When it comes to managing information, companies need to know that they can not only rely on their databases, but the language used to access them.
In a world where data storage is rapidly moving away from the pen-and-paper, filing-cabinet type and instead to local servers and virtual machines, it is critical that a company’s IT department have a way to access all of the information on their database at any moment. While there are a number of ways to do this, one of the most common is what is known as SQL or “structured query language”.
SQL is designed to allow users to access and manipulate databases, and is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard. Among its myriad functions, SQL can execute queries, insert records, create new databases, and set permissions for users. But while SQL as a concept is an ANSI standard, many versions of this language exist, each with their own particular take on how the language should work best.
SQL is used by many companies to easily manipulate and control the data that they have stored in their database. Most versions of SQL are free, and many come will robust community support that will allow users to get the most out of the language, along with new iterations of their SQL of choice as they are developed. While there are as many SQL options as there are database types, three of the most popular currently being used are PostgreSQL, MySQL and Microsoft SQL. Each of these performs the same basic functions for a company, but have small differences in the way they are coded that set them apart.
The most notable difference between the three is that while PostgreSQL and MySQL are open-source, Microsoft SQL is proprietary. Microsoft SQL will often come bundled with Microsoft software, although free versions can often be found online. What this means in the long term is that while PostgreSQL and MySQL will be developed by a transparent community, any additions or developments to Microsoft SQL will be done behind closed doors.
These three also exhibit some differences in terms of their basic functionality, for example in their copying structure. PostgreSQL supports the standard features of the “like” clause, but offers only limited support for the extended feature which allows for more tables to be copied. Microsoft SQL does not support this standard, but instead has its own special construct to do the job. MySQL complies with the standard features of the clause, but offers no support for the extended feature, and does not allow a user to copy the structure of a view into a table.
SQL Web hosting and database hosting have both becoming increasingly popular options over the last few years, as companies seek to move their aging database infrastructure to a virtual or cloud environment. While all three types of SQL mentioned will support any database hosting option chosen, it is important to understand that a web-based manager for any SQL solution must also be employed in order to have access to a database through SQL.
Options such as myLittleAdmin, phpMyAdmin, and phpPgAdmin are all available (typically for a fee), and can be made to work with any SQL environment and with an SQL Web hosting option. These administration programs are what allow IT staff to use SQL in as user-friendly a way as possible, and also provide content management options and report generation for databases.
SQL, in combination with a great admin program, can help a company make the most of its database locally, virtually, or in the cloud.