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SQL Server vs MySQL: Difference, Performance, and Features

In the ever-evolving world of database management systems, SQL Server and MySQL stand as two of the most popular and widely-used solutions. Both platforms offer robust features and reliable performance, but which one is the right choice for your needs?

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MySQL and SQL Server rank among the top RDBMS globally, with only Oracle surpassing them in popularity. These systems are undeniably the frontrunners within the RDBMS landscape, commanding a significant share of the worldwide market.

MySQL and SQL Server share many similarities, but they also have distinct differences. When selecting between them, it’s essential to consider each system’s pros and cons. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for professionals to encounter both RDBMS in their work at various stages, making it vital to understand their unique characteristics. This article aims to provide you with an in-depth exploration of these details, allowing you to make an informed decision and be prepared for any situation.

MySQL and SQL Server: Basic information

MySQL emerged in the mid-1990s as one of the first open-source RDBMS, which significantly contributed to its immense popularity, particularly among startups. This free, open-source product boasts impressive functionality and provides a cost-effective solution for those in the initial stages of application development, with the flexibility to switch later if required. Typically, MySQL is used in conjunction with PHP and Apache servers.

Microsoft SQL Server, on the other hand, has been around since the 1980s, making it an older product than MySQL. Although it has undergone numerous changes over the years, its core principles remain consistent. SQL Server is particularly well-suited for developers working with .NET, another Microsoft product. The company has developed additional tools for SQL Server, including powerful analytics, ETL, and reporting tools, making it a comprehensive platform that provides users with everything they need from a single provider.

What is Microsoft SQL Server?

Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database management system (RDBMS) developed by Microsoft. It is designed to store, manage, and retrieve data efficiently for various applications, including web, desktop, and mobile applications. SQL Server uses Structured Query Language (SQL) as its primary language for managing and querying data.

SQL Server offers a wide range of features and tools that cater to different needs, from small-scale applications to large enterprise solutions. Some of its key features include support for complex data types, transaction control, advanced indexing, data warehousing, high availability, and various security options. In addition, Microsoft provides a suite of tools and services, such as SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS), and SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), that aid developers and administrators in managing, analyzing, and reporting data.

Available in multiple editions, SQL Server accommodates a diverse range of needs and budgets. These editions range from the free Express edition, suitable for small-scale applications, to the comprehensive Enterprise edition, designed for large-scale, mission-critical applications with robust features and performance optimization capabilities.

What is MySQL?

MySQL is an open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) owned by Oracle Corporation. It is widely used for its efficient performance, ease of use, and cost-effectiveness. MySQL is based on the Structured Query Language (SQL), which is used to manage and interact with the data stored in the database.

As one of the most popular RDBMS, MySQL is commonly used in web applications, content management systems, and various online platforms. Its compatibility with numerous operating systems, such as Windows, macOS, and Linux, and its support for various programming languages, like PHP, Java, Python, and others, make it a versatile choice for developers.

MySQL provides essential features like data integrity, scalability, high availability, and security options. In addition, it supports the use of stored procedures, triggers, and views, enabling the development of complex database solutions. Its open-source nature allows for community-driven enhancements, and it is available in both free and commercial editions, catering to different requirements and budgets. MySQL has a vast ecosystem of tools, libraries, and resources, which contribute to its popularity and ease of use.

SQL Server vs. MySQL: Overview of similarities

Both SQL Server and MySQL are widely used and powerful relational database management systems (RDBMS), offering a range of features to manage and store data efficiently. Despite their different origins and ownership, they share several similarities that make them popular choices among developers and organizations.

SQL Language: Both SQL Server and MySQL use Structured Query Language (SQL) as their primary language for managing and querying data. This standardized language allows developers to create, read, update, and delete data, as well as manage database objects such as tables, indexes, and views.

ACID Compliance: Both RDBMS are ACID-compliant, ensuring the integrity and reliability of transactions. ACID stands for Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability. These properties ensure that database transactions are processed reliably and maintain data consistency even in the event of system failures.

Data Types and Indexing: SQL Server and MySQL support similar data types such as integers, floating-point numbers, dates, and character strings. They also provide indexing options to improve query performance, including primary, unique, and full-text indexes.

Stored Procedures, Triggers, and Views: Both systems support the use of stored procedures, triggers, and views, enabling developers to create modular, reusable code, automate specific actions, and present data in a structured format.

Security Features: SQL Server and MySQL offer various security features to protect data, such as user authentication, role-based access control, and encryption options for data at rest and in transit.

Scalability and High Availability: Both RDBMS provide options for horizontal and vertical scaling to handle growing amounts of data and user demands. They also offer high availability solutions, including replication and clustering, to ensure data is accessible even during system failures or maintenance.

