PostgreSQL vs. SQL Server – A Showdown of Performance, Features, and Reliability


PostgreSQL vs. SQL Server

PostgreSQL and Microsoft SQL Server, also known as MSSQL, are two of the most prominent database management systems for managing large amounts of data.

PostgreSQL is a free, open-source relational database management system that is growing in prominence due to its scalability and durability. In contrast, Microsoft’s SQL Server is a widely-used commercial database management system that has existed for over three decades.

Both PostgreSQL and SQL Server have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it is essential to compare them thoroughly to determine which one is best suited to your specific requirements.


PostgreSQL advanced open source database

Index structures supported by PostgreSQL include B-tree, hash, Generalized Search Tree (GiST), Space Partitioned GiST, Generalized Inverted Index (GIN), and Block Range Index (BRIN).

Additionally, it supports expression indexes (indexes constructed using an expression or function as opposed to a column value) and partial indexes (indexes of a portion of a table).

Main features: Robust extensions, Reliability and standard compliance, Open-source license 

Now, let’s examine the PostgreSQL characteristics that make it such an indispensable tool in the marketplace:

1. Robust extensions 

PostgreSQL contains comprehensive feature sets, including point-in-time recovery, multi-version concurrency control (MVCC), tablespaces, granular access controls, and online/hot backups.

Additionally, PostgreSQL is locale-aware with regard to case sensitivity, categorizing, and formatting. It is highly scalable in terms of both the amount of data it can manage and the number of concurrent users it can support.

2. Reliability and standard compliance 

Write-ahead logging distinguishes PostgreSQL as a highly fault-tolerant database. In addition to being ACID-compliant, PostgreSQL provides comprehensive support for views, foreign keys, triggers, joins, and stored procedures in multiple languages.

It supports the majority of SQL:2008 data types, such as INTEGER, DATE, VARCHAR, TIMESTAMP, BOOLEAN, NUMERIC, INTERVAL, and CHAR.

3. Open-source license

The PostgreSQL source code is available under an open-source license, granting you the freedom to modify, use, and implement it without cost. Additionally, PostgreSQL has no licensing fees, which eliminates the danger of over-deployment.

PostgreSQL’s community of contributors and enthusiasts routinely discovers fixes and bugs, contributing to the overall security of the database system.

SQL Server

In SQL Server, there are both clustered and non-clustered indexes. Clustered indexes order rows of data in a table or view based on their key values (columns in the index definition).

There can be only one clustered index per dataset. Each key value entry in a non-clustered index includes a pointer to the corresponding table data.

MSSQL automatically generates these whenever PRIMARY KEY and UNIQUE constraints are defined on table columns. UNIQUE creates a non-clustered index, whereas PRIMARY KEY creates a clustered index unless one already exists.

Main features: A robust security platform, Record-breaking performance,

Let’s examine a few crucial features that make SQL Server such a fantastic catch:

1. A robust security platform

SQL Server is a robust security platform that protects your data in motion and at rest with built-in data protection, data classification, alerts, and monitoring capabilities.

SQL Server makes it simple to encrypt sensitive data, perform complex computations on encrypted data, and enable role-based data access with complex row filtering.

2. Record-breaking performance 

SQL Server claims record-breaking performance on Linux and Windows, consistently outperforming TPC-H data warehousing workload, TPC-E online transaction processing workload, and real-world application performance benchmarks.

Additionally, you can use SQL Server’s in-memory database features, such as memory-optimized tempdb and persistent memory support, to enhance the performance of your mission-critical workloads.

3. Valuable insights 

SQL Server enables you to acquire valuable insights from all of your data by querying data across your entire data estate — Azure SQL Database, SQL Server, Teradata, MongoDB, Azure Cosmos DB, and others — without having to replicate or move data.

You can even create a shared data lake by combining structured and unstructured data in SQL Server and gaining access to the data via Spark or T-SQL.

Major Differences Between SQL Server and PostgreSQL

Both are prominent options on the market; let’s examine the key distinctions between them.

