PostgreSQL - Features, Pricing, Alternatives, and More

PostgreSQL Screenshot
Matthew Guay
Reviewed by Matthew Guay · Last updated January 4, 2017
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Much of the computer technology that powers our lives today started in university and corporate research labs decades ago. The internet began life as APRANET, a US Department of Defense funded network between universities, and was harnessed with the world wide web launched from CERN's laborties. UNIX came from Bell Labs that inspired BSD from Berkley and Linux from Linux Torvalds among other operating systems.

Some of today's most popular database engines have a similar lineage. Ingress, a database research project from Berkley, lived on as its own commercially-supported database, though its ideas were popularized by alternate database apps including Microsoft SQL Server and PostgreSQL. The latter, launched in 1989 as an object orientated database that could pull data from multiple media types (perhaps a static database on a CD along with a local, hard-drive based database), became one of the most popular database engines as it gained SQL features to bridge the best of both worlds.

Today, while not as popular as MySQL, it's still the 4th most popular database engine, one that ships as the default server in macOS Server. And, it's the core of cloud services like Amazon Redshift, where it powers a simple way to warehouse massive amounts of data in the cloud.

PostgreSQL is designed to handle as much data as you need to store. It can store unlimited data in each databases, with 32TB in each table, 1.6TB in each row, and fields of up to 1GB each. You can store media such as audio or images directly in your database along with any standard text data. And, you can be sure your data will always be consistent with PostgreSQL's built-in rules and data validation.

With its own built-in database engine—unlike MySQL which has you select a storage engine to manage data—you'll always know how PostgreSQL will work with your data. It can query across databases like Microsoft SQL, even between local and cloud databases, for an easy way to pull in all the data you need. And if you make a mistake, no worry: PostgreSQL can roll back most changes to your database aside from creating or destroying databases themselves, and can backup your databases in real-time as you make changes. It'll even try to speed up your work, using query optimization to try to optimize your queries and use the least resources possible.

Perhaps most interestingly since Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems and MySQL is that PostgreSQL is fully open-source. Unlike MySQL with its enterprise-level support licenses and extensions, everything in PostgreSQL is free and open-source, with a liberal license that lets you tweak code and deploy it in open-source or commerce projects however you'd like. That can make it harder to use if your team would like commercial support, but can also simplify deploying it for customized workflows where you want to be able to reuse your code changes as your team sees fit.

The good thing is, since most databases today rely on the SQL query language, your database skills will work on most popular databases. PostgreSQL's features make it an attractive database for many projects, especially those with exceptional large data sets—and your SQL skills from other database engines will be right at home along with PostgreSQL's extra features.

PostgreSQL Resources:

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PostgreSQL Features

  • Build object relational databases with an open-source database licensed for open-source or commercial work
  • Store binary objects including images and audio recordings alongside text data in your database
  • Unlimited database size with 32TB tables, 1.6TB max row size, 1GB max field size, and unlimited rows per table
  • Run stored procedures in Java, Perl, Python, Ruby, Tcl, C/C++, and Oracle-style PL/pgSQL
  • Strict data validation to ensure consistent databases

PostgreSQL Pricing

  • Free open-source download

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PostgreSQL is a powerful, open-source database engine with a uniquely advanced query optimizer and dozens of built in features, making it an easy choice for production databases.