Ecosystem and Community: SQL Server and MySQL have vast ecosystems, including extensive documentation, libraries, tools, and a large community of developers and users who contribute to their ongoing development and support.

While these similarities exist, it’s essential to consider the specific requirements of a project or organization before selecting an RDBMS, as SQL Server and MySQL have distinct differences that may influence the decision.

Difference between MySQL and SQL Server

Let us analyze the fundamental distinctions between MySQL and SQL Server across the following areas:

Platform compatibility

The platform compatibility of MySQL allows it to run seamlessly across multiple operating systems, although Linux tends to be the preferred choice among developers.

Initially designed for Windows, SQL Server is a Microsoft-owned RDBMS. However, limiting such a widely-used system to a single OS would be impractical, even when it comes to the most popular OS globally. While SQL Server can be used on macOS, it requires supplementary software such as Docker. Compatibility with Linux was introduced in 2017, although Windows remains the most suitable environment.

Syntax and Query Language

While both SQL Server and MySQL utilize SQL as their foundational language, they employ distinct dialects. The language conventions vary between the two platforms, making it infeasible to write identical code for MySQL and SQL Server. Consequently, developers need to familiarize themselves with the specific rules of each platform and adjust their code accordingly.

Opinions on SQL dialects may vary among developers. Some consider SQL Server’s syntax to be more straightforward and find it simpler to write basic queries, such as SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE. In contrast, others prefer MySQL’s syntax and find it more convenient to work with. Ultimately, the choice between the two dialects depends on individual preferences and the specific needs of a project or organization.

Let us look at some syntax differences between MySQL and MS SQL Server.

SQL ServerMySQL
Length functionSELECT LEN(data_string)
FROM table_name
SELECT CHARACTER_LENGTH(data_string) FROM table_name
Concatenation functionSELECT (‘SQL’ + ‘Server’)SELECT CONCAT (‘My’, ‘SQL’)
Select top N records from a tableSELECT TOP 10 * FROM table_name WHERE conditionSELECT * FROM table_name
WHEREcondition LIMIT 10
Generate GUIDSELECT NEWID()SELECT UUID()
Return current date and timeSELECT GETDATE()SELECT NOW()
Return database versionSELECT @@VERSIONSELECT VERSION()

Programming languages

MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server are both relational databases that use SQL to interact with their schema and data, but SQL Server uses the proprietary T-SQL extension to SQL, which enables additional concepts such as procedural programming, local variables, and string and data processing functions.

Both solutions support connections with major programming languages like C#, Java, PHP, C++, Python, Ruby, Visual Basic, Delphi, Go, and R, as long as the language can make a connection using ODBC. However, SQL Server has an advantage for .NET languages because Microsoft wrote the ADO.NET library specifically for SQL Server to facilitate access to databases and data services.

SQL Server also offers the controversial mechanism of invoking .NET code from a stored procedure, which can add functionality but requires caution.

Overall, both MySQL and SQL Server support the most common programming languages, but SQL Server has an advantage for .NET languages due to ADO.NET.

Performance

MySQL and SQL Server both offer exceptional performance and speed for running high-end applications, with the ability to host multiple databases on a single server and the use of indexes for data sorting to improve performance.

In terms of response time, SQL Server has a slight edge over MySQL.

SQL Server is known for delivering fast and efficient performance on both Linux and Windows. It offers the ability to upgrade and modernize databases in the cloud, at the edge, or on-premises, with database compatibility certification to mitigate the risk of application incompatibility. Additionally, SQL Server leverages memory-optimized “tempdb” and persistent memory support to further boost workload performance.

Security features

Both MySQL and SQL Server adhere to EC2 compliance, meeting the security standards for cloud computing. However, they differ in a crucial aspect—database access.

In MySQL, the database files can be accessed and manipulated using binaries at runtime. Additionally, other processes can access and modify these files.

On the other hand, SQL Server does not allow any processes or users to access or edit the database files at runtime. To perform such operations, you must run specific functions. 

Therefore, SQL Server is much more secure when preventing hackers’ attacks. No one can access/modify the data directly. Besides, it includes additional security features for data classification, protection, monitoring, and alerts. SQL Server can itself detect security gaps and misconfigurations and fix them. SQL Server wins the race when security is a critical factor. 

Storage engines

SQL Server utilizes a single storage engine created by Microsoft.

In contrast, MySQL provides multiple storage engines, including two widely used and popular options, InnoDB and MyISAM (InnoDB is the default engine). MySQL developers can select from various other engines based on their specific requirements, providing greater flexibility for their tasks.

