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Desktop Database Programs vs. SQL Database Servers

Desktop Database Programs vs. SQL Database Servers

Desktop Database Programs vs. SQL Database Servers

When choosing a database system for your website, you will probably have to make the decision on whether you want to use a file based desktop database program or a service based SQL database server in order to host the database that you want to use along with your website. Although desktop database systems offer an easy to manage solution for those who may be new to using databases as part of a website, SQL database servers are normally much more scalable and because of the nature in which they run they can normally handle many more requests and users than desktop systems. Some web developers are use to using one kind of system which is one thing that may influence their decision when it comes to building database driven systems; however, there are different kinds of desktop database programs and SQL database servers, all of which are compatible with different programming languages. When choosing the kind of database system that you want to base your website on you should take into consideration a number of factors; you need to ensure that your chosen method will be able to cope with higher demand as your website expands, and that you aren’t going to be limited in any way. As your website grows, you may find it beneficial to switch to another database system if necessary.

The Different Programs Available to You

The main desktop database system being used by web developers at this moment in time is Microsoft Access; although it can only be used in conjunction with classic ASP and ASP.NET based websites, it still provides an easy to use solution that is perfect for small deployments. The main SQL servers in use at the moment are Microsoft SQL Server and the MySQL server; both can be used in conjunction with PHP and ASP.NET based web pages, although MySQL tends to be used more with PHP and Microsoft SQL Server with ASP.NET. Since there are so many options available, it is important for you to evaluate your needs but beforehand you should decide on which scripting language you are going to use.


In terms of scalability SQL servers are better for the main reason that databases are served through a service, which in turn means that each time a database is called upon a new instance doesn’t need to be opened, only a new connection needs to be established. Desktop database systems on the other hand don’t tend to work through a service when being used in the context of a website, this means that every time the database is called upon, the database file has to be opened meaning that if this is being done simultaneously by many different users it can be quite resource intensive. However, desktop database management systems can still provide you with the following advantages:

  • easy management – programs such as Microsoft Access are desktop based meaning that when you need to edit something, all you have to do is download the necessary file from your web space and from there you can use the program to edit and modify your database, once you have carried out all your modifications you can easily upload your modified database to your web space where all changes will be immediate
  • low running costs – to begin with all you have to do is purchase the necessary desktop database program so that you can create and manage your databases – after that you can normally freely use your chosen application to create and modify as many databases as you wish, but it must be noted that you can only use the intended program to modify your database unless you build your own web-based interface
  • easy to use – since desktop database systems are desktop based, no knowledge is necessarily needed to be able to manage such databases since the programs themselves are normally very intuitive and easy to learn – since the databases themselves aren’t SQL based there is no need to have any prior knowledge of SQL syntax.

Although using a desktop based database system may seem the best option for you if you are beginner, there are still advantages to be had from SQL database servers, especially if you wish to grow your website rapidly over a certain amount of time. Such advantages that SQL database servers can provide include:

  • scalability – because SQL databases are served through a service and are based on SQL syntax they are in fact much more scalable meaning that they are used by some of the largest database driven websites on the internet – having scalability allows you to grow your website without having to worry about the database crashing or not being accessible because there are simply too many people using it at one time
  • wider integration – SQL database systems can normally be used by many different scripting languages – for example ASP.NET and classic ASP have the ability to be used with both Microsoft SQL Server database servers and MySQL based database servers which provides webmasters with a good choice of database server that they can use when it comes to making their website database driven – they same cannot be said for desktop database systems however
  • desktop management – like desktop database systems, SQL database servers can also be managed from the desktop using external tools which will connect to your SQL database server so that you are able to manage the different databases that users have created on your server, although you can also make use of web admin panels and other forms of SQL database management that are now available to you.

From the above we can safely assume that using a desktop database system is your safest option if you are a beginner, but if you are an experienced user who has confidence in using an SQL database server then you may find it’s worth it purely because of the scalability that is on offer from SQL database servers.


However, there are still advantages to using either form of database system. The cost of having to purchase a desktop database system is enough to put some off, whilst others may find SQL database servers just too hard to use and understand. The important thing is that you choose a database system that is suitable to your needs and your website since you don’t want to end up finding that you aren’t able to manage your database correctly. Both forms of database are supported by most web hosting providers meaning that your choice of web hosting package is unlikely to affect your choice on the system that you use, but it may affect more specifically the actual product that you want to use in conjunction with your website. The main disadvantages for desktop based database programs include:

  • cost – for example, Microsoft Access can cost anything from £100 if you choose to purchase it along with an entire Microsoft Office suite – now to justify this cost just so that you can create and manage databases is hard which is one reason why many system administrators are put off from using such applications with their websites – SQL database systems in most cases can be free to use and provide more advanced and usable advantages
  • scalability – because they are file based, desktop databases aren’t very scalable and after a while will start to have an impact on the performance of your website – more so if it is starting to grow – which means that your website will start to load slowly, which in the end may put visitors off from returning since they want to be able to view your pages quickly and slow loading times aren’t going to help you in that area
  • integration – for example, Microsoft Access databases can only be integrated into web pages that are based on classic ASP and ASP.NET scripts meaning that PHP developers are left with MySQL as their only real database option – however, this does mean that many developers are still using ASP.NET along with Microsoft Access because of the fact that websites based on both technologies are easy to develop.

Although you may have thought that an SQL database would be the best option for your website, there are still downsides to using SQL database servers. Although they present a much more secure solution, there are still certain disadvanatages including:

  • harder management – in some cases you may find that you have to do extra research so that you are able to effectively manage your SQL database since there are many different things that you need to know about SQL – SQL itself is its own syntax meaning that you should know the basics of the syntax so that you can run certain commands against your database as and when needed, for example to clean up database records
  • cost – although the MySQL database server is free to use you may find that your web hosting provider will charge you for the right to have a Microsoft SQL Server database since the database server itself does cost money, although the amount itself does depend on the version being usec – on the other hand some web hosting providers will be using the Express edition which means that you shouldn’t be charged a penny.

Since there are advantages and disadvantages to using both forms of database system, it is important that you evaluate your needs but crucially decide on whether or not you think your website will grow rapidly over a short amount of time. Once you have done that and decided on the scripting language you are going to use, you should be able to make an informed choice on which type of database system you want to use as part of your new website.

In conclusion, desktop database systems are ideal for beginners since no advanced technical knowledge is needed in order to manage one; they can also be quickly created and modified which helps make them more popular with experienced web developers. However, when it comes to expanding your website you will probably find that you will have to move over to using an SQL based database server which gives you a good reason to be using one initially. SQL database servers can both be bought for a lot of money and can also be had for free meaning that you can make use of them in your web hosting account and locally on your own computer.

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