SQL vs MySQL: Including Definitions and Differences

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many professionals can benefit from investing in and expanding their knowledge related to data and analytics. Data information can provide valuable insight into the performance and growth of an organisation. Understanding the differences between SQL and MySQL might help you learn how they could both be useful to you. In this article, we compare SQL vs MySQL, define both SQL and MySQL and discuss the differences between the two.

SQL vs MySQL

Comparing SQL vs MySQL can help you better understand both tools and how you can use them. Both are useful data management tools with various differences. SQL and MySQL have different core functions and you can use them individually or simultaneously, depending on what you wish to achieve. Both tools contribute to data science and the collecting, cleaning, analysing, visualising and utilising of data.

For clarity, databases are where professionals find these large volumes of data to complete these tasks. They can then use this data for various purposes related to the progress and advancement of an organisation. Using a database management system (MySQL) in conjunction with a programming language (SQL) can help professionals extract the data information they need.

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What is SQL?

SQL, or structured query language, is a programming tool to manipulate data stored in relational databases. A relational database is a type of structured database that organises information. The system holds the data in tables comprising columns and rows, which define relationships between the different entities in the data.

Relational databases can make it easy for administrators to identify and organise data. Common SQL commands include sort, delete, add, drop and update. Relational databases work well with structured data. Structured data is information that data engineers have converted into a standardised format. For example, data storing customer information may have a standard structure, such as the customer name, address and orders the customer makes.

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SQL and database management

As a structured query language, SQL allows the management and organisation of structured data in relational databases. Understanding SQL can be essential if your job involves working with relational databases. You can perform various operations using SQL, such as:

  • Defining the structure of a new database

  • Manipulating existing data in a database

  • Interfacing the server data with the user interfaces

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What is MySQL?

MySQL is a relational database management system (RDBMS). Database management systems are programs that allow a professional to store, retrieve and execute queries on data. MySQL relies on a programming language for query execution. Database administrators can use MySQL to create a relational storage system, manage user access to the database, test the database and automate the creation of backups. Some primary uses for MySQL include:

  • Storing large amounts of data in a data warehouse

  • Accessing and manipulating data in a relational database using SQL statements

  • Increasing data security and integrity through database authentication

  • Integrating relational databases with websites and other software systems

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How MySQL uses SQL

Relational databases can make it easy to retrieve, use and manage data using tables. The table columns are the fields, while the rows are the records. For example, if a user has a first-name and last-name attribute, the first-name column gives the first names of all the users. A single row from the table shows one user's first and last name. Database administrators can simplify the management of this data using a graphical program like MySQL.

MySQL's interface can be easier to learn and use for non-technical users than writing raw SQL queries. Since MySQL queries rely on a programming language, learning SQL can allow a professional to customise MySQL user cases. Using MySQL commands, the user contacts the RDBMS with a request to access the stored data. The queries retrieve the information, alter it as the user specifies and send it to the end-user.

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What is MySQL Workbench?

MySQL is an open-source system, meaning professionals can use, install and change it for free. MySQL Workbench is an integrated visual database design tool professionals can use to combine SQL and MySQL. In MySQL Workbench, professionals can create data models, design databases, store information and manipulate data. Some key features of MySQL Workbench include:

  • Visual database design: Database architects can create and change designs using an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.

  • Reverse engineering: MySQL Workbench can evaluate existing databases to create accurate Entity-Relationship (E-R) diagrams.

  • SQL development: Developers can use MySQL Workbench to write and optimise SQL queries.

  • Database administration: Database administrators can apply MySQL Workbench to manage MySQL servers and databases.

  • Database creation and maintenance: Programmers can use Workbench to develop and maintain existing databases.

Related: 13 Different Types of Open-Source Data Modelling Tools

Differences between SQL and MySQL

Here are some fundamental differences between SQL and MySQL:

Purpose

The overall purpose of SQL and MySQL is different. SQL is a language used for querying relational databases. MySQL is a product used for open-source relational database management. Put simply, this means professionals typically use SQL to maintain data in a relational database, including accessing and updating it. Alternatively, professionals use MySQL to store and organise their data.

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Definition

SQL is a structured query language that's often useful for a professional who's working with relational databases. MySQL is a relational database management system designed to retrieve, modify and store databases. The two data management tools have contrasting functions, and a professional can use them in conjunction with each other.

Updates

SQL and MySQL are also different in the way that they update. MySQL experiences software updates more regularly because it is a program. SQL rarely experiences updates because it's a structured query language. Because of this, once a professional is familiar with and understands SQL, they can use it without regularly learning new updates and features. A professional using MySQL is required to keep their knowledge updated to ensure they're using the software to its full potential.

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Complexity

To use SQL effectively, a professional is required to first learn its language. Specific SQL queries and commands are required to extract the information that the user needs. This can make SQL more complex to understand for a novice user. Additionally, it might be one of the more easy programming languages to learn because it uses simple-to-understand keywords such as 'select', 'create' or 'insert'. SQL doesn't provide connectors to help when using these queries or commands.

Alternatively, because MySQL is a type of software, it's available for professionals to use by downloading and installing it. This typically makes it easier to understand and function for novice users. MySQL also offers the Workbench connector to further assist the user.

Support with issues

SQL doesn't typically have large community support when resolving issues is concerned. If a professional experiences issues while using SQL, they might use the server support page to find helpful answers. MySQL does usually have a large and helpful community of support. This is possibly because it's free to use so that it can be popular amongst users.

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Flexibility

Another difference between SQL and MySQL is their flexibility. Professionals can use SQL in many languages, making it adaptable. It supports extensible application markup language (XAML) which is a descriptive programming language to write user interfaces. MySQL doesn't support XAML or other user-defined functionalities. MySQL is available only in English.

Security

SQL provides high-level security. It doesn't allow a third party to enter or manipulate a professional's databases. MySQL is an open-source software which means whilst in use, it can be more vulnerable to security risks. It's possible for unauthorised users to gain access and manipulate data whilst the program is in use. It's important to note that regardless of these security risks, they're apparent in all open-source software programs. Many professionals regard MySQL as a safe and secure database management system.

Related: What Is Open-Source Software? (Including Examples)

Compatibility

MySQL is compatible with many programming languages. Alternatively, SQL is itself a programming language. This means that to use SQL a professional is required to learn its language. Alternatively, a professional can use MySQL with another compatible language if they're already familiar with one.

Multitasking

SQL manages servers and databases as separate entities. This allows professionals to multitask by using and operating on various databases whilst data collection is uninterrupted. MySQL doesn't allow the user to multitask whilst execution is occurring. If a user aborts a query in MySQL, it ends the entire execution.

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