SQL vs. MySQL: Top Differences Programmers Should Know

Updated 06 Oct 2022
Published 26 May 2022
Satyam Chaturvedi 1883 Views

Data has become a fundamental pillar for businesses. It helps them understand their customer’s needs, make better decisions, and improve their relationships with other business partners, among other things.

However, for data to be helpful, it requires to be analyzed. Consequently, companies use relational database management systems (RDMS) such as MySQL and structured languages such as SQL to manage and understand their data.

Both SQL and MySQL are two widely popular and effective management tools. But is one better than the other one? What is the difference between SQL vs. MySQL servers? Which one benefits my business the most?

Let’s look at the main differences between SQL vs. MySQL.


What are MySQL and SQL?

There are different systems and languages used by businesses to manage data. However, among the most popular ones are SQL and MySQL.

Both usually, make the top choice for companies and data analysts who need a tool to increase data security, enhance data usability, limit data redundancy, allow multiple users to access data, and more. 

While both are reliable tools to manage database systems, what are their key differences? 

To understand the differences between SQL vs. MySQL, it’s best to first understand each of them individually.


What is SQL?

SQL stands for Structured Query Language. It consists of an interactive and standardized programming language used to retrieve, manage, store, and maintain data in the RDBS.

A common misconception is to think that SQL and SQL Server are the same. The key difference between these two is that SQL is a language for querying databases, and SQL server is a system to manage RDB.


Developers or data experts require knowing the programming language to manage the database and create any application or system.

The condition of SQL statements is declarative, and it’s known as SQL Query. Many different SQL clauses can be used when writing the queries to define the purpose of the action. These are some of the most basic and fundamental SQL clauses:

SELECT: extracts data from the database

CREATE DATABASE: creates a new database

DELETE: deletes the data from the dataset

ALTER TABLE: modifies a table

INSERT INTO: inserts new data into a database

CREATE TABLE: creates a new table within a database

UPDATE: updates data in a database

FROM: retrieve data from specific columns of a table

WHERE: filter records based on conditions

What can SQL Do?

SQL has a lot of functions, such as:

  • Executing queries against a database
  • retrieving data from a database
  • setting permissions on tables, procedures, and views
  • creating views in a database
  • creating new databases
  • deleting records from a database
  • updating records in a database

SQL is popularly used in the Business Intelligence tool. Its importance relies on the fact that many Data tools (like Spark and Impala) highly depend on SQL

Advantages and Disadvantages of SQL

What are the Main Advantages of using SQL?

  • Fast Query Processing: With SQL, large amounts of data are quickly retrieved. Operations like manipulation of data or insertion are fast and easy to do.
  • User-friendly Language: Using SQL doesn´t require any major coding skills. For data retrieval, a large number of code lines are not required. Basic keywords such as SELECT, and INSERT INTO, among others, are used.
  • Standardized Language: SQL has a long establishment over the years and provides a uniform global platform filled with documentation.
  • Portable: It can be used on different devices such as PCs, servers, laptops, etc. Additionally, SQL can also be embedded with other applications.
  • Interactive Language: It´s easy to learn and understand.

SQL users can query the database in diverse ways while using English-like statements. It is used on websites for back-end data storage and data processing solutions.

It is the most common database language, mostly suitable for organizations that need to store relational data. 

What are the Main Disadvantages of using SQL?

Its Interface: While SQL is easy to understand, it has a difficult interface that makes some users struggle while dealing with the database.

Cost: Some versions are expensive.

Partial control: Programmers do not have complete control over the database. 


What is MySQL?

MySQL was developed in 1995, and it was one of the first open-source databases. Currently, despite more than two decades, it’s the most popular relational database management system. It was developed initially by MySQL Ab, which was then purchased by Sun Microsystems, now known as Oracle.

According to Statista, MySQL is the second most popular database management system.

This RDMS was designed and written in C and C+ + programming languages, and it’s compatible with all primary operating systems. It is a core component of a widely popular open-source web app software stack known as the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python.)

Mysql databaseMySQL is categorized as a relational database. This means that your data is broken into multiple separate storage areas, also known as tables, instead of keeping all of them in one storage unit.

This makes it easier for businesses to have all their data organized. For example, if you want to store two types of information such as customers (name, address, details) and orders (purchased products, price, who made the order, etc.).

Instead of having all that data together that can lead to confusion, duplicate data, and overall, no organization, what MySQL does is separate it into different tables. This means that there would be a table just for customers and another just for orders.


What can MySQL Do?

  • Create a database to store and manipulate data, defining the relationship of each table.
  • Make requests by typing SQL statements on MySQL
  • The server application responds with the requested information and appears on the clients’ side.
  • It´s capable of handling more than 50 million rows

What are the Main Advantages of using MySQL?

