interface is easy to use and can process a vast amount of data.



  • Can be implemented with a variety of user interfaces.
  • A robust DBMS in the LAMP stack.
  • The optimisation of the database engine allows for superior indexing.


  • It requires time and effort for actions that other DBMS do automatically, such as creating incremental backups.
  • The free version does not come with support.


Ideal for: small and medium size businesses that need a robust DBMS but operate within budget constraints or companies that require high levels of indexing.

Companies using MySQL: Airbnb and DoubleSlash.


4. PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL is one of the most popular open-source databases. It shares some features with MySQL such as the ability to build complex data structures and is renowned for its speed and reliability; moreover, it can process different workloads, for both single-machine products and complex applications. Due to its features, PostgreSQL is commonly used for web databases.




  • Limited amount of supporting documentation, demos, and technical papers.
  • Speed issues related to read-only operations.
  • Lack of reporting and auditing instruments. It can be difficult to track and revise the system activity.


Ideal for: Organizations of any size with a limited budget that need to be able to select their interface and supports JSON.

Companies using PostgreSQL: Spotify and Instagram.


5. MariaDB

Like many other open-source DBMSs, MariaDB is free except for the support, which requires a paid version. It is highly compatible with MySQL and allows the user to choose between a variety of storage engines. Furthermore, it offers different plugins to customise the infrastructure.




  • Users need to pay for support.
  • Even though it is highly compatible with MySQL, there are still many gaps in merging codes.


Ideal for: organisations that are looking for an affordable alternative to MySQL.

Companies using MariaDB: BlaBlaCar and Ansell Healthcare.


In conclusion

The above are just the 5 most used solutions – there are many other databases that you might want to consider. However, with so many database choices available, the selection might be daunting. To help you choose, some other database selection criteria that you might want to consider are the vertical and horizontal scalability of the different databases, how much data you need to store and how fast this data will grow, as well as the number of simultaneous users.

If you are still unsure about how to choose the right database for your business, contact us. Our database administrators will be in the best position to analyse your current data structure and recommend the most suitable solution.


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