What is MySQL?
MySQL is a database management server used to store and manage multiple databases for websites, e-commerce sites, and logging applications.
There are two versions — a free, open-source version and the MySQL Enterprise Server, which features additional plugins and extensions.
What is MySQL Hosting? How Do I Find the Best MySQL Hosts?
If you set up a dynamic website, you’ll need a database to hold all of the content you create. MySQL has risen to prominence because it’s free and open source.
Most of the hosting packages we’ve reviewed and rated offer MySQL support and most of the scripts and applications hosts provide are compatible with this popular relational database management system (RDBMS).
What You’ll Learn
In this article, you’ll learn what MySQL is, and a bit about its history. You’ll learn why this database platform is so popular and how to choose a good MySQL host.
I’ll also share my top recommendations for MySQL hosts.
When you shop around for web hosting, you’ll see a variety of database types mentioned in the specs. Among the most common are:
- MySQL, the subject of this article
- MS SQL, the Microsoft take on a structured query language database
- MS Access, although this is suitable only for very limited scenarios
- Oracle, which is a long-standing product; it made its first official appearance in 1979
- PostgreSQL, a Unix and Windows database management system
A Quick Comparison
|MySQL||Open Source||Windows, Linux, Solaris, macOS, FreeBSD|
|MS SQL||Proprietary||Linux, Windows|
|PostgreSQL||Open Source||Most Unix-like Systems, Windows|
MySQL has the advantage of cross-platform compatibility. It runs on the majority of web hosting accounts and desktop computers, unlike MS SQL and MS Access, and it’s known for its excellent security features.
Is MySQL Easy to Use?
MySQL is robust enough to handle large datasets, including websites for enterprise-level organizations, yet it’s easy enough for a beginner to pick up.
It’s also very fast because of the way it stores its data. This makes it an ideal choice for shared web hosting and other hosting services, where every millisecond of load time counts.
Compatibility and Use
In terms of sheer numbers, MySQL’s main boost has come from its compatibility with PHP (and other languages), Linux and Apache.
Most Linux web hosting providers offer MySQL with these three components.
This is the main reason that MySQL has been downloaded or distributed more than 100 million times, and it’s the reason many web hosting customers come into contact with it.
What is the History of MySQL?
MySQL was initially released in May 1995. It was developed by David Axmark, Allan Larsson, and Michael Widenius; the latter has a daughter called My, which is how the project got its name.
MySQL and Oracle
The database technology is open source, and it’s owned by MySQL AB. MySQL AB is a company registered in Sweden, but it was bought by Sun in 2008 for $1 billion. Sun was acquired by Oracle two years later, which is how MySQL came to exist under the Oracle brand.
MySQL: Free or Paid Version?
The majority of users download MySQL for free or use it as part of a web hosting package.
It’s open source. If the free license does not suit your intended use, you can purchase a different license directly from its parent company.
For most web hosting customers, the free version will suffice.
MySQL offers a variety of tools for database management, querying, and optimization.
Users can search through their data, select from a range of storage engines and see an information schema describing the structure of the data.
If you just want to set up an application and forget it, you only need to create the database, the user, and the password; usually, your script will handle the rest, and MySQL will tick over in the background unassisted.
SSDs and Performance of Large Databases
For very large databases, look for a web host that provides solid-state drives (SSDs). Hard drives generate the biggest bottleneck for MySQL, so the instant access to solid-state storage removes the potential for slowdowns and crashes.
SSD hosting tends to be slightly more expensive. Always make sure you have a backup routine in place.
MySQL and the Command Line
When you connect to MySQL on your web hosting account, you’ll almost certainly use the command line interface (CLI). For a beginner, working in this manner can be intimidating.
There are various graphical user interfaces for MySQL that make the job easier. These include MySQL Workbench, phpMyAdmin, HeidiSQL, Navicat, and Aqua Data Studio.
Database encryption is available for the enterprise version of MySQL. Data can be encrypted using RSA, DSA, or DH algorithms and you can generate asymmetrical keys.
This allows developers to easily encrypt and decrypt data, increasing data security.
Database Plugin & Extension Support
Need help getting plugins or extensions set up? MySQL provides a roust online reference manual to for database plugin and extension support.
The plugin or extension you select may also offer support or your host may be able to help, depending on the problem.
GUIs for MySQL
If you plan to work with databases for any more than the basics, and you don’t use the command line often, a graphical interface is the best option.
Oracle produces its own application, MySQL Workbench, and the open source edition is free.
Do I Need a Licensed Version of MySQL?
For additional features in MySQL, users can opt to pay for a license.
The free version of MySQL is adequate for most web hosting clients and supports the vast majority of commonly used applications and scripts.
What are the System Requirements for MySQL?
MySQL has different requirements depending on the platform it’s installed on. In general, you’ll need to make sure that:
- You’re using a supported operating system
- You have enough processing power
- You meet the minimum memory (RAM) requirements
- You meet the minimum storage requirements
- Your network can handle the incoming/outgoing traffic related to the database calls you’re expecting
For official guidance, refer to the MySQL manual for your version.
