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Six free databases with commercial-quality features

Microsoft, Oracle offer impressive free versions of their commercial offerings, but MariaDB wins our test

By Susan Perschke, Network World
December 03, 2012 12:08 AM ET

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MySQL security is managed through Access Control Lists for access to all objects and operations. It also supports SSL for encrypted communication between client and server together with data encryption functions that can be used to store and retrieve encrypted data. Support and documentation for MySQL is readily available from Oracle (both free and paid) and from a variety of third-party sources on the Web, ranging in quality from sketchy to excellent.

It is hard to not like MySQL based on its ease of use, performance and sheer ubiquity. According to Oracle, nine out of the top 10 websites in the world (we assume as measured by traffic) use some form of a MySQL database. Many of the commercial hosting services offering LAMP and WAMP stacks have built excellent Web front-ends to MySQL, making it easy to manage as part of a Web solution.


PostgreSQL has its roots in the Ingres project at UC Berkeley in the 1980s and the first version of PostgreSQL was released in 1995. It is open source and released under the PostgreSQL license. PostgreSQL is essentially an RDBMS, but with an object-oriented database model (ORDBMS).

We installed PostgreSQL Version 9.2 on Windows Server 2008 R2. The installation is very straightforward with only a few options available, such as super user password, listening port and localization. Once the core installation has completed you have the option of launching the Stack Builder that allows you to download and install additional applications, tools and drivers.

PostgreSQL includes a management interface called pgAdmin. Not unlike the MS SQL Server Management Studio, pgAdmin has a robust set of features that is easy and intuitive to navigate. The database and test table with constraints was easy to create. We imported our million-plus rows of test data using the CSV import feature in less than 30 seconds. Retrieving 100,000 rows took less than half a second and working with individual rows yielded good results; selecting, updating and deleting individual rows anywhere in the table took around half a second. Not quite as fast as MariaDB and MySQL, but certainly better than what we observed with SQL Server Express. One minor annoyance was the need to put field names in quotes if they contained uppercase characters.

PostgreSQL handles authentication through a variety of means from trust authentication, Kerberos to LDAP. Communication between client and server can be encrypted via SSL and the database itself can also be encrypted using the pgCrypto extension.

In addition to extensive documentation and FAQs, PostgreSQL has an active community that offers support to users. Commercial support and hosting is available worldwide through a long list of companies listed on the PostgreSQL website.

Of the features of PostgreSQL we found the pgAdmin management interface to be one of the biggest pluses. PostgreSQL is a feature-rich database server and it is included in most of the major Linux distributions as an available package. We also found the performance of PostgreSQL to be nearly on par with MariaDB and MySQL.

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