DatabaseRelational Database Management System (RDBMS): MSSQL vs MySQL

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A relational database management system (RDBMS) is a software used to store, manage, query, and extract data that is in a relational database. Relational databases consist of organized collections of data points that have defined relationships between them. Through a RDBMS, you can query databases by using structured query language (SQL).

There are many RDBMS to choose from. While each can perform the basic functions required of a relational database, they vary to some degree. In this article, we will focus on two of the most popular ones – Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL and look at some brief differences between the two.

MySQL Workbench Dashboard

MSSQL dashboard
MSSQL Server Performance Dashboard

As stated earlier, when it comes to the basic functions of a RDBMS, there really is not much of a difference. The biggest difference between most RDBMS is on the administrative side, but for this article, we are mainly focusing on the syntax. Each RDBMS has its own dialect, which are typically very similar. Generally speaking, once you know one RDBMS, you know them all – as long as you are aware of the differences between them, the differences in syntax, and the management features of each.

The biggest overall difference in syntax between each RDBMS is whether it is case sensitive or not. Microsoft SQL Server – or MSSQL – is case sensitive, while MySQL is not. There are many reasons why a query might come up unvalid, and, more often than not, it is because of something silly like forgetting to adhere to case sensitivity.

Observe the difference between the two syntaxes below. The first example is a WHERE clause in MSSQL, while the second is also a WHERE clause, only presented in MySQL:

Microsoft SQL Server: WHERE Name = ‘Michael’
MySQL: WHERE name = ‘michael’

Keep in mind, some people may choose to capitalize SQL commands as a personal means of organization (the same usually goes for spacing). Case sensitivity only applies to data points within the table, not functions of SQL. That means functions like Select, From, and Where can be all lowercase if you want them to be – the choice is yours. That being said, you will want to stick to the style guide of your organization, database admin, and development team.

The next biggest difference is writing commands in SQL. In fact, Microsoft SQL Server has its own unique set of extension commands called Transact-SQL, or T-SQL. Fortunately, most of the core functions in each RDBMS are about the same, however there are some minor differences.

For example, if you want to select the top ten rows of your database in Microsoft SQL Server, it would look like this:

FROM Customers

Not all RDBMS’ support the “SELECT TOP” command featured in Microsoft SQL Server, including MySQL. Selecting the top ten rows in MySQL would look like this:

FROM Customers

Again, a minor difference (and there are others) but if unaware, they will be sure to cause a headache.

Besides what’s listed above, there may be other small reasons why you would choose one RDBMS over the other. For instance, if you or your company mainly uses Microsoft products, you may opt for SQL Server. However, if you would like to use a RDBMS that is open source, you may not want to use Microsoft SQL Server and use something like MySQL instead.

When it comes to simply querying databases, though, do not worry too much about what RDBMS you are using. First and foremost, you should know SQL – once you have a good grasp on that, then you can look into the ins and outs of each RDBMS.

Read: Best Relational Database Software (RDBMS)

What is the Difference Between MSSQL and MySQL?

As mentioned, MSSQL and MySQL are pretty similar in terms of functionality, user interface (UI), and relational database features. Average users – and even some developers will likely not notice these differences, however, database administrators – or DBAs – most certainly will. With that in mind, here are some of the key differences between MSSQL and MySQL RDBMS.

Compatibility and Operating Systems Architecture

MSSQL is often confused for a “Windows-only” RDBMS. While this was true early on, the database software is no longer confined to only Microsoft products and architectures. Indeed, MSSQL now works on Linux ad Mac OS X systems as well. Despite this, some of the functionality on the latter two OS’ may be more limited than when running natively on Windows architectures.

MySQL, meanwhile, is an open source RDBMS and runs well on most platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Extensibility and Languages

Although both RDBMS feature support for multiple programming languages – they both allow for C++, Java, Go, PHP, Python, R, and Visual Basic – MySQL actually supports more languages than MSSQL. Developers that use programming languages like Perl, Scheme, and TCL will have better luck with MySQL than MSSQL.


As stated, MySQL is an open source database and, therefore, is free. Note, however, that, as with many open source models, users will still need to pay for support. MSSQL has different levels of technical support also, with some being built-in to the pricing models for its server licenses.

Data Backup, Recovery, and Maintenance

One big advantage of MSSQL over MySQL is how MSSQL handles data backups. MSSQL allows databases to backup information without having to worry about blocking (MySQL actually blocks databases while backups are occurring). This means that your database backups will occur much faster and you can backup larger amounts of data.

Choosing the Right RDBMS

Now that you understand some of the differences between two of the top RDBMS and database tools on the market, you can begin to narrow down the scope of your research and begin to weed out which RDBMS is right for your software development team.

If you wish to further continue your studying, we have a great article that highlights the best relational database management systems on the market. Give it a read – it will help you choose the right RDBMS for your organization.

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