Analyzing the Difference Between PostgreSQL vs. MySQL

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Analyzing the Difference Between PostgreSQL vs. MySQL

MySQL and PostgreSQL don't seem to differ a lot, they both perform well for most applications that utilize them. They both do well in terms of replication, and many cloud providers offer scalable versions for both of them. They also seem to fare well in the case of future-proofing for growth in an unseen future. But it is still worth it to reconsider Postgres’s advantages over MySQL before starting a new project in the default database setting.

Historically, MySQL has had a reputation as an extremely fast database for read-heavy workloads, sometimes at the cost of concurrency when mixed with write operations. While PostgreSQL, also known as Postgres, advertises itself as “the most advanced open-source relational database in the world”. It was built to be feature-extensive, extendable, and compliant with standards. Before, Postgre was made to write large amounts of data efficiently with the drawback of the reads were slower than MySQL but it handles concurrency way better than its counterpart.

The difference between MySQL and Postgres in terms of performance has been largely close due to recent versions, make no mistake, MySQL is still way ahead of Postgres in terms of data reading, but only if it uses an old MyISAM engine. If InnoDB was instead used, which gives way more features like transactions, key constraints, and a lot more, the difference can be seen as negligible like it doesn't even exist! These are the critical features that are badly needed for enterprise or even minuscule consumer-scale applications, making the usage of the old engine pretty much not viable by today’s standards. But MySQL improves upon its heavy data writes due to optimization from its newer versions thus closing the gap Postgres have over heavy data write

Postgres Advantages over MySQL

Postgres is an object-relational database, while MySQL is a purely relational database. This means that Postgres includes features like table inheritance and function overloading, which can be important to certain applications. Postgres also adheres more closely to SQL standards.

Postgres handles concurrency way better than MySQL for multiple reasons, here are some examples:

Postgres implements Multiversion Concurrency Control (MVCC) without read-locks Postgres supports parallel query plans that can use multiple CPUs/cores Postgres can create indexes in a non-blocking way(by using the CREATE INDEX CONCURRENTLY syntax), and it can create partial indexes (for example, if you have a model with soft deletes, you can simply create an index that will ignore records marked as deleted) Postgres is highly regarded for data integrity protection at the transaction level which makes it less vulnerable to data corruption saving you a lot of hassle.

When to Use MySQL

But despite all those advantages, Postgres still have some drawbacks that you should largely consider before starting.

While Postgres is making leaps and bounds in terms of progress despite catching up in recent versions, it is still not as popular as MySQL as it is still widely known and used so Postgres will suffer from the small number of 3rd party tools or even developers/database admins available.

Postgres forks a new process for each new client connection which allocates a non-trivial amount of memory for about 10MB.

For simple, read-heavy workflows, MySQL will be a much better choice. Postgres is built for the future with extensibility, scalability, compliance to standards, and integrity of data in mind so making Postgres the worse choice for a simple job.

These are only some of the factors a developer might want to consider when choosing a database there are more factors you should weigh before starting up a new project. Additionally, your platform provider might have a preference, for instance, Heroku prefers Postgres and offers operational benefits to running it. You must also consider what framework you’re working on, maybe it will prefer one over the other due to driver compatibility. And it won't hurt to try and ask around for some feedback and opinions which can help and save you from a lot of headaches

Default Installation and Extensibility of Postgres and MySQL

One of the major differences between Postgres and MySQL is that Postgres is truly open-source and heavily community-driven giving it major flexibility and future growth while on the other hand, MySQL suffers from some licensing issues hindering its potential. MySQL started as a company product offering free and paid versions and in 2010, Oracle acquired MySQL AB led to some understandable concerns among developers especially the community concerning its availability for future open source status. Postgres is truly open-source and community-driven, while MySQL has had some licensing issues. However, there are several open source forks of the base MySQL notably MariaDB and Percona so this is not considered a massive risk at the moment.

Meanwhile, Postgres is highly extensible. It supports a variety of advanced data types that can only be used with Postgres like geometric/GIS, network address types, JSONB which can be indexed, native UUID, and timezone-aware timestamps. And on top of that, you can also add your datatypes, operators, and index types making it advantageous against its counterpart. Also, the default installation of Postgres is overwhelmingly better than the default of MySQL but with a little tinkering and tweaking, MySQL can compensate for it and MySQL has some outright weird default settings for example MySQL’s character encoding and collation.

So, Which Is Better?

If you’re developing an application with a database back end, which of the two should you use? Consider PostgreSQL for any application that might grow to enterprise scope, with complex queries and frequent write operations. If you’re new to the world of databases and don’t expect your application to scale up, or you’re looking for a quick tool for prototyping, then consider MySQL.

That’s a good rule of thumb, but there are other considerations. Your cloud platform provider might offer benefits when it comes to running one database over the other, or the application framework you use might be better suited for one, or your fellow developers may have opinions. MySQL is more widely used than PostgreSQL, which means more developers and DBAs are familiar with it, and more third-party tools are available for it giving you plenty of options and answers to your problems if you encounter one but Postgres too has a great community that you can also count on.

And of course, Postgres and MySQL aren’t your only two database choices, or even your only two open source database choices but these two are the more standard when it comes to databases.

To make it more plain and simple, let's make a quick head-to-head analysis of how MySQL and PostgreSQL fare against one another:

Parameter MySQL PostgreSQL
Open Source The MySQL project has made its source code available under the terms of the GNU General Public License. The MySQL project has made its source code available under the terms of the GNU General Public License.
SQL compliant MySQL is partially SQL compliant. For example, it does not support check constraints. PostgreSQL is largely SQL compliant.
Community Support It has a large community of contributors who Focus mainly on maintaining existing features with new features emerging occasionally. The active community constantly improves its existing features while its innovative community strives to ensure it remains the most advanced database.
New cutting-edge features and security enhancements are regularly released.
Acid compliance MySQL is ACID compliant only when it is used with InnoDB and NDB Cluster Storage engines. PostgreSQL is completely ACID compliant.
Performance It is mostly used for web-based projects that need a database for straightforward data transactions. It is highly used in large systems where read and write speeds are important
Best suited MySQL performs well in OLAP & OLTP systems when only read speeds are needed. PostgreSQL performs well when executing complex queries.
Support for JSON MySQL has JSON data type support but does not support any other NoSQL feature. Support JSON and other NoSQL features like native XML support. It also allows indexing JSON data for faster access.
Support for materialized views Supports temporary tables but does not offer materialized views. Supports materialized views and temporary tables.
Default values The default values can be overwritten at the session level and the statement level The default values can be changed at the system level only
Ecosystem MySQL has a dynamic ecosystem with variants like MariaDB, Percona, Galera, etc. Postgres has had limited high-end options. However, it is changing with new features introduced in the latest version.
B-tree Indexes Two or more B-tree indexes can be used when it is appropriate. B-tree indexes merged at runtime to evaluate are dynamically converted predicates.
Object statistics Fairly good object statistics Very good object statistics
Stack Overflow questions 650,522 questions 157,451 questions
Join capabilities Limited join capabilities Good join capabilities
Prominent Companies using the product Airbnb, Uber, Twitter Apple, Instagram, Reddit


In summary, there are distinct uses for both PostgreSQL and MySQL, and the choice between them depends upon enterprise objectives and resources. In general, PostgreSQL is a more robust, advanced database management system, well-suited for an organization that needs to perform complex queries in a large environment quickly. However, MySQL is an ideal solution for a company more constrained by budget and space so it is still up to the situation and the available resources that will ultimately decide on which should you use.

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