The 5 Best Databases for Web Apps in 2023: How to Make the Right Choice
When it comes to building a web project, selecting the right database is of utmost importance. The choice will affect your app’s efficiency, scalability, and success. However, the variety of solutions available in 2023 can be overwhelming. Moreover, as technology evolves, the requirements for databases increase as well. Today, they must not only be reliable and secure, but also adaptable to cater to the demands of evolving technology and diverse apps.
Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution, every project requires a customized approach to selecting the best one. Thus, this article will guide you through the top five web databases in 2023 and factors to consider ahead of time to help you pick the best solution to meet your business needs.
What does a database mean?
A database is a structured collection of data or a type of data storage that allows users to manage, store, and retrieve information efficiently. Databases are essential for any software product because they ensure data integrity, reliability, and accessibility. A database consists of the following components:
- Hardware: physical equipment, such as servers, and network infrastructure, for hosting and supporting databases;
- Software: a database management system (DBMS);
- Data: information that is organized into rows, columns, or tables;
- Procedures: processes and rules for managing and manipulating stored information;
- Database access language: a language that lets users add, modify, or extract data from databases.
The main types of databases
In order to choose between the wide range of solutions available, it is important to consider their main types and their differences. There are two types, depending on the way the information is stored.
A relation (SQL) database organizes and stores data in tables that are composed of rows and columns. Each table carries a key that makes the data unique from others. These solutions are designed to maintain data integrity and offer flexibility in querying and manipulating data using Structured Query Language (SQL).
A non-relational (NoSQL) databasediffers from traditional relational ones in a way it organizes and stores the data. These databases are designed to handle large volumes of unstructured, semi-structured, and complex data in a more flexible and scalable manner than traditional databases. NoSQL databases do not rely on the tabular structures. Instead, they use different data models, such as document-based, key-value, wide-column stores, and graph databases.
A brief overview of the key differences between both:
Why is the right database important for web apps?
As applications operate and gather more data, the need for its structured storage and efficient management becomes paramount. A database takes over this responsibility. It provides a structured and organized framework for the storage, retrieval, and manipulation of a large set of information, ensuring its accessibility and integrity. Consequently, databases help manage, process, and derive insights from this information for various application functions and user needs.
Choosing an appropriate solution significantly impacts an application's overall success, influencing its efficiency, responsiveness, and long-term performance. Now, let's delve into the factors to consider in order to make the right choice.
Factors to consider when choosing a database web application
Each project has different requirements for a database. However, there are basic factors that will help you determine if a database will fit well with you or not. These factors include:
As different databases are designed to handle different data types, you must determine which type of data structure suits your business best. For example, if your data is structured and requires complex queries, an SQL database is the most suitable choice. If you deal with unstructured or semi-structured data, a document-oriented database is a better choice.
For example, you want to build a social media platform that stores and processes large amounts of user-generated content, such as photos and videos. In that case, it is best to use NoSQL databases, MongoDB, or Cassandra. They are capable of handling large amounts of unstructured data and can quickly scale upon the need.
To ensure your web applications database will handle growing data and user traffic over time without damaging performance, scalability is an essential factor to consider upfront. You may consider:
- Horizontal scaling: it allows users to seamlessly add more servers or nodes to a database cluster to manage growing data volumes and user needs. It is often more cost-effective than vertical scaling, which requires upgrading server hardware;
- Sharding: databases with sharding allow users to distribute data across multiple servers or nodes, resulting in both improved performance and scalability;
- Replication: databases with replication allow creating data duplicates across multiple servers or nodes.
It is essential to choose a database that can quickly scale to meet your project needs, whether you need to add additional servers or replicate your data. Selecting a solution that can scale horizontally and vertically may be a good idea if you want to scale rapidly. Databases such as NoSQL and NewSQL are often more flexible in this regard.
Performance is crucial in determining how responsive and efficient your application will be. You should evaluate a database with several key performance aspects in mind.
Firstly, determine the database speed. A fast-performing database ensures swift data retrieval and storage, which is crucial for a smooth user experience. Secondly, consider the ability to handle complex queries. Many web apps require efficient processing of intricate data requests, and the database capabilities in this regard are significant.
Moreover, think about how well a database will perform with large datasets. Some apps deal with substantial amounts of data, and a database must manage this effectively without causing performance issues. Consider different features that a database may include, such as indexing, that can enhance data retrieval speed by optimizing search operations.
