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Why Choose MySQL?

If you're looking for a free or low-cost database management system, several are available from which to choose: MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, one of the free-but-unsupported engines from commercial vendors, and so forth. When you compare MySQL with other database systems, think about what's most important to you. Performance, support, features (such as SQL conformance or extensions), licensing conditions and restrictions, and price all are factors to take into account. Given these considerations, MySQL has many attractive features to offer:

  • Speed. MySQL is fast. Its developers contend that MySQL is about the fastest database system you can get. You can investigate this claim by visiting, a performance-comparison page on the MySQL AB Web site.

  • Ease of use. MySQL is a high-performance but relatively simple database system and is much less complex to set up and administer than larger systems.

  • Query language support. MySQL understands SQL (Structured Query Language), the standard language of choice for all modern database systems.

  • Capability. The MySQL server is multi-threaded, so many clients can connect to it at the same time. Each client can use multiple databases simultaneously. You can access MySQL interactively using several interfaces that let you enter queries and view the results: command-line clients, Web browsers, or GUI clients. In addition, programming interfaces are available for many languages, such as C, Perl, Java, PHP, Python, and Ruby. You can also access MySQL using applications that support ODBC (Open Database Connectivity), a database communications protocol developed by Microsoft. This gives you the choice of using prepackaged client software or writing your own for custom applications.

  • Connectivity and security. MySQL is fully networked, and databases can be accessed from anywhere on the Internet, so you can share your data with anyone, anywhere. But MySQL has access control so that one person who shouldn't see another's data cannot. To provide additional security, MySQL supports encrypted connections using the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol.

  • Portability. MySQL runs on many varieties of Unix, as well as on other non-Unix systems, such as Windows, NetWare, and OS/2. MySQL runs on hardware from small personal computers (even palmtop devices) to high-end servers.

  • Small size. MySQL has a modest distribution size, especially compared to the huge disk space footprint of certain commercial database systems.

  • Availability and cost. MySQL is an Open Source project with dual licensing. First, it is available under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). This means that MySQL is available without cost for most in-house uses. Second, for organizations that prefer or require formal arrangements or that do not want to be bound by the conditions of the GPL, commercial licenses are available.

  • Open distribution and source code. MySQL is easy to obtain; just use your Web browser. If you don't understand how something works, are curious about an algorithm, or want to perform a security audit, you can get the source code and examine it. If you think you've found a bug, report it; the developers want to know.

What about support? Good question; a database system isn't much use if you can't get help for it. This book is one form of assistance, and I like to think that it's useful in that regard. (The fact that the book has reached its third edition suggests that it accomplishes that goal.) There are other resources open to you as well, and you'll find that MySQL has good support:

  • The MySQL Reference Manual is included in MySQL distributions, and also is available online and in printed form. The Reference Manual regularly receives good marks in the MySQL user community. This is important, because the value of a good product is diminished if no one can figure out how to use it.

  • Training classes and technical support contracts are available from MySQL AB.

  • MySQL AB sponsors several active mailing lists to which anyone may subscribe. These lists have many helpful participants, including several MySQL developers. As a support resource, many people find these lists invaluable.

The MySQL community, developers and non-developers alike, is very responsive. Answers to questions on the mailing lists often arrive within minutes. When bugs are reported, the developers generally fix them quickly, and fixes become available daily over the Internet. Contrast this with the often-frustrating experience of navigating the Byzantine support channels of big vendors. You've been there? Me, too. I know which alternative I prefer when I have a question about a product. Being put on hold at a vendor's convenience has no appeal compared to being able to post a question to a mailing list and check for replies at my convenience.

MySQL is an ideal candidate for evaluation if you are in the database-selection process. You can try MySQL with no risk or financial commitment. If you get stuck, you can use the mailing lists to get help. An evaluation costs some of your time, but that's true no matter what database system you're consideringand it's a safe bet that your installation and setup time for MySQL will be less than for many other systems.

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