What Is the Difference Between MySQL and SQL Server?

Posted on by Ronald Caldwell | Updated:
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MySQL and SQL Server are both popular database management systems (DBMSs). Both systems are powerful, but their differences may make one solution more suitable for your particular use case. MySQL and SQL Server support various data types, indexes, and data integrity constraints. This article takes a look at each database and their similarities and differences to help you determine which database is right for you.

What is MySQL?

MySQL is open source database software, so anyone can freely use and modify the source code. Originally created in 1995 by Swedish founders Michael Widenius (Monty), David Axmark, and Allan Larsson as a low-cost alternative to more expensive databases, MySQL has become one of the most popular DBMSs. Now owned by Oracle, and previously owned by Sun Microsystems, MySQL offers MySQL Community, a free edition, in addition to higher-end commercial-grade editions with more powerful features.

MySQL is also part of the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP), a stack of software technologies often used by developers for web hosting, where Perl and Python are sometimes used in place of PHP.

What is SQL Server?

Microsoft SQL Server (MSSQL), often referred to as SQL Server, is developed and maintained by Microsoft (MS) since version 1.0 was released in 1989. Since it is proprietary software, a license is required. While Microsoft does offer a free edition of SQL Server, most of the licensing is available at a premium cost.

SQL Server supports a wide range of data types and offers the ability to run Transact-SQL (T-SQL). T-SQL is an extension of standard SQL and is a proprietary procedural language specific to SQL Server. T-SQL includes additional commands and programming constructs specific to SQL Server.

To secure communications between SQL Server clients and database servers, Microsoft supports Transport Layer Security (TLS). TLS, the most widely used security protocol, is an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standard protocol. With TLS, there is no need for external software or hardware as the security is built directly into each application.

MySQL vs SQL Server: Similarities

MySQL and SQL Server are both relational database management systems (RDBMSs). RDBMSs store and retrieve data for various applications. Here are some similarities when comparing MySQL vs SQL Server.


Structured Query Language (SQL) is used by both systems to interact with the database. This language enables the systems to insert, update, and retrieve data.


With both systems, you can use data warehousing, business intelligence, and advanced analytics features. Both database systems offer similar security features and vary depending on the edition.

Storage Engines

Both systems can support different storage engines within the same database. A storage engine, or database engine, is the underlying software component that provides the storage mechanism for the database. A database management system uses the storage engine to create, read, update, and delete data from a database. The create, read, update, and delete process is referred to as CRUD.


MySQL and SQL Server both use indexing to quickly locate rows based on values in specific columns.

Data Types

Both support numeric, character, date and time, binary, and other data types, but also allow user-defined data types.

MySQL vs SQL Server: Differences

While MySQL and SQL Server support SQL, indexing, and various data types, they also have several differences between them. The following are some MySQL vs SQL Server differences.

Product Support

The MySQL free edition does not come with support but has a large community of MySQL users available to help. The SQL Server free edition does not come with support, but Microsoft does offer limited access to product help. The paid editions for both MySQL and SQL Server come with various levels of support including phone, email, chat, and other forms of available help.

Platform Support

Platform support is not the same as product support. Instead, platform support is the type of operating system the databases run on. For example, MySQL runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS, whereas SQL Server runs on Windows, Linux, and the Azure Cloud platform.

SQL Language

Both systems can execute SQL commands, but they use different dialects of the SQL language. Since they may have different syntax or functionality, it can be difficult to switch between the two systems.


Both MySQL and SQL Server can scale to handle increasing amounts of data. In terms of the free edition of MySQL, it may not scale to handle large datasets or support demanding workloads. The same is true for the SQL Server free edition as it is designed for small to medium-sized databases and workloads.

The paid edition of MySQL does offer greater scalability to support larger databases and includes features such as sharding and replication. SQL Server’s paid editions offer features such as data compression and support for large datasets.


The way both MySQL and SQL Server handle cloud integrations is very different. According to MS, SQL Server on Azure is the only cloud that automatically applies the latest updates and patches, and provides the latest SQL Server features and functionality.

If you’re looking for an integrated cloud/database product for MySQL, you’ll need to use MySQL HeatWave Database Service, which runs on multiple cloud platforms, including Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Microsoft Azure.


One major difference between MySQL and SQL Server is price. Pricing for MySQL and SQL Server varies depending on which edition you choose.

While MySQL offers a free Community Edition, they also offer a Standard, Enterprise, and Cluster Edition with varying prices based on your needs.

SQL Server offers free Express and Developer editions. The Standard edition pricing is based on the number of cores you need. Tier 1 data workloads can benefit from the Enterprise edition to access mission-critical capabilities.

Which is Better for You?

In choosing between SQL Server vs MySQL, the price may be a factor in helping you choose which database system is right for you. For example, if you want the widely available, open-source, always free database edition, MySQL would be your best option. Of course, you can always upgrade your free MySQL edition to a paid, commercial-grade edition based on your requirements.

SQL Server Express edition is always free, but its limitations include database size (up to 10 GB) and memory and CPU utilization (up to 1410 MBs of memory and up to 4 cores of CPU), which may require the need to upgrade to a paid edition.

Another way to determine which system is better for you is to investigate the way other organizations use database management systems. Many companies use MYSQL and SQL Server, and they are used in a variety of industries and applications.

The following organizations use MySQL:

  • Both Netflix and Uber use MySQL to manage their back-end systems.
  • Facebook uses MySQL to manage data warehousing and analytics.
  • Tweets and other data for Twitter are stored using MySQL.
  • The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, uses MYSQL as its primary database management system.

The following organizations use SQL Server:

  • Microsoft and Dell both use SQL Server to power many of their internal systems and applications.
  • WalMart uses SQL Server to manage their back-end systems.
  • The NBA uses Microsoft SQL Server as part of its technology stack to power new content that elevates fan engagement.
  • Accenture and Intuit both use SQL Server to manage their databases.

If a cloud infrastructure is important to your business model or organizational needs, determine which cloud model works for your specific needs. Decide whether you want a database that runs on multiple industry-leading cloud platforms like MySQL or a tightly integrated, always-updated platform like SQL Server on Azure.


Now that you know the SQL Server vs MySQL similarities and differences, use this information to determine which one would best fit your requirements based on support, scalability, features, and price. Advanced users can learn How to Setup and Use Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio.

Liquid Web helps users with Managed Windows Hosting get started with Microsoft SQL Server Hosting or Microsoft SQL Database as a Service. And if Linux is your operating system of choice, they have everything you need from basic Dedicated Servers to High Availability Database Hosting.

Contact the sales team to discuss your requirements and get the right solution.

Avatar for Ronald Caldwell

About the Author: Ronald Caldwell

Ron is a Technical Writer at Liquid Web working with the Marketing team. He has 9+ years of experience in Technology. He obtained an Associate of Science in Computer Science from Prairie State College in 2015. He is happily married to his high school sweetheart and lives in Michigan with her and their children.

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