MySQL vs SQL Server

6 min readSep 18, 2020


MySQL vs SQL Server

Database plays an important role in every modern web application. Due to the dynamic nature of web applications nowadays, even the simplest applications require some storage, access, and modification mechanisms (that’s why at Hostinger we offer unlimited MySQL Databases for our customers with premium and business accounts).


Naturally, as the importance of databases is rapidly growing, Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) or Relational Database Management Systems are gaining in popularity.

Two of them are MySQL and SQL Server. Both perform the same function, although I have different usage options. They differ in some features, but both systems are based on SQL or Structured Query Language. In this regard, developers can find several similarities between MySQL and SQL Server, such as the use of tables to save data, references to primary and external keys, as well as multiple databases in the same environment or on the same server.

It wouldn’t be a mistake to say that MySQL and SQL server are the two most popular relational DBMS among existing ones, although Oracle and Postgres will have something to say about it. Despite the fact that we are gradually witnessing the transition from SQL to NoSQL, the former still dominate. This means that it’s still relevant to learn both MySQL and SQL Server.

In this tutorial, we will explain in detail what MySQL and SQL server are. We will find the differences between MySQL and SQL Server and help you to choose the one that suits your needs.


What is MySQL?

Developed in the mid-1990s (later purchased by Oracle), MySQL was one of the first open-source databases and remains so today. This means that there are several alternatives to MySQL. But the differences between these alternatives are not very clear; the syntax and basic functionality remain the same.

And what makes MySQL different is its popularity among startup communities. The open-source code and freeware make it easy for developers to start with MySQL and change their code when they need it. MySQL is usually used together with PHP and the Apache Web server in Linux distributions, which led to the well-known abbreviation LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP).

What is an SQL Server?

SQL Server, also known as Microsoft SQL Server, appeared much earlier than MySQL. Microsoft developed SQL Server in the 80s, with the promise to develop a reliable and extensible relational DBMS. They remain the core of the quality SQL server after all these years and provide an indispensable solution for large-scale enterprise software.

SQL Server is more suitable for developers who use .NET as a development language, as a competing PHP bundle for MySQL. This is quite logical, as both platforms are owned by Microsoft.


Now, after a brief introduction to systems, let’s look at a few key differences between MySQL and SQL server:

  • As mentioned earlier, the SQL server works better with .NET, while MySQL can be used with almost any other language, the most common link with PHP. It is not superfluous to say that an SQL server can only run on Windows, but this condition has changed in recent years when Microsoft announced Linux support for SQL server. The Linux version is still mature and has an unfinished look, which means we recommend you to use Windows when you are working with an SQL server and switch to Linux if you are working with MySQL DBMS.
  • Syntax: For most people, this is the most important difference in the two systems. Familiarity with one set of syntax rules can greatly influence your decision about which system is right for you. Although MySQL and SQL server are based on SQL, the differences in syntax are palpable and deserve attention. For example, let’s take a look at this fragment:


FROM person

Microsoft SQL Server

FROM person

Both chains of code achieve the same result — they return 3 entries with the value of the youngest age from the people’s name table. But the syntax is very different. Of course, the syntax is a subjective evaluation parameter, so we cannot make a recommendation here; choose what seems more intuitive to you.

A complete list of descriptive differences between MySQL and SQL server can be found here.


The main advantage of paid software over free software is the special support you get. In this case, the advantage is even more significant, because the SQL server is supported by one of the largest companies in the world. Microsoft has created additional tools for SQL server, which are tied to a relational DBMS, including tools for data analysis. The system also has a report server — SQL Server Report Service, as well as an ETL tool. This makes SQL Server a Swiss Army knife among relational DBMS. You can get similar functions in MySQL, but you will have to look for third-party solutions on the Internet — which many people will not fit.


Another big difference between MySQL and SQL Server, which is sometimes missed, is the data storage system. The SQL Server uses a single system developed by Microsoft, compared to the many engines offered by MySQL. This gives developers who use MySQL more flexibility because they can select different systems for different tables based on speed, reliability or some other parameters. The popular MySQL engine is InnoDB, which loses a little in speed but provides increased reliability. Another known engine is MyISAM.


Not many people know this, but the fundamental difference between MySQL and SQL server is that MySQL does not allow you to cancel a query in the middle of its execution. This means that once a command is executed, you better hope that any damage it can do is reversible. The SQL server, on the other hand, allows you to cancel a query halfway through its execution. This difference can be insignificant for administrators, as they usually execute scripts of commands, and this rarely requires cancellation at runtime, which is not always the case with developers.


Obviously, there is no need for careful consideration when it comes to comparing security differences in MySQL with SQL server. Both systems are EC2 compatible, which means you are safe when choosing either of the two. It should be noted that the greatness of Microsoft has also affected here the presence in the SQL server’s own, ultra-modern security system. A dedicated security tool — Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) — guarantees reliable protection for the SQL server. Therefore, if security is of key importance to you, the choice is obvious.


Here SQL server becomes much less attractive, and MySQL earns big points. Microsoft requires you to buy licenses to run multiple databases on the SQL server, there is a free version, but it is intended only for familiarization with relational DBMS. On the contrary, MySQL uses the GNU license, which makes it completely free. However, if you need support or help for MySQL, you will have to pay for it.


Which brings us to the next point. You hardly have to pay for MySQL support, except perhaps in rare cases, thanks to the contribution of a large community to its support. The advantage of a huge community is that most people don’t need to ask for special help — you can just search the Internet and find a lot of solutions.


It is important to note that both relational DBMS are supported by different Integrated Development Environment (IDE). These tools offer a coherent development environment, and you can carefully choose what best suits your needs. MySQL boasts Oracle Enterprise Manager, while SQL Server uses Management Studio (SSMS). Both have their pros and cons and can be confusing if you do not have clear criteria to justify your decision.


The choice of relational DBMS is important for those who are just beginning to develop an application. People who have chosen one system rarely switch to another later, which means that it is important to immediately weigh the different proposals and choose the best one for you.

In this tutorial, we discussed the two most common relational DBMS — MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server. We looked at several key differences between MySQL and SQL server, even one of which may be enough to make a choice.

In the end, the choice is yours. Typically, if you’re developing medium to small size applications and you’re mainly using PHP, move on to MySQL. Taking into account that if you are interested in creating large-scale, secure, sustainable enterprise applications, the SQL server may be much more suitable for you.




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