Looking for a terrific deal on MySQL hosting?
SiteGround — rated #1 by our readers — provides fast MySQL hosting and excellent customer support. Right now you can save up to 67% on their plans. Use this special discount link to get the deal.
How to Find a MySQL Web Host
Looking for a hosting provider that has MySQL database support shouldn’t be difficult.
Most shared hosting plans from common web host services will offer some number of these databases.
When choosing MySQL hosting, you need to know what your storage and performance demands are.
Do I Need Multiple Databases?
Most users won’t need more than one MySQL database with their hosting package. Consider, for example, that running WordPress will only require one.
Certain web projects may require developers to use more than one database. In this case, you may want to look for a hosting provider that gives you unlimited databases.
Since the programming language PHP is used to connect and manipulate databases, make sure your hosting provider supports this language. Again, most common web host services do.
You can also create, manage, and delete MySQL databases form the cPanel control panel. If you’re doing this, it may be helpful to follow the MySQL Database Wizard provided by cPanel.
phpMyAdmin is an interface that allows you to manage and edit your MySQL database in a web browser.
It is a popular tool, and most hosts support it. While it’s not strictly necessary, it’s a useful tool. I recommend ensuring your host will support it.
WordPress and MySQL
WordPress uses MySQL to store and retrieve information for its sites.
There are no special considerations regarding MySQL to keep in mind when choosing a WordPress host.
Consider Hosting Types: VPS vs. Dedicated
When comparing hosts, consider the type of hosting, such as dedicated or VPS.
Dedicated servers, for example, mean you aren’t sharing physical or digital space with any other websites. Dedicated hosting plans are also more expensive than VPS plans.
VPS hosting keeps your files separate from other sites, although you may share hardware with other sites.
Additional Hosting Issues
There are several other hosting issues to keep in mind when comparing hosts. For example:
- Where are their data centers located?
- Does the host offer a money-back guarantee or uptime/downtime guarantees?
- Are domain names or SSL certificate included in the hosting fee or is there an extra cost for these?
Managed Services: Amazon Hosting and RDS
People who are less technically-inclined may want to give remote access to the MySQL server to a developer who can manage it for them.
This is usually easy to do from your host’s control panel and will require you to know your developer’s IP address.
Many developers rely on Amazon Web Services (AWS) for database hosting.
AWS has an Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) that makes it simple to operate and scale relational databases, such as MySQL, using the cloud.
Amazon RDS is fast because it’s backed by SSD servers. And, since they use virtual private cloud servers, you can easily isolate database instances.
Amazon RDS also uses sharding, a data storage technique that splits data into smaller sets, then distributes them on several database servers, called shards.
Each server (aka shard) should have similar hardware and performance capabilities yet be physically separate. Sharding is used to improve fault tolerance and make it easier to scale as the site or amount of data grows.
AWS provides free web hosting for 12 months. This means you’ll only pay usage fees for your first year.
My Choices: Top Three MySQL HostsGiven the ubiquity of MySQL, the sheer number of web hosts that are options for you are are large. Here are some good options with which you could begin your search.
My first pick for MySQL hosting is InMotion Hosting.
They specialize in hosting for businesses and provide unlimited bandwidth and disk space even on their cheapest plan.
You can also get unlimited MySQL databases if you pay a bit more. And, InMotion has one of the best knowledgebases.
This will help you to set-up MySQL databases from your cPanel.
Another good MySQL host is SiteGround. For unlimited MySQL databases, this will be your cheapest option.
SiteGround also includes access to their free website builder with all plans.
But unlike InMotion, SiteGround limits the disk-space you can use.
This will have an impact on the amount of MySQL databases your host server can handle.
For extremely developer-friendly host services, I recommend A2 Hosting.
They give you many tools, some of which are important for MySQL hosting like phpMyAdmin.
This allows you to administer MySQL databases over the web.
You can also add a dedicated IP address to your plan for just a small amount extra per month.
Comparison table: Top MySQL Hosts
|Host||Cheapest plan||Requirements||Monthly renewal price||Money-back guarantee?|
|SiteGround||$3.95||Applicable only to the initial term (customer’s choice)||$11.99||30 days for shared hosting plans|
|A2 Hosting||$3.92||Requires a 3-year commitment||$7.99||30 days for full refund, “Anytime” pro-rated refund|
|InMotion Hosting||$2.95||Requires a 2-year commitment||$7.99||90 days|
What are the Pros of MySQL?
- MySQL is the most popular database and will be supported by many web hosts
- Frequently updated with security improvements and additional features
- Free but paid editions are available for commercial use
- Many different user interfaces can be used with it.
What are the Cons of MySQL?
- Developers may feel limited by what they can do with the database
- MySQL is not designed to be scalable, making it a less ideal option for applications expected to grow in size.
Looking for a great deal on MySQL hosting?
A2 Hosting scored #1 in our recent speed and performance tests. Our readers can currently save up to 50% on these super-fast MySQL plans. Use this special discount link to get the deal.