As you evaluate potential costs, it is essential to keep in mind the following points:
- License fees: many databases require a license fee, which depends on the size and scope of your project;
- Hosting costs: you need to consider the cost of hosting a cloud solution such as Amazon RDS or Google Cloud SQL, which can vary greatly depending on the project size and complexity;
- Maintenance costs: as many databases are open source, they are available free of charge, but you may need to pay for their support or maintenance.
Startups and small businesses may find open-source solutions like MySQL or PostgreSQL more attractive because they provide powerful functionality at a low cost. Commercial databases like Oracle may offer extensive features and support, but they may come at a higher price.
Thus, to ensure your solution aligns with your budget, it is crucial to take both the initial and ongoing costs of a database into account.
Integration with other technologies
When choosing a database for your project, it's essential to consider how well it integrates with other technologies you'll use. For example, if you're building a web app, you'll want to choose a database that integrates well with the web framework that you're using (such as Django). This will make it easier to connect a database to your app and speed up the development process.
Besides, it is equally important to assess how a selected database will integrate with other tools and technologies in your tech stack. This may include evaluating its integration with caching systems, data visualization tools, and analytics platforms. Moreover, consider your web app's future requirements. Will you need to support real-time data processing or deploy machine learning? Choose a database that can evolve with your future demands as well.
Consider the level of support and documentation offered by a database. A strong community provides access to various resources, including documentation, forums, tutorials, and plugins and extensions. As a result, the database will probably receive frequent updates, bug fixes, and new features.
List of top databases for web apps in 2023
As we said earlier, there is no good or bad database; there is one that is right for you and the one that is not suitable. Thus, when making a choice, you must evaluate database requirements that will pay off in the long run. For this reason, we have prepared the list of databases in 2023 for web apps that are widely used across the globe. Let's look at each in detail.
MySQL is an open-source relational database designed by Oracle Corporation in 1995. It stores and presents data in tabular form, organized in rows and columns. The result is a highly scalable, flexible data storage system with an intuitive user interface capable of managing huge data sets. It was designed and optimized for web apps and can run on any platform. To create, modify, and retrieve data, developers use SQL (Structured Query Language).
As MySQL is an open-source solution, users can download the package free from the Internet under the GPL (General Public License). MySQL is used for various web apps for small and medium-sized businesses, including CMS, e-commerce platforms, cloud apps, and social networks. Overall, MySQL is a fast, simple, and reliable database whose flexibility makes it a preferred choice for developers to manage large datasets and optimize performance effectively. However, MySQL is not very sufficient for working with a full-fledged corporate database, but it is suitable for everyday tasks.
- Cost-efficiency: due to its open-source nature, it is a cost-effective choice for businesses;
- High security: it offers robust security features, including user authentication, encryption, and access control;
- High availability: it supports features like replication, clustering, and backup solutions, ensuring high availability and disaster recovery options for critical databases;
- High performance: it provides high-speed data processing and can handle complex queries efficiently;
- Compatibility: it can run on various operating systems and supports different programming languages;
- Reliability: as it is very mature, it has a high level of reliability that allows developers to use it for web-critical solutions;
- Flexibility: it offers compatibility with a wide range of programming languages, tools, and frameworks. This flexibility allows developers to integrate it seamlessly into their apps.
- Limited support for complex transactions: MySQL lacks support for complex transactions. Although the storage engine offers better transaction support, it may not be as robust as some other databases;
- Unsuitable for complex queries: with complex queries, MySQL may face performance issues and slower processing compared to other databases;
- Storage engine limitations: MySQL's functionality hinges on the selected storage engine. Certain storage engines lack support for specific features, like in-memory storage.
Oracle is a commercial database widely used across enterprises for mission-critical apps. It was developed by Oracle Corporation in 1977. It was first designed for enterprise grid computing (EGC) and data warehousing, enabling a network of interconnected computers to operate as a single system. By efficiently distributing workloads, this infrastructure ensures high availability and performance for data-intensive and large-scale apps. Oracle provides specialized features that support data warehousing. It allows companies to deal with multiple data types and workloads with real-time analytics.
Developers can create data-centric apps and automate tasks through PL/SQL (Procedural Language/Structured Query Language). With Oracle's ongoing enhancements to its features and capabilities, such as in-memory processing, advanced analytics, and cloud integration, companies can stay competitive and provide superior services. Known for its robustness, superior performance, and extensive set of features, Oracle is a prominent player across the most popular databases 2023.