Query execution differences

One fundamental difference between MySQL and SQL Server, which can be a deciding factor for some users, is the ability to stop query execution.

In MySQL, once a query has started executing, it cannot be individually canceled; the entire process must be terminated. Conversely, SQL Server allows users to halt query execution midway without killing the entire process.

While this distinction may not significantly impact database administrators’ work, it can be a considerable challenge for developers. Therefore, if you are a software developer who frequently needs to stop query execution, SQL Server may hold an advantage for you.

Filtering differences

MySQL offers several ways to filter tables and rows, but filtering data across multiple databases requires executing multiple queries individually against each database.

In contrast, SQL Server allows developers to filter rows across all databases hosted on the server. This process is more straightforward since all rows can be filtered in a single query, regardless of how many databases are hosted.

Backup and Restore 

During the backup process, MySQL locks the database, making it unusable until the backup is complete. This can be a significant inconvenience, particularly for large databases that require extended backup and restoration times.

In contrast, SQL Server does not lock the database during the backup process, allowing users to continue working with the database, executing queries, and manipulating data.

While MySQL’s locking behavior cannot be changed by default, it is possible to keep the database unlocked during backups using the mysqldump utility and the –single-transaction flag. Experienced MySQL specialists are typically aware of this option.

These are just a few of the significant differences between these popular RDBMS. Other differences relate to tasks, code writing, and other aspects.

Documentation and community

MySQL is available under a dual-licensing distribution, offering free, open-source software under the GPLv2 license, as well as proprietary licenses that require additional charges for support. The community support for MySQL is extensive, with various forums and resources available online.

SQL Server, on the other hand, is proprietary software that requires a license to use. However, it has a large and active community that provides support through forums and other resources.

Both MySQL and SQL Server offer comprehensive technical documentation to help developers get started and troubleshoot issues. MySQL provides official documentation, as well as various third-party resources, while SQL Server has extensive documentation available through Microsoft’s website and other sources.

Overall, both MySQL and SQL Server have strong communities and extensive documentation to support developers, although the licensing and support options differ between the two.

Connectors and synchronization support

One way to enhance the functionality of both MySQL and SQL Server databases is by using additional connector tools such as dbForge ODBC connectors, which comprise software components that allow applications to connect to various database management systems, including MySQL and SQL Server, using the ODBC interface. These connectors simplify the process of connecting to databases and enable developers to access data and perform operations more efficiently.

Devart ODBC Driver for SQL Server is a high-performance data connector that provides enterprise-level features for accessing SQL Server databases from ODBC-compliant tools for reporting, analytics, business intelligence, and ETL processes. This driver works on both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows, macOS, and Linux platforms, and it fully supports standard ODBC API functions and data types. With this driver, users can easily and securely access live SQL Server data from any location.

Devart ODBC Driver for MySQL and MariaDB is an enterprise-level connectivity solution that offers high-performance features for accessing MySQL, Microsoft Azure Database for MySQL, MariaDB, Amazon RDS for MySQL, and Amazon Aurora databases from ODBC-compliant reporting, analytics, business intelligence, and ETL tools. It works on both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows, macOS, and Linux platforms, and fully supports standard ODBC API functions and data types. With Devart ODBC Driver, users can easily and securely access live MySQL data from any location.

IDE Tools

MySQL and SQL Server both have various IDE (Integrated Development Environment) tools available to help developers work with the databases more efficiently.

For MySQL, popular IDE tools include MySQL Workbench, dbForge Studio for MySQL, Navicat, and phpMyAdmin. MySQL Workbench is an official IDE tool for MySQL that allows developers to design and manage databases, as well as execute queries and scripts. dbForge IDE for MySQL is a commercial IDE tool that supports MySQL and MariaDB, with features such as data modeling, data synchronization, and backup and restore. phpMyAdmin is a free, web-based IDE tool that allows developers to manage MySQL databases using a web browser.

For SQL Server, popular IDE tools include SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), Visual Studio, dbForge Studio for SQL Server, and Azure Data Studio. SSMS is an official IDE tool for SQL Server that allows developers to manage databases, execute queries, and create reports. Visual Studio is a popular IDE tool for .NET languages, including C# and VB.NET, that includes built-in support for SQL Server. dbForge IDE for SQL Server boasts a comprehensive set of tools for efficient database development, management, administration, and analysis. Azure Data Studio is a cross-platform IDE tool that supports SQL Server, Azure SQL Database, and other databases, with features such as code editing, IntelliSense, and query execution.