  • MySQL is scalable: It offers great scalability to facilitate the management of embedded apps using a small footprint, even in warehouses or companies that use terabytes of data. 
  • Unmatched security: One of the main reasons why MySQL is popular is due to its secure and reliable database management system.
  • Fast and high performance: MySQL is one of the fastest database systems. And while being relatively simple, it offers high performance.
  • It´s multi-threaded: This means that many clients can connect to it simultaneously. You can access the database interactively using different interfaces that let you enter queries and view the results. And you can also access the database using apps that support open database connectivity.
  • Can be accessed anywhere: MySQL databases can be accessed from anywhere on the internet, plus you can share data with anyone. However, it has access control so that one person who should see another’s data won’t.
  • It runs on different varieties of Unix and non-Unix systems like Windows, NetWare, and OS/2. 

However, something to keep in mind is that while MySQL is free to use, Oracle offers different premier services, which need to be purchased through a commercial license. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of MYSQL

What are the Main Disadvantages of using MySQL?

Large databases:

While MySQL is capable of managing giant databases, sometimes it struggles to handle them efficiently. 


Its development and debugging tools are not as efficient as the paid databases ones. 

Data corruption:

MySQL can be prone to data corruption for its difficulty in handling transactions. 

MySQL vs. SQL: Key Differences to Learn

As explained, the core difference between MySQL and SQL is that the first one is a relational database management system that uses SQL, while the second one is a structured query language that manages RDMS.

But if you´re still unsure which one suits your needs, either SQL or MySQL, these are some of the core differences that will help you make the right choice: 

Category MySQL SQL
Definition MySQL is a relational database management system used to retrieve, modify, and manage data through SQL. SQL is a Structured Query Language used to manage RDMS. 
Licensing  Fee and open source under GPL v2 license. Propietary software
Written in  C and C++ C and C++
Main purpose Allows data handling, managing, storing, and eliminating in a tabular format.  Query and operate database systems. 
Format As MySQL is software and not a programming language, it doesn´t have a particular syntax and format.  Both syntax and format are fixed and declarative. They start with the class and end with a semicolon. 
Platform support Cross-platform.  It was built for Windows, but it works with Linux and macOS.
Connector Comes with a built-in tool (MySQL workbench) that facilitates the creation and design of databases.  SQL doesn´t support any connectors. 
Security It is less secure as it allows third-party processors to manipulate data files during execution.  SQL doesn´t allow external processors or even its own binaries to manipulate data during execution.
Supported languages Support programming languages supported by SQL Server. MySQL also supports languages including Perl, Scheme, Eiffel, Tcl, and Haskel. Supports programming languages such as Java, PHP, VB, Delphi, Go, Python, Ruby, C++, and R.
Multilingual  Only in English Available in multiple languages.
Filtering Allows for filtering of tables, rows, and users in different ways. MySQL supports filtering only on an individual database basis.  Supports row-based filtering. It gives the advantages of filtering multiple rows without considering a number of databases. 
Backup Backup of the data can be taken by extricating all the data as SQL statements. During this process, the database is locked.  In SQL, when backing up the data, the database is not locked.

As explained, the key difference between SQL and MySQL is that the first one is a query language, and the second one is based on SQL but is a database management system. Other important differences are:

  • SQL focuses on serving the purpose of accessing and manipulating data effectively. While MySQL focuses on storing data in a database.
  • SQL has a standardized syntax that does not change. But, MySQL, on the other hand, updates frequently. MySQL 8.0 was released in April 2018, and it will expire by 2026. 
  • SQL doesn’t have support for connectors. MySQL comes with MySQL workbench – an integrated tool used to design and build databases. 
  • In terms of the storage engine, SQL supports a single storage engine, while MySQL supports multiple storage engines and plug-in storage engines. Overall, MySQL is more flexible. 
  • The SQL server is more secure than the MySQL server. 
  • As SQL is not an open-source language, you cannot expect community support. You can rely, on Microsoft SQL server support. On the other hand, MySQL being an open-source platform offers a rich and robust community. 

Wrapping Up

It´s impossible to answer which one is better between MySQL and SQL as they are entirely different things. While both are powerful tools that help organizations and individuals process, manage, and understand their data, their purpose is different.

On the one hand, MySQL is open-source software. And on the other hand, SQL is a programming language.

Both can help you increase your security and high performance, but you need to evaluate your business first to see which one fulfills your needs best.

Satyam Chaturvedi

Satyam Chaturvedi is a Digital Marketing Manager at Arka Softwares, a leading app development company dealing in modern and futuristic solutions. He loves to spend his time studying the latest market insights.

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