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SQL vs NoSQL: Choosing the correct database for your application

  • November 15, 2022

The two primary forms of databases are SQL (Relational) and NoSQL (Non-Relational). Making the correct database choice might make your application simpler. This article will help you to choose the best database for your application by understanding how these two databases differ from one another.

SQL (Structured Query Language):

SQL stands for Structured Query Language. SQL databases are table-based. This indicates that they organize and keep data in tables and rows that are connected in various ways. One table record may be connected to another record in the same table, to many other records, or to many records in another table. These relational databases can handle large volumes of data and complicated SQL queries and provide quick data storage and recovery.
Relational databases provide structured data like names, phone numbers, and email addresses. A relational database creates a group called a schema by matching data based on shared properties identified in the dataset.

Create, read, update, and delete (CRUD) operations are made possible by SQL, a universal language that is essentially consistent across a variety of underlying relational database engines, including MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Microsoft SQL Server.


There are four crucial factors to think about when discussing databases:

  • Structure:

    The SQL database model uses tables with columns or attributes and rows of records to organize data in a relational, tabular way. Since SQL works with such a rigidly predefined structure, it requires data organization and structuring prior to entering the SQL database.

  • Scalability:

    There are two approaches for it:

    Horizontal scaling: Increasing the number of machines. In a horizontally scaled RDS system, you normally increase the number of machines by dividing your data over several nodes This is known as  sharding or partitioning logic, although that’s not well-supported.

    Vertical scaling: If the physical constraints of the computer hosting your database engine are preventing you from attaining the performance you need, one solution is to create a better machine (with more RAM, a faster CPU, and a faster SSD) to host your database engine.

  • Storage:

    The pattern is concentrated in terms of storage. As a result, unless you’re utilizing some complex technologies, the entirety of your data is normally stored on a single node in a relational database engine.

  • Access:

    You’ll be creating your queries using the CRUD syntax because access is typically provided by raw SQL.
    The endpoint of the database requires a direct database connection, and most users these days build their queries using ORM (Object Relational Mapper). These abstractions enable the highly programmatic addition of criteria to an object, resulting in the generation of a SQL statement.


RDBMS, which uses SQL, are required to display four characteristics, referred to as ACID. These provide successful transaction processing and high levels of reliability for the SQL database.

  1. Atomicity:  Even in the event of a system failure, all transactions must complete successfully or completely fail.
  2. Consistency: The database must adhere to guidelines that verify data and stop corruption at every stage.
  3. Isolation: Concurrent transactions are isolated from one another.
  4. Durability: Since transactions are final, they cannot be “rolled back” in the event of a system failure.


NOSQL (Non Structured Query Language):

NoSQL systems, in contrast to SQL, let you work with many database data structures. They make it simpler to make changes since they allow for a dynamic schema for unstructured data, which reduces the requirement for pre-planning and pre-organizing data. NoSQL databases let you create new properties and fields and use different database syntaxes.

There are many different implementations of NoSQL, so it’s an overloaded term. Here are just a few of the implementations:

  • Table structure
  • Document
  • Graph

The basic idea here is that NoSQL is built to scale with high performance, but it also comes at a cost: your queries are less flexible.


Let’s go through the same key factors of databases we discussed earlier, but this time discuss how they relate to NoSQL.

  • Structure:

    NoSQL databases do not only store data in rows and tables because they are not relational. Instead, they typically belong to one of four categories:

    Column-oriented: Where information is stored in cells arranged in nearly endless columns as opposed to rows.
    Key-value stores: Associative arrays, sometimes referred to as dictionaries or maps, are the data model used by key-value storage. In this approach, data is represented as a set of key-value pairs.
    Document Stores: The storage of data in common formats such as XML, YAML, JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), and BSON is done using document stores. The fact that documents in a single database can have several data kinds is advantageous.
    Graph databases: Databases that display data as a graph that illustrates the connections between several sets of data. Graph databases include Neo4j, RedisGraph (a graph plugin included with Redis), and OrientDB.

  • Storage:

    NoSQL relies on hashing the input for storage. As a result, if you have a key, it is provided to a hashing function, which returns a value dispersed across one of the several nodes.

  • Scalability:

    NoSQL databases can be scaled horizontally. They depend on nodes with shared storage and processing resources. As a result, you can increase the number of servers in a NoSQL database to process more data (increase the load). NoSQL databases have the ability to distribute data among different servers.

    In terms of scaling NoSQL databases is frequently less expensive because they use inexpensive hardware, and there is little to no application downtime needed. NoSQL databases can become significantly larger than SQL databases, which are limited to a single server, and are therefore easier to scale as data volumes rise.

  • Access:

    There are two main choices:

    REST APIs: This involves making a request to an endpoint that has particular functionalities attached to it.

    Vendor-specific terminology for CRUD: Mongo DB offers a special way of running a query if you use it.



NoSQL adheres to the CAP theory while SQL requires ACID qualities (however some NoSQL databases, such IBM’s DB2, MongoDB, AWS’s DynamoDB, and Apache’s CouchDB, can also integrate and obey ACID standards).

  1. Consistency: Every request is consistently met with either the most recent outcome or an error. Strongly consistent systems include MongoDB, but eventual consistent systems like Cassandra give eventual consistency.
  2. Availability: Every request has a result that is not an error.
  3. Partition tolerance: Prevents system operations from being affected by delays or losses between nodes.


Differences between SQL and NoSQL:

The main differences between a SQL database and a NoSQL database are listed below.

  • Schema: SQL databases have a specified schema and use structured query language. NoSQL databases have dynamic schemas for unstructured data.
  • Relational vs Non-Relational: SQL databases are relational, NoSQL databases are non-relational.
  • Data storage: Data is organized and stored in tables with rows and columns using SQL. NoSQL data, on the other hand, is unstructured and is kept in JSON format.
  • Interface: When working on a project that necessitates a complex query design, SQL can be useful. On the other side, NoSQL does not offer an interface for designing complicated queries.

Ideal Use Cases:

When to use SQL:

There isn’t a single database technology that works for everyone. Because of this, many firms use relational and nonrelational databases for various purposes. A highly organized SQL database may be better in some circumstances, despite the fact that NoSQL databases are becoming more and more popular for their speed and scalability. Listed below are a few factors in support of a SQL database:

  • To store structured data
  • When access patterns aren’t defined
  • To enforce field constraints
  • To perform flexible queries
When to use NoSQL:

NoSQL databases stop data from being the bottleneck when all other parts of your server-side application are designed to be quick and smooth. The real NoSQL motivator in this case is big data, performing tasks that conventional relational databases cannot. NoSQL databases like MongoDB, CouchDB, and Cassandra are becoming more and more popular as a result. Listed below are a few factors in support of a NOSQL database:

  • To store unstructured data
  • When access patterns are defined
  • Low latency needed
  • Performance is essential to your application

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October 28, 2022 | Written by: Bilal Ul Haque