SQL vs. MySQL: Key Differences and Full Comparison


SQL vs. MySQL: Key Differences and Full Comparison

As the need to store and use vast amounts of data seems to relentlessly increase, successfully managing complex databases is becoming more important by the day. Keeping data safe while having easy access to data retrieval and management is crucial to business success. Aside from simply managing their large volumes of data, businesses are also relying more and more on data analysis to help them identify trends and grow their profits. Two of the most common handling data are SQL and MySQL, but the way these work and what they’re used for are very different.

SQL vs. MySQL: Side-By-Side Comparison

DefinitionStructured Query Language. Programming languageRelational Database Management System (RDBMS)
How it’s usedTo access, manipulate, and query data stored in a relational databaseTo store large volumes of relational data for retrieval and use
UpdatesInfrequent, as SQL is a standard formatRegular, as MySQL has many variants
Storage engine supportSingleMultiple
Third-party accessNoYes
SQL vs. MySQL infographic

SQL vs. MySQL: What’s the Difference?

These terms are very similar, and one relies on the other, but the differences are important to know. Check out what you need to know below.

Definition of SQL

The main thing to know about SQL is that it’s a programming language used to manage relational databases. SQL stands for Structured Query Language. As such, SQL allows you to access and modify data across several databases with a single command. SQL is seen as the standard database language and is used in many systems, including MySQL, PostgreSQL, IBM DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server. The first rendition of SQL was released in 1989 by Oracle, and is now seen as the standard language for use with relational databases.

Definition of MySQL

MySQL is open-source, meaning that it’s freely and publicly available. This is a relational database management system that relies on SQL to perform whatever commands and functions you desire. MySQL is written in C and C++, and is compatible with virtually all major operating systems. While SQL is how MySQL works, MySQL is the system in which SQL is used to manipulate data. The benefit of MySQL is that it can be used with various storage engines, including the popular CSV. This format allows you to migrate your data into non-SQL applications such as Excel. MySQL was developed by Oracle and released in 1995. What’s more, MySQL’s actually named after one of its founders, Michael Widenius. He named it after his daughter, My.

C++ language
MySQL is written in C and C++, and is compatible with most operating systems.

©Maria Vonotna/Shutterstock.com


Although some training will be required, SQL is relatively easier to learn than other programming languages. This is because it uses keywords, much like formulas in Excel, so no coding is required. Because it can be used on many devices and is a standardized language, SQL is user-friendly. However, because SQL uses pre-defined code, it may be unsuitable for developers to use since they’ll have restricted access to changing the database.

MySQL is similarly easy to understand compared to its counterparts. As one of the most widely used relational database platforms, community support is vast. This makes it relatively simple to find an answer to your query. MySQL is very portable, just as SQL is, and it is also well-structured, making usage rather intuitive.

What is a Relational Database?

Simply put, a relational database is a type of database that stores data that are related to each other. These are sometimes known as Relational Database Management Systems or RDBMS. Data is represented within columns and rows, much like a typical Excel spreadsheet. But there are often several tables of data, which are related to each other through primary and foreign keys

An example would be a business with customer orders, where one table contains information about the customer and another contains order information. These tables each have primary keys that identify the data. This would be the customer ID in the former case, and the order ID in the latter. The data can be related by using a foreign key, such as customer ID, which can be used to link the order information to the customer. 

This way, you can query both tables and generate reports that give useful information. Relational databases are beneficial because they allow businesses to manage large volumes of data relatively easily, and for several users to modify the data without changing the structure of the database as a whole.

Relational Database Management System
Depiction of the structure of a relational database.


SQL vs. MySQL: 6 Must-Know Facts

  1. While SQL is a programming language used in relational databases, MySQL is a relational database management system
  2. SQL can be used to access and manipulate data, whereas MySQL is the system that stores the data
  3. SQL syntax essentially remains the same, whereas MySQL is updated regularly
  4. SQL supports one storage engine, but MySQL supports several
  5. SQL is more secure since it prohibits access from third-party apps
  6. SQL is not open-source, but MySQL is

SQL vs. MySQL: Which One is Better? Which Should You Choose?

It’s not quite as simple as which one is better, since they’re different concepts with different uses. MySQL is one option when it comes to relational database management, but not the only option. Even still, it’s usually more efficient than other systems and is a popular choice. SQL and MySQL work together to manage and manipulate data. You can use SQL with databases that aren’t MySQL, so if your company uses an alternative, it’s likely you’ll be using SQL without using MySQL. If you’re not reliant on managing vast volumes of data, then SQL may not be a necessary investment. 

SQL has the advantage when it comes to security, though, and can migrate data from other systems. But MySQL has the advantage of being open-source and supporting several storage engines. If you’re a relatively small company, then MySQL will likely be suitable. But if you’re part of a large business or enterprise, you’ll likely need to invest in a more robust management system such as Microsoft’s SQL server. Overall, it’s hard to call a winner since SQL and MySQL are fundamentally different entities.

Up Next…

SQL vs. MySQL: Key Differences and Full Comparison FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Why does SQL vs MySQL matter?

It’s important to know the difference so you can figure out how best to solve your data management issues. SQL is the programming language that relational database systems like MySQL use, but you can also use it with other systems. MySQL, however, must rely on using SQL.


Which is better, SQL or MySQL?

It’s hard to say which is better, since they’re different concepts that work differently. MySQL is suitable for many uses and free to use, but alternatives like Microsoft SQL Server might be better for particularly large organizations. SQL is used with many relational databases, and can migrate data from one to the other, so is very useful. On the other hand, MySQL supports several storage engines, so can export data in CSV format for use with typical spreadsheets like Excel.

What are SQL and MySQL used for?

SQL is used to manipulate and query data in relational databases. MySQL is an example of a relational database management system, that stores the data. SQL is the language used to work with MySQL. Typically, they’re used for vast volumes of data in a large business, where data is related to each other. For example, customer information and purchase information.

Is MySQL free?

Yes, MySQL is open-source and free to use.


Which SQL should I learn?

For beginners, SQLite is probably the go-to, since the design is intuitive and it’s fairly easy to understand for performing simple queries.

Can I use MYSQL without SQL?

No, since SQL is required to work with relational databases.

Can I use SQL with other databases?

Yes, you an use SQL with other database systems. These include PostgreSQL, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, MariaDB and SQLite.

Is SQL Server better than MySQL?

MySQL is certainly usable for most cases, but SQL Server does have some advantages. Although it’s not free, SQL Server is more secure since it doesn’t allow for third parties to access and manipulate data during execution. It’s also better to use with particularly large datasets.  You’ll have to pay for MySQL support if you need it, but overall, the licenses required to use SQL Server tend to be more costly in the long run.

To top