Other features in SQL
MySQL Frequently Asked Questions
- What are some good reasons to use MySQL?
MySQL is a database that runs on a wide majority of web servers, and its main purpose is to host all of the custom content you create on your website. In today’s modern era of website development and hosting, it is very difficult to conceive a scenario where you will not need a relational database.
MySQL is flexible, secure, and can handle database sets of all sizes. While you can use other databases with Linux, Apache, and PHP-based servers, MySQL is the most common database you will find matched up with that server software.
- Are there any reasons not to use MySQL?
Yes. While the majority of web hosting servers are built using Linux and can run MySQL, there are some server types that play better with other database solutions.
Although MySQL is compatible on Windows-based servers, you will often find MS SQL to be the database of choice on those servers, as it is a Microsoft-built database solution.
Aside from compatibility issues, however, you will be hard pressed to find reasons NOT to use a MySQL database on your website.
- What are the alternatives to MySQL?
There are several alternatives to MySQL on the database market, but none are as flexible as MySQL.
On Windows-based servers, you will still find MS SQL used from time to time – the Microsoft alternative to MySQL. Some Unix and Windows servers will also use PostgreSQL as their database platform over MySQL to handle multiple custom data sets and custom programming requests.
MySQL is still the most commonly used database system on the Internet, but there are alternatives out there based on need.
- Can MySQL databases be encrypted?
Protecting the data stored in your MySQL database is a key consideration for many users, especially those who run e-commerce sites that may contain sensitive information from customers.
Encrypting data at rest is one way to ensure this information is safe. MySQL databases are not encrypted by default, but users can encrypt data using open-source code, or by adding custom encryption functions to your CMS. Another option is to use the paid version, MySQL Enterprise, which comes with built-in encryption capabilities.
- What are the requirements for MySQL hosting?
MySQL is most commonly deployed with a Linux operating system that powers Apache webservers and PHP scripting languages. Although MySQL can often be instantly deployed on Windows and Unix-based platforms, the computers that power the database do have minimum hardware requirements of 2 CPU cores, 2 GB of RAM, and a writeable database.
You will also need a minimum of about 2 GB of minimum disk space to be able to run MySQL’s service manager and the monitoring agent. In today’s virtual web hosting environments, none of these requirements should be too difficult to meet.
- Do I need to be concerned about installation?
Probably not. Although we can’t provide you with step-by-step insights on the procedures of every web hosting provider listed on our website, we can say that most providers offer MySQL as a database solution “out of the box” – meaning it is included with your plan.
Unless you are specifically using a Windows or Unix server with MS SQL or PostgreSQL, the chances are very high your database is MySQL.
If you require some custom modification to your MySQL database – then the installation may be something you have to be concerned about. Otherwise, it should already be operational when you log in to your hosting account the first time.
- What does self-hosted mean? I don’t have to run a server myself, do I?
Self-hosted servers and their associated platforms do not require YOU to personally own the server and manage it to host your site. Instead, self-hosted simply means that hosting is not provided directly by the development team that created the software and systems you are using to run your MySQL database.
If you are using MySQL as part of your website hosting, it will probably already be installed when you get access to your server.
- Do I need managed hosting in order to use MySQL as my database?
The answer to this question depends on your answer to the question, “how much responsibility are you willing to accept for the maintenance of your website?”
The more complex your hosting environment becomes, the greater your need will be for professionally managed services.
Shared hosting often comes with some managed services included – and since it is highly likely that your shared hosting plan includes a MySQL database, you may have nothing to worry about with shared hosting.
If you have a dedicated hosting solution, however, your plan may (or may not) have managed services included. Consider adding it to your package if you are not familiar with how to manage a MySQL database. To be fair, this is the case with any self-hosted database platform – not just MySQL.
- Can I host a MySQL database on a shared hosting plan?
Yes. The majority of shared hosting plans are built on a Linux operating system with Apache web servers and PHP scripting languages. MySQL is the preferred database solution to group with this server configuration.
If you don’t know what type of database you are using to power the custom content of your website, the chances are very high that you are using MySQL.
Although you may have stricter limits on things like the storage space on a shared hosting plan because of the way those servers pool resources, you will probably be using MySQL as your database.
- Do I have to know how to program to use MySQL?
It sure would help.
You can setup a MySQL database as part of almost any one-click installation of a content management system or script. There are situations where programming capability will help you manage content stored in your MySQL database, but it certainly is not a requirement to use the database.
Many control panels come equipped with a content management system for your databases. If you have the ability to navigate different CMS solutions with confidence, you shouldn’t be too far behind in the know-how to manage your MySQL databases.
- How does MySQL compare to MSSQL as a relational database?
If you even have the choice between MySQL and MS SQL as a database, then it is safe to assume you are using a Windows server. This assumption can be made because MySQL was developed as an open source solution, and MS SQL was developed as a Microsoft-specific database solution.
Because of these two core differences, the two databases have differing feature sets:
MySQL is more flexible, cheaper and uses several storage engines, and MS SQL is more secure and fully featured for Windows systems.