- Portability: it supports multiple operating systems and apps, allowing companies to choose the environment that best suits their needs or to migrate to another database if necessary;
- Scalability: it supports both horizontal and vertical scaling to handle various workloads, volumes of data, and business needs quickly and without downtime;
- High security: Oracle Autonomous Database provides always-on encryption and auditing, pre-configured separation of duties, and automated patching without any downtime;
- Easy access to data: by integrating data lakes and data warehouses seamlessly and providing a unified data catalog, all relevant data is easily accessible;
- Advanced features: Oracle continually enhances its database system with new features and capabilities, providing businesses with the advanced tools needed to stay competitive;
- High performance: with features like In-Memory Database Cache (IMDB), real application clusters (RAC), and advanced data compression, it offers high performance and low latency;
- Failure recovery: it has impeccable data backup and recovery capabilities, which recover or restore critical data rapidly during downtimes and outages.
- Cost: Oracle offers a variety of license models for different businesses, which may be expensive. Small and medium-sized companies may face significant financial burdens, as well as additional support costs;
- Management complexity: due to its extensive capabilities, Oracle may require specialized expertise, business tech skills, and resources. So, small organizations with limited IT resources may find it difficult to manage;
- Limited open-source options: while Oracle provides open-source editions of its database, they have limitations compared to other open-source solutions.
PostgreSQL is an open-source, object-relational database management system (ORDBMS). It is known for its robustness, scalability, and extensibility, making it a popular choice for many apps. PostgreSQL supports advanced data types and is compatible with various tools and apps. It is used for mobile apps, analytics apps, and web apps; whether it is small-scale projects or enterprise-level systems, PostgreSQL works for it all.
It is notable for features such as data integrity and ACID compliance, concurrency and performance, robust features, and support for both SQL (relational) and JSON (non-relational) querying. This makes it more versatile for handling complex data structures. Moreover, it is highly extensible, allowing developers to add custom functions and support different programming languages like Python, Java, C# or JS. Unlike other enterprise-class databases, PostgreSQL offers many advanced features, such as multi-version concurrency control (MVCC) or asynchronous replication and others.
- Reliability: due to its stability, robust architecture, and the ability to handle complex workloads with consistent performance over time, it is suitable for critical apps;
- Extensive features: it offers many features, including support for complex queries, indexing, data types, and many extensions, making it versatile for different types of apps;
- Scalability: it is highly scalable, allowing users to handle increased workloads by supporting parallel and optimized query execution;
- Strong community support: a strong community contributes to the ongoing development, ensuring regular updates, bug fixes, and feature enhancements;
- Geospatial capabilities: it offers robust geospatial support, making it a popular choice for location-based apps;
- Open-source license: PostgreSQL is available under an open-source license, which lets you modify, adapt, and use it as you like, eliminating the risk of over-deployment.
- Cost: while it offers open-source capabilities, there are costs related to migration, support, and maintenance for which you should account;
- Complex configuration and tuning: it can be more complicated to set up and manage compared to alternatives;
- Performance issues: while PostgreSQL is an effective database, it may not be as fast as other solutions for specific workloads.
MongoDB is a widely used NoSQL, document-oriented database designed for flexibility, scalability, and performance. It operates on a flexible schema, accommodating dynamic changes to the data structure without affecting the entire database. Unlike traditional relational solutions, MongoDB stores information in collections of JSON-like documents called BSON, making it easy to manage information and integrate with apps.
Scalability is a notable strength of MongoDB. It supports horizontal scaling, distributing data across multiple servers or nodes to manage large data volumes. Its support for unstructured and semi-structured data, along with in-memory computing, contributes to high performance. It provides tools for processing and transforming data, allowing complex analytics within the database. So MongoDB is particularly suitable for various apps, such as content management systems, mobile apps, real-time analytics, and IoT applications.
- High performance: it offers high-speed and efficient processing of queries, making it suitable for high-volume apps;
- Scalability: it is highly scalable, allowing effortlessly handling increased data and traffic by distributing data across multiple servers;
- Flexible data model: it provides a dynamic schema, allowing for changes without impacting the database;
- Ease of use: it provides a user-friendly platform, making it relatively easy to build and manage a database;
- Multi-language support: MongoDB provides drivers and support for various programming languages, making it versatile and compatible with different tech stacks;
- Real-time data processing: it supports real-time data processing and analysis, making it suitable for apps requiring immediate access to updated data;
- Cost-effective: MongoDB provides users with flexible costs for clusters, keeping their prices low while still handling sudden spikes in traffic.
