Startup data challenges: how to pick the right database?

Andrew Thompson
March 25, 2019

All new startups and small businesses face a particular set of problems when they start. Among them, the primary challenge is the collection, organization, and maintenance of the tremendous volumes of data they collect through daily interactions with their consumers. Almost none of the startups have an accurate estimation of the amount of data they will be collecting within the first few months of operation. Hence, they don’t have the resources to modify and scale up their database accordingly.

Here are a set of the potential problems that a business startup might face during the initial days of operations –

  1. You find the entirety of your business data in the internal database.
  2. Your users complain of a less-than-optimum (slow) experience when you run complex SQL queries against the production database directly.
  3. Most vendor solutions are beyond the means of most startups. A few DBA companies offer remote assistance that meets business standards. Visit to learn more about the remote management of business databases.
  4. Some businesses use a mix of databases (for example – leverages both PostgreSQL and MySQL). Finding a remote DBA service to help you out with the management of such combinations is challenging.

SQL vs. NoSQL: which database option is right for your business?

At around this stage, startups begin to ask the obvious question – “is the choice of SQL vs. NoSQL going to influence the availability of remote DBA services”? When someone compares SQL with NoSQL, the person is usually referring to the comparison between relational and non-relational databases. The primary difference between them is what information they store and how they store it.

For decades, structured query language (SQL) databases have been the leading choice of all businesses for storing primary data. Website applications and opensource options including MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite facilitated the explosion of SQL database variants in the early 90s. Soon, every personal user and business across the globe were using SQL databases for meeting all their data storage and management need.

NoSQL databases are the choices of the younger and more recent entrepreneurs. However, one must remember that NoSQL databases are, in no way, a replacement for the SQL databases. The NoSQL options include Apache Cassandra, Redis, CouchDB, and MongoDB. Those familiar with the name, are aware of the fact that they have been around since the 1960s.

Although both SQL and NoSQL do the same task, their approaches differ. NoSQL is an alternative to SQL. While some businesses require SQL databases for the management of their data, others require NoSQL databases for the same. A handful few can use both database types interchangeably.


Structured Query Language (SQL) is more structured and rigid than NoSQL databases. Their data storage mechanism fits right into multiple popular software stacks including Ruby-based stacks and LAMP. Due to their popularity, startups and other businesses can easily find experts to service these databases almost instantly. Running into problems while using a well-known problem is not as much of a hassle as facing challenges on an unknown system.

Sadly, there is no one-for-all solution when it comes to SQL database technology. Most businesses simply rely on both relational and non-relational databases for a variety of jobs. While NoSQL databases are fast and scalable, particular jobs ask for SQL databases particularly.

What are the advantages of SQL databases?

  1. Most SQL databases provide consistency and durability to all users. It reduces glitches and anomalies on the DB. The atomicity and isolation of data protect the integrity of your DB. More often than not, NoSQL databases lack the consistency, durability, and integrity the SQL databases offer.
  2. Your data will remain structured in a SQL database. Most startups go through an initial lag phase. If your business isn’t seeing explosive growth, you might want to restrict your data on a SQL database.
  3. Since SQL databases have been around for a long time and experts have taken considerable effort to standardize their use, you will find a number of tools for better support and add-ons for their management.

The only problem startups face with SQL databases is when their data begins to snowball. Scalability is not their strong-suite. During their rapid growth, most businesses adopt NoSQL databases along with their existing database system to support their expansion.


Many startups begin their journey with vast volumes of unstructured data. During the beginning, most companies don’t know how to deal with the data flow, and they are not aware of the data’s future. Unless you have the luxury of developing an exclusive schema for your relational database, it is advisable to begin working with a NoSQL database. This type of database offers flexibility, and it provides extensive options for on-point scale-ups.

What advantages do NoSQL databases provide?

  1. NoSQL databases like MongoDB, CouchDB, and HBase, are popular with companies dealing with big data. When you already have server-side applications that are fast and seamless, you should think about adopting a NoSQL DB to prevent bottlenecking of data.
  2. Vast amounts of data without any structure calls for NoSQL databases. They do not impose limitations on the data types, and they allow the users to add more types of data as the business needs evolve. The heightened flexibility is one of the most attractive features of NoSQL databases for all startups.
  3. Most startups go for NoSQL options since they come with cloud compatibility. The cloud-based data storage options, even for Big Data, is a lucrative trait that appeals to all brands working with massive data loads. They can scale across multiple data centers without much need for customization and optimization.
  4. Most importantly, data admins don’t have to prep the NoSQL data ahead of time. It does not demand a database model, and it does not modify the data type. Any data you store in the NoSQL database is always ready for use.

However, NoSQL does not have the consistency or maturity of the SQL databases. They don’t always have the tools and add-ons necessary for testing performance or analysis. Sometimes, you might face compatibility challenges with SQL instructions while running queries on NoSQL databases.

While NoSQL is popular choices for most startups, you should go with SQL if your priority is structured and organized data storage. However, for the integration of Big Data, you need to think about adding NoSQL to your repository. The volume of data and its variety will determine your business’ need for SQL or NoSQL database. Don’t be hasty. Understand the data inflow of your company before making your database choice.

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