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When it comes to choosing between technology for building modern applications, you have to first understand the pros and cons of each of your options. This article will help you understand the benefits of NoSQL over SQL.

If you work with RDBMS (relational database management systems), you’ve probably heard of, or come across NoSQL. NoSQL is considered a leading RDBM system due to its ability to process a huge amount of data. Let’s stack NoSQL up against SQL.

The Benefits of NoSQL over SQL

Mind the MYTH.

First of all, NoSQL does not supersede SQL. That would be like saying cars are superior to boats because they’re newer technology. NoSQL and SQL do the same thing; store data. The technologies take different approaches and each may help or hinder your project. Despite being a newer technology, NoSQL does not replace SQL – its an alternative.

NoSQL certainly has its advantages and limitations. Some projects will, of course, be better suited with SQL, and others, NoSQL. Although proven to succeed, it’s a bad idea to choose your RDBMS technology based on your stack. Such as –

  • LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL (SQL), PHP
  • MEAN: MongoDB (NoSQL), Express, Angular, Node.js
  • .NET, IIS and SQL Server
  • Java, Apache and Oracle.

There are reasons why these stacks have derived – but don’t assume they are rules. You can connect to a MySQL or SQL Server in Node.js. You can use a MongoDB NoSQL database in your PHP or .NET application. You may not find as many tutorials and resources, but your requirements should determine the database type — not the language.

Tech Talk.

Many NoSQL technologies lack multi-row transactional support, and this may be a concern for those who make applications using it. You might be tempted to stick to SQL for that to gain access to tools that can manage a variety of data. The tradeoff though is that there is a complexity to SQL that can lead to performance drain. Some of these may not be noticeable at first (especially data that comes from social media sources, for example), but it will take its toll on the RDBMS and lead to your users experiencing a performance hit. When it comes to choosing the benefits of NoSQL over SQL, you need to make the choice properly.

With multi-row transactional support – a lot of use cases these days do not need multiple rows and table updating in manners that are transactionally guaranteed (take ACID transactions, for example). It is for this very reason that NoSQL will work superbly. NoSQL systems use denormalized data models, which means all the information about a single entity is found in a single record. Because of this, the need to update multiple rows will be a thing of the past.

NoSQL supports scale-out models, allowing you to easily add new servers right into your cluster. The beauty of this is that it will allow you to grow slowly without the need to sub out your present hardware investment. This indeed is a very worthwhile note to consider when thinking about going with NoSQL.

Where to use NoSQL

You have, for example, a weather station that has the responsibility of capturing a lot of data like wind speed, rainfall, and atmospheric pressure. Now, imagine an entire network that has hundred or even thousands of such stations that are scattered across any given area, with all of them running every hour on the hour. You will have data that keeps on growing by the minute without having to worry about transactional support since you are able to incrementally widen your NoSQL cluster. There are numerous benefits of NoSQL over SQL.

Why You Might Not Go for NoSQL

Certainly, NoSQL has a lot of things going for it such as advantages in performance, flexibility, and scale. But for some people, it will still not be enough (or that it is not the right time) for NoSQL to replace their current SQL setup. It can be hard to see NoSQL as the active system being used by developers in a couple of years – perhaps not until it becomes a drop-in replacement of SQL. This will take some time for it to happen, so for the meanwhile many businesses are still going to be using the latter for their enterprise business applications until they can finally make the smooth shift to the newer technology.

A Note for You

It is not encouraged that you promptly let go of your current SQL setup for NoSQL because your business model is tied to it. What you can do instead is to take a closer look at the challenges in potential scaling. If you find that your data is not growing at the rates that you expect, or you will require support for multi-row transactions (like in credit and debit systems, for example), then stick with RDBMS or SQL. However, if you find that you have emerging use cases that will benefit more from using NoSQL then you might want to explore it and learn the new skill set that will allow you to operate it and at the same time fill in a future demand!