- High memory usage: due to its in-memory operations, MongoDB can consume a significant amount of memory than other databases, impacting overall performance;
- Lack of ACID transactions: unlike traditional relational databases, MongoDB lacks full ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) transaction support. It could cause issues with consistency in apps with high transaction volumes;
- Security issues: although MongoDB provides security features, the lack of authentication, misconfiguration, or overlooking security practices could lead to vulnerabilities.
Microsoft SQL Server
Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database management system developed by Microsoft in 1989. It provides a comprehensive suite of services to manage and store data efficiently and securely. Its core component is a Database Engine that handles data storage, processing, and security. That makes it well-suited for various web app scenarios, from small to enterprise-level projects.
The database system operates using Transact-SQL (T-SQL), a robust implementation of the SQL language. By managing data across multiple servers, it ensures high performance and secure data access. Moreover, it provides high availability features that allow continuous operation with minimal downtime, as well as business intelligence tools for extensive data analysis and reporting. Overall, Microsoft SQL Server is recognized for its stability, reliability, and consistency, making it an optimal choice for web apps.
- Robust security: it provides advanced security features like encryption, role-based security, and auditing, ensuring the protection of information;
- Scalability: it provides excellent scalability options and supports vertical and horizontal scaling to handle growing workloads and increasing data volumes;
- Reliability: it offers high availability features such as clustering, mirroring, etc., ensuring the data is accessible even in the event of hardware or software failures;
- Integration with Microsoft: it integrates seamlessly with Microsoft's Azure cloud services and Visual Studio, simplifying development, deployment, and management processes;
- Rich features and functionality: it offers diverse functionality, encompassing advanced analytics built-in support for data mining, ML, and integration Python, and also supports in-memory processing, full-text search, and robust reporting capabilities.
- Cost: licensing fees and costs related to Microsoft SQL Server can be high, especially for large enterprises that require advanced features and scalability;
- Complex setup and maintenance: the setup and maintenance of Microsoft SQL Server can be difficult, particularly for large or complex database structures;
- Limited cross-platform compatibility: it is primarily compatible with Windows, limiting its use in non-Windows environments. Even though the Linux version is available, it may not provide the same level of compatibility and features;
- Performance issues: while SQL Server on Windows performs exceptionally well, its performance on non-Windows platforms, such as Linux, may not be efficient.
Upcoming trends in web app databases
The demands of modern apps are constantly changing, so database technologies are evolving. Upcoming tech trends aim to enhance flexibility, scalability, and performance of databases and their ability to handle diverse data types and workloads. So, let's look at the trends you'll face more frequently in the upcoming years.
AI and ML integration
AI and ML integration enhances database capabilities and functionality. It impacts not only the process of storing and retrieving the data, but also allows performing a wide range of tasks automatically. For example, ML and AI are used for predictive analysis, advanced analytics, personalized user experiences, and more efficient database operations.
Solutions like Microsoft's Azure Cosmos DB is at the forefront of this trend, as it integrates seamlessly with AI-driven apps. Also, ML improves data validation and accuracy by learning from the existing data and helps fill in the gaps in the information.
The adoption of serverless databases is on the rise. A serverless database is a cloud-based data storage and management solution that relies on the cloud provider to manage infrastructure provisioning, scaling, and maintenance. It allows users to store and retrieve data without explicitly managing servers. A serverless database automatically scales according to demand, offering scalability, reduced management overhead, and cost-efficiency, allowing developers to focus on apps. One of the examples is Amazon AuroraServerless, which provides automatic scaling and eliminates the need to manage database servers.
A multimodel database is a type of database management system that supports various data models, such as relational, document, key-value, or graph. Among the main benefits of this database is the ability to use diverse data storage and retrieval methods in one place. This simplifies the development process and increases flexibility. For example, ArangoDB and OrientDB provide developers with the ability to switch between models without migrating to a new system.
Traditional databases like MySQL or MongoDB are limited in many aspects, including security and accessibility. While these databases can be integrated with the cloud, they limit cloud computing benefits. Due to this reason, having a cloud-native database becomes crucial.
The cloud-native solution is designed to take full advantage of cloud technology and distributed systems. They leverage the full capabilities and benefits offered by the cloud, like scalability, resilience, and enhanced performance for modern web apps. Examples include Google Cloud Spanner, Vitess, and K8ssandra.
Selecting a web database in 2023 means choosing from various options, each with its own strengths and limitations. Ultimately, choosing the best online database depends on your project's specific needs, both present and future ones. The advantages, disadvantages, and future trends of the top databases listed above will enable you to make an informed decision. But if you encounter problems in selecting a database, SoftTeco is always ready to help. Our experts help navigate database-related issues for any project, getting you the best results.