Over time, different ways of working with databases have been established. And as a result, today we can choose between SQL relational database handlers and NoSQL document-oriented ones. This post is not only about SQL vs NoSQL but it tries to guide when it is convenient to use one and the other knowing the advantages and disadvantages of using each of them.

Importance of databases and DBMS

A database is a collection of data logically organized by a pattern of similarity that can then be used. These data are processed and presented by an application that uses them and is administered thanks to a DBMS.

In the past, data from applications or used by applications is stored in files bringing many negative consequences. So the advantages of using a database are

  • Data security.
  • Availability of the data to any application that needs it.
  • Minimal redundancy. That is, a well-designed database will not repeat data and processes.

However, a database is created and managed by a DBMS.

DBMS stands for Database Management System which is an application that allows the administration, presentation, and structuring of these data.

The main importance of the DBMS is that it works as a powerful intermediate that allows making the database to use a human language like SQL. This makes the stored data more informative. Also, the essential processes are the manipulation and construction of the databases, as well as the definition of them. It is so important that the creation of a database is not conceived without a DBMS.

The Structured Query Language – SQL

Because it is a widespread concept, there are many types of databases. However, the most popular is the relational one.

This type of database is based on establishing different relationships between the real-world entities that make them up. This model of a database is the most popular at present thanks to the following characteristics:

  • Maturity. It is an old, tested, and contrasted database model.
  • Process atomicity. This guarantees that there is no abrupt data loss. That is, either the whole process is done or nothing is done.
  • Clear and defined standards.

On the other hand, relational databases have their main support in the SQL language.

SQL stands for Structured Query Language and is a language used by DBMS to create, manipulate, present, and audit database data. Many popular DBMS use it like MariaDB, MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, IBM DB2, Firebird among others.


Thanks to SQL it is possible in a clear and orderly way to create the processes concerning the database. Besides, this language uses algebra and relational computing to allow queries to be made to easily retrieve information of interest from databases.

However, the technology is changing and now other types of database definitions arise that are not relational and do not use SQL language. We call these NoSQL databases.

NoSQL Databases

When we talk about a NoSQL type database we mean a database that is not relational and that does not use the SQL language. However, this should not be pigeonholed into a single model as there are several NoSQL models.

However, there are common characteristics that can encompass almost all of them. For example, NoSQL databases are generally faster than SQL databases. This gives superior performance. They are also more scalable, meaning they can grow without altering the main structure too much.

As with SQL, there are DBMS such as MongoDB, InfluxDB, or ArangoDB that have their particular way of storing and manipulating data. In general lines, we talk about JSON documents with a structure called collections that differ from the tables and fields of SQL. However, we can also find NoSQL databases oriented to networks.

SQL vs NoSQL MongoDB log -- image from https://mongodb.com

Now that you are in context, we can establish some advantages and disadvantages of using SQL or NoSQL.

SQL vs NoSQL: pros and cons

SQL Databases

While it is true that the two technologies are quite different from each other, it is also true that they both pursue the same goal: data availability and security at many levels.

So some advantages of using SQL are:

  • Its use is more widespread and therefore cheaper to find people trained in this.
  • Most of the online tools and professionals support this technology. For example, the best CMS’s like WordPress and Joomla support this type of database. And so on.
  • As we mentioned before, the atomicity of the processes is vital to preserving the security and integrity of the data.
  • In addition to all this, it is easy to find documentation on SQL, and therefore, it is possible to train team members quickly.

Although relational databases using SQL are a great technology, the truth is that it has some disadvantages. For example, although the atomicity of the processes is great, it does decrease the performance of the program.

On the other hand, scalability is not so easy to do and is less than in NoSQL databases. And the installation and maintenance of the database depending on the many DBMS and the operating system.

NoSQL Databases

In the case of NoSQL technologies, we find some advantages common to all of them. Some of them are:

  • NoSQL database infrastructure is distributed. This makes scalability and high availability very powerful.
  • The versatility is another of the main characteristics of the databases because there is variety within the technology.
  • You can make changes to the schemas without having to stop databases. This is a very important feature.
  • It requires fewer system resources. That is, you can run it on equipment without high technical specifications.

However, NoSQL technologies also have some disadvantages.

First, not all NoSQL databases address process atomicity and data integrity. This can pose a danger to the data.

Also, there is no standardization among all the technologies that make up NoSQL. For example, document-oriented databases have different characteristics than network-oriented ones.

Likewise, although there is more and more documentation about it, the truth is that it is still far from the amount of information that there is about SQL.

Not all technologies support systems other than Linux.

SQL vs NoSQL The Conclusion

So, in conclusion, we can say that both technologies are reliable enough to store data that will be used later by the applications that require it.

So if you need the data to be perfectly consistent and the final database structure to be static, it is better to use SQL and relational databases.

However, if there are not enough computers with large resources and in passing, it is required to be scalable, it is convenient to use NoSQL.

On the other hand, although both technologies are good, we must take into account if our database needs a NoSQL or relational database.

I hope that this post has helped you to establish the main advantages and disadvantages of each technology.

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