What Is MySQL? Definition, Comparision with SQL, Benefits & Features Explained

Jerry Wallis
11 min read

Data is everywhere, and the size of digital data is growing considerably with each passing day. Before the internet took over the world, we used to rely on physical documents and filing cabinets to store, manage and access data. But, eventually, we started storing data over the internet in what we call databases.

But how do we store data efficiently to pull it quickly when looking for it? That’s where SQL comes into the picture. It’s pretty much a language used for communicating with databases. In essence, if you want to pull, edit, and add information to a database, then you’d do this with the language of SQL.

But SQL is just one part of this equation, as another system presides within it. Enter MySQL! MySQL, a widely used open-source relational database management system, is the cornerstone of many web applications, powering a plethora of websites and services across the globe.

But what is MySQL? And how does it work? What can you do with it? And why do some of the biggest tech giants in the world use it for data management in their software applications? All these questions will be answered shortly. In this comprehensive guide, we delve deep into the world of MySQL, demystifying its functionalities and exploring its numerous applications.

What Is MySQL? 🗂️

MySQL, an abbreviation for “My Structured Query Language,” is an open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) known for its speed, reliability, and flexibility. A common debate among programmers is regarding the correct pronunciation of MySQL. So, let’s dispel this debate once and for all. According to Oracle themselves, MySQL can pronounced as either “My ess-cue-el” or “my sequel”.

A Brief Background On Database Management Systems 🗃️

Databases serve as the fundamental data repositories for all software applications. A database system stores information for future access, whether it’s a web search, logging into an account, or completing a transaction.

A relational database, such as MySQL, organises data into separate tables rather than lumping it all together. This structured approach ensures efficient data storage and retrieval. The logical data model, comprising data tables, views, rows, and columns, provides a flexible programming environment. Rules defining relationships between data fields, such as one-to-one, one-to-many, unique, required, or optional, along with “pointers” between different tables, are established to maintain data consistency and integrity. You won’t encounter inconsistent, duplicated, orphaned, outdated, or missing data in a well-designed database.

Developed by Oracle Corporation, MySQL has earned its reputation as the go-to choice for organisations seeking a robust and scalable database solution. MySQL, an open-source RDBMS, empowers users to efficiently store, manage, and retrieve structured data. Its applications span from small-scale projects to large-scale websites and enterprise-level solutions. 

To comprehend MySQL, let’s delve into its essential elements:

Open-Source Freedom 👐

MySQL is open-source, offering freedom to use and customise it. However, the GNU Public License (GPL) places certain conditions on usage. A commercially licensed version is available for those seeking more flexible ownership and advanced support.

Database: The Heart of MySQL 💛

In the MySQL context, a database is a structured repository where data is meticulously organised and stored in tables. It acts as a central hub, enabling users to store data, retrieve, update, and deletions. MySQL provides the essential framework for creating, maintaining, and interacting with databases, ensuring seamless and reliable data management.

what is MySQL? explaining this database management system.

The Client-Server Model 🧑‍💻

With RDBMS software, computers that install and run this software are termed “clients.” When they require data access, they establish a connection with the RDBMS server. Though one of many RDBMS options, MySQL is often synonymous with RDBMS due to its popularity. 

Notably, some tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, and Shopify employ MySQL for data storage. It has evolved from its initial limited usage to compatibility with various computing platforms, including Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, and Ubuntu.

MySQL: Versatility in Deployment 🖥️

MySQL operates as both a client/server system and an embedded library. It includes a multithreaded SQL server, various client programs and libraries, administrative tools, and multiple application programming interfaces (APIs). MySQL is a smaller, faster, and easier-to-manage standalone library for embedded systems.

SQL: The Language of Interaction 🌐

It’s crucial to distinguish between MySQL and SQL. As we’ve already established, MySQL is a well-known RDBMS software brand that employs a client-server model. In this model, clients and servers communicate using a domain-specific language known as Structured Query Language (SQL). Other RDBMS brands like PostgreSQL and Microsoft SQL Server also use SQL syntax. While RDBMS software may be written in different programming languages, SQL remains the primary language for interacting with the database. MySQL itself is primarily written in C and C++.

SQL conveys instructions to the server, dictating actions related to data, such as data queries, manipulation, identity definition, and data access control.

How Is MySQL Different From SQL? 🆚

SQL and MySQL are related but not interchangeable terms. Let’s explore the differences between them more clearly – SQL is a language used for managing and querying relational databases. It is a standard language that provides a set of commands and syntax for interacting with databases.

SQL is used to create, update, retrieve, and delete data from a database, as well as to define and manipulate the structure of the database (tables, indexes, etc.). SQL is not a specific database system but a language that is supported by many relational database management systems, including MySQL.

For effective database management through SQL, there are four essential types of SQL languages that serve distinct purposes. These distinct SQL language types collectively facilitate efficient data management and control within a database system. 

  • Data Query Language (DQL):  DQL is primarily used for querying databases to extract information from stored data. For example, it is employed for tasks such as selecting and retrieving the maximum value in a specific column of a table.
  • Data Definition Language (DDL): DDL is responsible for defining the database’s structures and schemas. It includes actions like creating tables, specifying data types, and establishing the overall framework of the database.
  • Data Control Language (DCL): DCL focuses on managing access, authorisations, and permissions for users and processes that interact with the database. It encompasses tasks like granting administrative privileges as well as restricting certain users to read-only access.
  • Data Manipulation Language (DML): DML is employed to make changes to existing components within a database. Common operations include inserting new records, updating values within cells, and deleting data from tables.