1. CSV support:

Postgres is the industry leader in terms of CSV support. It provides various commands, such as ‘copy to’ and ‘copy from,’ that facilitate the rapid processing of data. Additionally, it provides useful error messages. If there is a minor issue with import, it will give an error and immediately stop the import. In contrast, SQL Server does not support either importing or exporting data.

2. Cross-platform:

Today, it is crucial for any language or program to be cross-platform. As Linux and UNIX are open-source systems, it has become vitally essential to be accessible on these platforms with the advent of technology and the IT industry. SQL Server is a vendor-locked Microsoft product that can only operate on Microsoft systems. Postgres is compatible with Linux, BSD, Solaris, and Windows.

3. Procedural language characteristics:

PostgreSQL’s native procedural language, PL/PGSQL, has a variety of contemporary features. It supports the JSON data type, granting it supreme power and a great deal of flexibility in a single bundle.

Additionally, PostgreSQL supports Python, Perl, R, Java, and PHP as procedural languages, allowing users to easily combine them with SQL. In contrast, MS SQL Server includes this feature by default. However, this feature is somewhat sluggish and lacking in features. Moreover, it is riddled with minor flaws and constantly encounters various problems.

4. Regular expressions:

PostgreSQL offers a vast array of regex as a foundation for analytical work. In comparison to PostgreSQL’s expressions, SQL Server’s like, substring, and patindex fall short.

SQL Server and PostgreSQL Also Share Certain Similarities

Based on their performance, security, scalability, and usability, SQL Server and PostgreSQL are two of the most widely used relational database management systems. Both include relational database features and are compatible with a vast array of applications for small and large enterprises.

Historically, SQL Server has been the platform of choice for large Microsoft-dependent organizations. PostgreSQL, on the other hand, has carved out a niche as a free, simple-to-implement database management system that provides maximal flexibility and functionality.

PostgreSQL vs. SQL Server: Advantages and Disadvantages

Beyond these fundamental distinctions, there are a number of advantages and disadvantages to each database management system that you should consider when determining which one best meets your business’s needs and requirements.

Below are some of the most frequently cited benefits and drawbacks of PostgreSQL:

Advantages of PostgreSQL

  • Support for unstructured data types (including audio, video, and images, for example).
  • Highly extensible, allowing for the addition of additional functions, data types, and languages.
  • MVCC for concurrent processing and handling large transaction volumes with minimal deadlocks.
  • Sophisticated security measures, including data encryption, SSL certificates, and advanced authentication methods. 
  • High availability and recovery from server failure.
  • Active open-source community continuously enhances and updates solutions.

Disadvantages of PostgreSQL

  • Greater emphasis on compatibility and performance enhancements, requiring additional effort.
  • Comparatively lower performance compared to SQL Server and MySQL.
  • Installation can be challenging for novices.

For SQL Server, it has the following advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages of SQL Server

  • High performance and in-memory database capabilities.
  • Simple installation and configuration, with an intuitive interface and automatic updates.
  • Backup and data recovery tools, as well as high availability options.
  • Integrated security features, including notifications, monitoring, data protection, and data classification.
  • Seamless integration with other Microsoft data analytics, development, and monitoring tools using SQL Server Management Studio.

Disadvantages of SQL Server

  • High costs associated with licensing, support, and advanced features.
  • No support for MVCC; error prevention is dependent on default locking.
  • Hardware upgrades may be necessary to support newer versions of SQL Server due to hardware constraints.

Final takeaways   

Both PostgreSQL and Microsoft SQL Server (MSSQL) are powerful database management systems with their own distinct advantages and disadvantages.

PostgreSQL offers scalability, durability, and a reduced total cost of ownership as an open-source database management system. SQL Server, on the other hand, provides a wider range of features and is better suited for large enterprises requiring high availability and disaster recovery options.

The choice between PostgreSQL and SQL Server ultimately depends on your unique requirements, budget, and technical expertise.

By comparing the advantages and disadvantages of each system, you can select the one that best meets your organization’s data management needs.

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