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What is MySQL?

If you are starting in the web hosting world, because you are starting your web hosting company, or if you are a new rookie web developer or sysadmin, then there is one single term that you will always face: MySQL. What is MYSQL? This so much used word that is in the mouth of providers, devs and webmasters.

Lot of times you will be face to face with terms like SQL, database, PostgreSQL, MySQL, and many more. They all belong to the programming world. And in this post in particular, we will explore what is mysql, what is sql and what is a database, let’s begin learning more about the SQL world.

Definition of MySQL

We are not going to show you an academic definition of MySQL, this definition is intented for non-technical users, or for new technical / training newbies who are just starting and need to get the big picture about this term.

Before getting into the main definition of MYSQL, we need to clarify a previous and required term: database.

What is a Database?

A database, as the word implies, is a collection of “data” (information), that is located in a base place. In the programming and development world, databases are stored inside computer file systems.

Databases are useful to handle tons of information in the real world, imagine you have a company, that sells X product to your customers. When you sale that product, you will love to register your clients in your database, so you can store all their contact data, that can include fields like Name, Address, Telephone, Email, Website, City, State, etc.

This information will be useful if you want to communicate with your customers. But hey, how do you find the information of Florida state customers between a database with more than 10,000 records?

This is where the definition of MySQL comes in play. MYSQL is a database software that lets you analize and manipulate your database records, allowing you to interact with the data inside of it, retrieve, delete, modify and insert information into each one of the records.

Applications that run on the internet, like web based apps, or mobile apps use databases too. A good example are the blogs, in this case cPanelTips.com, the same blog where you are reading this text, uses MYSQL database as the main database technology to store the data of this website, this text that you are reading, is being served from a MySQL server.

What is SQL?

Many databases like MySQL are built to suport a database programming oriented language called ‘SQL’. SQL is the language used internally inside MYSQL that let programmers / developers interact with the database with SQL commands like: insert, select, drop, etc. This commands let you modify, delete, and read the data from the MYSQL Databases.

Apart from MySQL, there are many other SQL database servers, like PostgreSQL and MS SQL from Microsoft. In simple words, MySQL is just a database software brand, the same goes for PostgreSQL, Percona Server, MariDB, MSSQL Server, and many more.

MySQL is one of the most used database software in the world, one of the main reasons for this is because MySQL is free. Because of this, it has been adopted as the main database software for popular web blogs and management systems like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and online ecommerce solutions like Magento or PrestaShop

Do I need MYSQL?

That depends on the application that you are building or installing. If you are building your own small application, then it’s 99% sure that MySQL is going to be just fine for you. Now, if you want to install a 3rd party application, just check out the app software requirements to see if it uses MySQL or another type of database server.

If you do, then you will have to find a web hosting provider that includes MySQL in their shared hosting plans.

Do I need to learn SQL programming language?

Not at all if you don’t plan to develop websites writing your own code. If you are an average user who just need to install web applications, there is no need to learn SQL or MySQL Server management, just try to follow your app installation instructions and that will be more than enough to get your app running online.

Think in MySQL as the engine of a motorbike, you don’t need to tweak the engine and know everything about it, you just need to know how to drive it, and that in the internet world means: read the installation and configuration instructions, rtfm! Most apps include full documentation on how to connect the app with the MySQL database.

On the other hand, if you are a aspiring web or app developer, it is suggested to learn about SQL language and how database servers work, you will need it to build efficient and fast databases that will be used to interact with your apps.

About the Author: Esteban Borges

Experienced Sr. Linux SysAdmin and Web Technologist, passionate about building tools, automating processes, fixing server issues, troubleshooting, securing and optimizing high traffic websites.