Relational Database vs Non-Relational Database

A database system is utilized for the storage and management of data. Most businesses today are reliant on the power of databases for the majority of their data storage, handling, and accessibility needs. The two types of databases preferred by developers today are relational and non-relational.

Both have their set of distinct features, advantages, and limitations. Evaluating the benefits of a relational database vs. non-relational database is vital before opting for either. Take a look at the information given below to gain a better idea about each. 

What is a Relational Database? 

A relational database is a relational data model-based database. It is maintained by a system known as RDBMS (relational database management system). Relational databases offer users the option to utilize SQL (Structured Query Language) for querying and database management. 

A relational database is fundamentally a data item collection with the items possessing pre-defined relationships between them. Elements within a relational database are stored in the form of tables with rows and columns. Tables contain information related to objects that are represented within a relational database.

A data table’s column stores specific data types, and a field stores an attribute’s value. In a relational database, table rows are representations of related object values. A row can be marked by using a primary key known as a unique identifier, with foreign keys being used to relate rows across multiple tables. Users can access their data without having to modify any database table.

What are the benefits of Relational Database?

Data Accuracy – Relational database systems support the relation of multiple tables to each other with primary and foreign key concepts. As a result, the data in such a database is non-repetitive. Data duplication does not happen, and the accuracy of data goes up as a result. This is true for all relational database systems. 

Simplistic Model – A relational database system has a simple model, and users do not need to perform any challenging querying or structuring processes for it. Relational databases also do not require time-consuming activities such as hierarchical database structuring. The simple structure of relational databases translates to easy handling with basic SQL queries. Users do not need to design complex queries for it. 

Convenient Normalization – A relational database structure is maintained in a methodical style to keep the database free from variations that impact the accuracy and integrity of database tables. Normalization offers users a set of purposes, rules, and characteristics for the database structure and the database model.

High Security – Relational databases offer a high level of security to users. The data within this type of database is divided into tables, and users can effortlessly make a table confidential to secure access to its data. An RDBMS helps to easily segregate data, which is different from other types of databases. On attempting a login with designated credentials, a user can only access the data they are allowed to. This is because the database enforces the already defined security setting. You can specify access to only particular tables to other users based on preference. Access level security is one of the key highlights of relational databases. 

What are the most used SQL Databases?

  • MySQL
  • Postgres
  • Oracle
  • SQL Server

What is a Non-Relational Database?

A non-relational database does not make use of the table, row, and column structure format utilized by relational databases. These databases are equipped with varying frameworks of data modeling and storage. These databases offer more availability and scalability by un-restricting designated rules. Non-relational databases are often also referred to as NoSQL databases. Some common examples of relational databases include graph databases, key-value databases, and object databases.

Non-relational databases became more popular as they were more capable of meeting the high scalability demand of applications used across various modern websites. These databases are also suitable for supporting Big Data applications with unstructured data. Non-relational databases can also perform memory data storage for persistence, thereby enabling effortless reading of frequently moving data. Another reason why many developers and businesses opt for non-relational databases is that they are mostly open-source and do not require licensing costs.

Non-Relational Database Benefits

Scaling is easy – NoSQL databases allow horizontal and vertical scaling. In particular, horizontal scaling is a much easier process with NoSQL databases and allows significant server-side cost savings.

Unstructured text support – Most business systems generally have large sections of unstructured data. A majority of NoSQL databases are designed to handle unstructured text in the form of integrated services or native features. Developers prefer the ability to handle unstructured text as it enhances information flow and facilitates better decision making. NoSQL databases can offer multiple language support, along with support for word-stemming, dictionary, and snippets.

Various functionality – Relational databases are mostly quite similar to each other and have support for identical features. Conversely, non-relational databases are available in several core type options, i.e., document, columnar, key-value, and triple stores. All these options give users the opportunity to select from a wide range of databases to address your specific needs. This is one of the key reasons why so many developers rely on NoSQL databases. 

Legacy code not required – NoSQL or non-relational databases do not require any legacy code, as they are not required to provide support for outdated platforms. There is no need for keeping and updating such code in a NoSQL database. Developers can develop applications faster with these databases, utilize the latest and existing features, and not rely on an expansive code base. Major updates are released almost every year to give added features and functionality to users. 

Choice of vendors – Users get a more excellent selection of vendors, both old and new, and have access to a wide variety of options. Several vendors are focusing on specific audiences with innovative features and functionalities. Most NoSQL databases have open-source variants that enable businesses to use them without making considerable investments. Non-relational database companies provide a world of options for users. 

What are the most used NoSQL Databases?

  • MongoDB
  • DynamoDB
  • Couchbase
  • Redis


The right database choice depends on your project requirements and how you will handle the data structure.

A relational database is a relational data model-based database. It is maintained by a system known as RDBMS, and the advantages include data accuracy, well-defined standards, and faster query processing.

A non-relational database that stores and retrieves data without defining its structure first. The advantages include scalability, support for unstructured text, and multiple vendors’ choice.

General FAQ

What is a Relational Database?

A relational database is a relational data model-based database and it is maintained by a system known as RDBMS.

What is a Non-Relational Database?

A non-relational database that stores and retrieves data without defining its structure first and no tables or rows are required to store data.

What are the benefits of a Relational Database?

The advantages include data accuracy, well-defined standards, and faster query processing.

What are the benefits of a Non-Relational Database?

The advantages include scalability, support for unstructured text, and multiple vendors’ choice.

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