On the other side, MySQL is a specific relational database management system (RDBMS) that uses SQL as its query language. MySQL stores data in tables with rows and columns, and it supports SQL for interacting with the data. MySQL is known for its performance, reliability, and ease of use, which has made it a popular choice for web applications, content management systems (CMS), and other types of software.

How Does MySQL Function Exactly?👏

MySQL operates within a client-server structure. Multiple devices connect to a server through a network, allowing clients to request data via a graphical user interface (GUI). The key processes in a MySQL environment can be summarised as follows:

MySQL creates and manages databases, defining the relationships between tables. Clients make requests by inputting specific SQL statements. The server processes these requests, delivering the requested data to the clients. 

The choice of MySQL GUI can significantly impact data management efficiency, with options like MySQL Workbench, SequelPro, DBVisualizer, and Navicat DB Admin Tool. Selecting the suitable GUI depends on individual needs, with phpMyAdmin being a favoured choice for web database management, including WordPress sites.

The Popularity of MySQL Explained😲

MySQL’s popularity cannot be questioned, but if we had to pinpoint some reasons behind it, then these would be some of the unique attributes that make MySQL as widely used as it is.

MySQL: The Developer’s Choice 💻

MySQL consistently ranks as the preferred database among developers. MySQL supports a wide range of development languages and drivers, including PHP, Python, Java/JDBC, Node.js, Perl, Ruby, Go, Rust, C, C++, C#/.NET, and ODBC.

Moreover, MySQL has become the go-to database for numerous successful open-source applications, including WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and Magento. It is a core component of the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl/Python/PHP), widely used for web application development.

Flexibility and Ease of Use 🧘

As an open-source software, MySQL allows for source code customisation without cost. The installation process is straightforward and typically takes less than 30 minutes, making it a popular choice for businesses of all size and scope.

High Performance 🏋️‍♂️

Supported by a multitude of cluster servers, MySQL excels in handling extensive data, making it ideal, in particular for eCommerce and business intelligence tasks.

Industry Standard 🏭

MySQL’s extensive industry usage results in a rich pool of resources and skilled developers. This ensures rapid software development and access to freelance experts at competitive rates.

Security Assurance 🔐

MySQL prioritises data security with its Access Privilege System and User Account Management. It offers host-based verification and password encryption to safeguard your data.

Key Features of MySQL 🤔

Data Integrity and Security 🔏

MySQL employs a robust data integrity mechanism, ensuring the accuracy and reliability of stored data. Access control and encryption features provide a secure environment for sensitive information.

High Traffic Data Querying🚦

Thanks to its optimised query execution and indexing capabilities, MySQL delivers exceptional performance even under heavy workloads, making it ideal for high-traffic websites and applications.

Scalability ⚖️

MySQL’s architecture allows for easy scaling, whether dealing with a small startup or a large enterprise. It can handle a growing volume of data and users without sacrificing performance.

Cross-Platform Compatibility 📱

MySQL is compatible with various operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and macOS. This versatility ensures that it can seamlessly integrate into your existing tech stack.

MySQL in Action: Applications Explored 🧐

Web Development 🖱️

MySQL is pivotal in web development, serving as the backend database for numerous content management systems (CMS) and web applications. Popular platforms like WordPress and Drupal rely on MySQL to efficiently store and manage website data.

E-Commerce 🏪

E-commerce websites depend heavily on MySQL to handle product catalogues, customer information, and transaction records. Its speed and reliability are essential for ensuring a seamless shopping experience.

Data Analytics 📊

MySQL is a valuable tool for storing and querying large datasets in data analytics. Its support for complex queries and reporting makes it an excellent choice for data-driven businesses.

Creating a MySQL Database 🤓

To create a MySQL database, follow these simple steps:

Install MySQL: Begin by installing MySQL on your server or local machine. You can download the MySQL Community Edition from the official website.

Access MySQL: Use the MySQL command-line client or a graphical interface like phpMyAdmin to access the MySQL server.

Create a Database: Execute the CREATE DATABASE command to create a new database.

Define Tables: Design the structure of your database by creating tables. Each table represents a specific entity; you can define columns and data types within these tables.

Insert Data: Use the INSERT statement to populate your tables with data.

Optimising MySQL for Performance 🤩

Ensuring your database operates at peak performance is crucial for a smooth user experience. So, consider the following MySQL optimisation tips:

  • Indexing: Properly index your tables to speed up data retrieval.
  • Query Optimisation: Write efficient SQL queries and use tools like the EXPLAIN statement to analyse query execution plans.
  • Caching: Implement query caching to reduce the load on your MySQL server.
  • Regular Maintenance: Schedule routine database maintenance tasks, such as optimising tables and monitoring server resources.

Conclusion – So, What Is MySQL? 😎

In conclusion, MySQL is a robust RDBMS solution with a long-standing reputation for its versatility, performance, industry adoption, and data security. It remains a top choice for businesses and developers worldwide.MySQL powers countless websites, applications, and businesses worldwide. Its exceptional performance, scalability, and security make it a top choice for developers and organisations seeking a reliable database solution.  

By understanding MySQL’s core concepts and optimising its usage, you can harness its full potential to drive your projects to new heights. Following the tips outlined in this guide, you can enhance your understanding of MySQL and database management processes. If you want to learn more about how MySQL can be utilised to get the most out of your software application’s data storage and facilitation needs, then don’t hesitate to book a discovery session with us. Our team would be more than happy to discuss further.

Published On

October 13, 2023