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How to Choose the Perfect Database for Your Business

Choosing database

Learn the basics of database selection and choose the right database for your business

You're the CEO of a fast-growing tech company. You and your team have built a product that's disrupting your market, and you're ready to take things to the next level. But before you can do that, you need to build the infrastructure to support your growth.

One of the most important decisions you'll make as you prepare for scale is picking the right database. But with so many options available, how can you be sure you're making the right choice? This post will outline some database system selection criteria to help you decide on the perfect database for your business needs.

SQL vs. NoSQL

When it comes to database selection, there are two main options: SQL and NoSQL. Both have their pros and cons, so how do you decide which is right for you?

SQL (Structured Query Language) databases follow a traditional relational model in which data is organized into tables and relationships between data are defined. This makes them a good choice for businesses that need to track complex relationships between data. They're also typically easier to use than NoSQL databases.

NoSQL databases, on the other hand, eschew the relational model in favor of a more flexible approach. This makes them a better choice for businesses that need to store and access large amounts of data quickly. NoSQL databases are also often more scalable than SQL databases.

Representing users and their professions in SQL and NoSQL
Representing users and their professions in SQL and NoSQL

So, how to choose a database? The answer depends on your specific needs and preferences. 

SQL databases are great for transactional applications, such as online payments, hotel / car reservation systems, shipping apps, and e-commerce solutions. They're fast, efficient, and handle concurrent updates well. But they can be limited in terms of scalability and flexibility.

NoSQL databases, on the other hand, are perfect for big data applications, such as video streaming services, communication, media, and entertainment apps. They're scalable and flexible and can handle a large number of updates without any problems. However, they can be less efficient when it comes to transaction processing.

SQL vs. NoSQL databases
SQL vs. NoSQL databases

OLAP vs. OLTP

Another branch in the database selection decision tree is OLAP vs. OLTP.

OLAP databases are designed for online analytical processing or analyzing data that has been extracted from operational systems. They're perfect for querying data and generating reports.

OLTP databases are designed for online transaction processing or handling the day-to-day transactions of a business. They're optimized for speed and efficiency, so they can handle the high volume of requests from users.

OLAP vs. OLTP
OLAP vs. OLTP

So what database to choose? That depends on your needs. If you're mostly interested in reports and analysis, OLAP is a good choice. If you need a fast, reliable database for business transactions, go with OLTP.

However, in some software projects, you will need both. 

Imagine, for example, that you have mobile banking. You will need an OLTP database to carry out daily user transactions, such as deposits, withdrawals, and transfers. These transactions are essentially implemented as INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE operations in an OLTP system.

Then you'll want to analyze user behavior in the app and compare it with the previous season. How often do customers use mobile banking, what features are most in-demand, what issues were reported? To implement this, you will need an OLAP database and SELECT commands to aggregate data for reporting.

Note: You need to transfer the data from the OLTP to the OLAP to run analytics and reporting. This can be done with a well-tuned ETL (extract, transform, and load) process that will help to pick up data for valuable insights.

Making the right decision about the proper database is important for any company. But, how do you make that decision? What are the database selection criteria?

One thing to consider is the opinion of professional software developers. According to the Stackoverflow survey, the ten best databases for data storage and management are as follows:

Best databases in 2022
Best databases in 2022

MySQL. A powerful open-source database used by millions of websites and applications, such as Google, Amazon, and Netflix. It is a popular choice for enterprises and emerging businesses because it is highly scalable and secure.

PostgreSQL. A widely used open-source relational database management system (RDBMS). It is known for its reliability and performance and is used by many large websites, including Instagram and Etsy.

SQLite. A serverless database that stores data in a single file on a user's computer. Because it doesn't require a server, it's perfect for small-scale projects where resources are limited. SQLite will perfectly fit your database system vendor selection criteria if you run an embedded app (fitness tracker, air conditioning system) or a website with less than 100K hits/day.

MongoDB. A robust document-oriented database system perfect for storing large amounts of data. MongoDB offers excellent scalability and performance, making it great for high-traffic websites and applications, such as Forbes, eBay, and MetLife.

Microsoft SQL Server. A widely used relational database management system known for its reliability and performance. Microsoft SQL Server is secure and scalable. Plus, it’s fully compatible with other Microsoft products, making it a valuable addition to your business infrastructure. Some companies that use Microsoft SQL Server are Accenture, Stack Overflow, and Trendyol.

Redis. An open-source database that offers both in-memory and persistent storage. Because of its speed and flexibility, Redis is becoming more and more popular and is already used by such clients as Twitter, GitHub, Snapchat, etc. Redis is perfect for real-time applications. It is also used for caching, data structures, and session management, among other things.

MariaDB. A relational database management system available on an open-source basis. MariaDB meets the needs of data warehousing apps, e-commerce platforms, and logging applications and is already trusted by clients such as Bandwidth, Samsung, and SelectQuote.

Elasticsearch. A search engine based on Lucene. It provides a distributed, multitenant-capable full-text search engine with an HTTP web interface and schema-free JSON documents. Elasticsearch is a great choice for a database organization because it's schema-free, meaning you don't have to pre-define your data structure. Notable users of Elasticsearch areGithub, Wikipedia, and NY Times.

Oracle. A comprehensive enterprise-grade solution with strong security, disaster recovery, and powerful processing capabilities. Oracle database is RDBMS withfeatures like user-defined types, inheritance, and polymorphism. Some Oracle database users are Netflix, LinkedIn, and ViaVarejo.

Firebase Realtime Database. A cloud-based NoSQL database that allows you to store and sync data in real-time across devices. It's perfect for building chat apps, real-time dashboards, or any app that needs to keep track of data in real-time. Some big names using Firebase Realtime Database are Alibaba, The Economist, Onefootball, and eToro.

How to choose a database for startup?

The database selection process is an essential part of the choice of the software technology stack. When choosing a database, emerging companies should consider their business area, data type, and the nature of app operations. However, regardless of the nature of the activity, it is advisable to opt for PaaS (platform as a service) rather than a self-hosted database.

Here are the reasons why startups should choose a PaaS database:

1. Cost. A PaaS database is typically much more affordable than a traditional database. This is because you don't have to purchase or maintain the infrastructure yourself—the PaaS provider takes care of that for you.

2. Scalability. If you need more space to store data in your databases, you can purchase it from your database provider. Thus, you won't have to worry about your database becoming overloaded or unable to handle your traffic.

3. Convenience. A PaaS database is easy to use and manage since you don't have to purchase and maintain hardware by yourself. This allows you to focus on what you do best – running your startup with maximum efficiency.

When to switch databases

There are many factors to consider when choosing a database. But when is it time to switch?

If you're experiencing any of the following, it might be time to look for another database organization:

1. Your current database is no longer meeting your needs.

2. Your database is too expensive or difficult to maintain.

3. Your database is no longer supported by the manufacturer.

4. Your database is no longer compatible with your software.

5. Your data needs have outgrown your current database.

If you have any of these problems, consider migrating data from one database to another. There are a few things to keep in mind during the data migration:

  • make sure you have the resources in place to perform the data migration (including adequate storage space and bandwidth)

  • create a backup of your data before you begin the migration process

  • test the data migration process on a small scale before you attempt to migrate all of your data

If you need help exporting, importing, or migrating your data, our team is happy to assist. Get in touch via chat or email, and we'll provide a comprehensive consultation on your project.

December 22, 2022