Editions and cost

MySQL is available in two editions: Community and Enterprise. The Community edition is free and open-source, while the Enterprise edition requires a paid subscription and provides additional features, such as advanced security and backup capabilities. MySQL also offers a cloud-based service called MySQL Cloud, which has different pricing tiers based on the size and complexity of the database.

SQL Server is available in several editions, including Express, Developer, Standard, and Enterprise. The Express edition is a free, lightweight version of SQL Server with limited features and database size. The Developer edition is also free but includes all features and capabilities of the Enterprise edition, with a limitation on production usage. The Standard and Enterprise editions require a paid license, with varying features and capabilities. SQL Server also offers a cloud-based service called Azure SQL Database, with pricing based on usage and database size.

Overall, MySQL is generally considered more cost-effective than SQL Server, as the Community edition is free and open-source, while the Enterprise edition is less expensive than SQL Server’s comparable editions. However, the choice between the two depends on the specific needs and budget of the project.

MySQL vs MSSQL: A comparison table

FeaturesSQL ServerMySQL
LicensingProprietaryDual-licensing (open-source and proprietary)
Platform compatibilityInitially designed for Windows, but now compatible with LinuxCross-platform (Windows, macOS, and Linux)
Programming languagesAdvantage for .NET languages due to ADO.NET librarySupports multiple languages
PerformanceSlightly better response time than MySQLExceptional performance and speed
Documentation and communityComprehensive technical documentation and large communityExtensive documentation and community support
IDE toolsAzure Data Studio, SSMS, dbForge Studio for SQL Server, and SSDTMySQL Workbench, dbForge Studio for MySQL, Navicat, and phpMyAdmin
Editions and costsMultiple editions with varying features and costsDifferent editions with varying features and costs

Is MySQL better than SQL Server: How to choose?

After reviewing the comparison between MySQL and SQL Server, it’s clear that the best database management system for you ultimately depends on your specific needs and circumstances.

If your organization is already using the LAMP stack and running on Linux, MySQL is likely the most seamless option. On the other hand, if you’re a Windows-based organization using .NET and the Microsoft ecosystem, SQL Server is the obvious choice.

If you’re starting fresh, SQL Server may be the more advantageous choice due to Microsoft’s momentum in the cloud with Azure and its increased support for open-source and Linux ecosystems. Additionally, SQL Server has a robust toolset and arguably better performance than MySQL.

Regardless of which database management system you choose, it’s essential to ensure that it integrates smoothly with your existing IT infrastructure. This typically requires an intermediate API layer that connects the database to the front-end user interface.

In summary, if you’re looking for a cost-effective, versatile, and well-supported database management system that works with multiple programming languages, MySQL may be the better choice. If you need a database management system that delivers the fastest possible performance, works seamlessly with .NET languages, and provides powerful tools and features, SQL Server may be the optimal choice.

dbForge Edge: Best database IDE for MySQL and MSSQL

dbForge Edge is a comprehensive software solution consisting of four integrated development environments (IDEs) that cater to the most commonly used relational database management systems (RDBMs). These IDEs include dbForge Studio for SQL Server, dbForge Studio for MySQL and MariaDB, dbForge Studio for PostgreSQL, and dbForge Studio for Oracle. Each of these IDEs is designed to provide complete support for various tasks related to database development, management, administration, test data generation, data analysis and reporting, comparison and synchronization of database schemas and table data, as well as integration with DevOps workflows. Thus, dbForge Edge offers a one-stop solution for all possible database-related tasks.

Conclusion

Choosing the appropriate database management system for a project can be a challenging decision. MySQL’s free nature and robust functionality have made it the second most popular choice in the world. However, many large companies prioritize security and prefer SQL Server despite its cost. Other differences may seem insignificant, but their relevance depends on specific work conditions.

If developers are already well-versed in a particular system, they can start working on the project immediately and complete it faster. However, in different conditions, it may be better to invest more time in mastering a new system, or purchasing a paid one, if its functionality is more suitable for the project and will increase efficiency. To make the right choice, it is best to consult with a team of developers. Professional opinions from specialists can be obtained, and all the pros and cons, along with their relevance to the project, can be evaluated to reach a conclusion.

Fortunately, there is an excellent solution that supports both SQL Server and MySQL, as well as other popular RDBMs like PostgreSQL and Oracle – dbForge Edge. By using dbForge Edge, you can handle a wide range of database development and management tasks, including schema and data comparison and synchronization, query building, data analysis, and more. If you are interested in trying dbForge Edge, you can download its 30-day trial version and explore its features and capabilities. The trial version will give you a good idea of how the software works and whether it meets your needs before you decide to purchase a license.

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