Databases in the cloud: 5 best cloud databases
Explaining what databases are and how they are connected with cloud solutions. Quick guide and a list of the best cloud databases to try out.
Table of contents
- What are databases
- What is a cloud database and how does it work
- Pros and cons of using databases in clouds
- Cloud deployment models for databases
- How to choose a cloud database
- Best cloud databases
What are databases?
Databases are pieces of software that are used by developers and webmasters to store digital data on. This can be anything computer-related or just information that needs to be saved.
The best thing about databases is that they let you not only store information but retrieve it and process it. So you can filter big chunks of data, upload relevant information to your website and make it available to your users when they search for something specific.
What exactly can be stored? As we mentioned earlier, it is up to you what to send to the DB. In practice, we see how big companies store their total user base or entire product range on databases. And there is much more to it. Every song from Apple Music is stored on a database, every item on eBay, every movie on Netflix, every login and password on Facebook. Everything is stored on databases.
That is why databases have become such an important part of the digital world. It is just impossible to imagine how we could process such an impressive amount of data without suitable tooling.
There are two types of DBs that developers and webmasters usually use.
The first type is SQL. It is a kind of database that uses a tabular structure to present the data, and special syntax to manipulate it. The structure itself resembles tables in applications like Excel and Numbers (that’s why these apps are sometimes used as an alternative to fully-fledged DBs).
The abbreviation SQL stands for Structured Query Language. It is a highly specialized programming language aimed exclusively at working with information stored inside concrete databases.
SQL relies heavily on correct structurization and creating between different pieces of data when built-in utilities make it easy to take control of the data stored inside the DB.
The second type is NoSQL. As you have already worked out, this has no characteristics of SQL DBs. The difference lies in the lack of traditional data structure. Instead of tables, rows, and columns, we see JSON-like objects. Information is nested inside objects with keys and values.
Developers will quickly grasp how these things work because they usually have to manipulate hash maps via APIs.
Like an SQL, NoSQL databases also have tools and commands that help to process data, search it, filter, and so on.
What is a cloud database and how does it work?
Database as a piece of software is usually installed on a PC. But running on a local computer makes DB’s useless for storing information connected with an actual web application or website. In each case, we need a database that can be accessed via the internet.
This is the reason we put databases onto web servers. Running there they become accessible to anyone who can communicate with information stored in the DB. This is the most common way to deploy DBs to the internet.
But there’s a more modern way of doing it. Putting a database into the cloud makes it not only available through the internet but actually simplifies the processing of data stored and at the same removes many of the struggles generated when setting up the DB.
Let’s break down both types so you better understand the difference.
Virtual machine databases
Before we jump into an explanation of DB inside a virtual machine, we should break down the term and understand each of its components.
A virtual machine is a simulation of a computer running inside another computer. Thanks to virtual machines you can use one set of hardware to launch many isolated operating systems or applications.
Virtual machine databases are software used to create databases which are integrated into an artificial PC, so you can create thousands of DBs without launching them on different systems. Such an approach reduces the cost of database hosting.
When using a virtual machine you have to hire a DevOps specialist or administrator who will ensure everything works smoothly by creating mechanisms to access the data, change it and retrieve it.
Database as a service
Also known as DBAAS, database as a service is part of an ever-growing family of cloud products that are becoming ever more popular and sophisticated every year.
Exactly like a virtual machine database, DBAAS lets you launch your DB on the web and makes it accessible to millions of users around the globe. The difference lies in implementation. Instead of one computer with many virtual systems, we have many computers virtualized into one big PC called the cloud. But the best part of DBAAS is the lack of any setup process.
All you have to do is to pay for some resources in the cloud, choose the type of database (databases for cloud are the same but administered by a host), and provide the data which should be stored there. Everything else is on the host. It will prepare the infrastructure for you and will maintain the DB, so it is safe and sound, providing you with automation systems, security patches, up-to-date software, modern technologies, abstracted tools to control the data, API, etc.
Pros and cons of using databases in clouds
From now until the end of the article we will be talking only about cloud databases omitting virtual machines because clouds are more relevant here.
There are four important advantages of databases in clouds:
First and foremost — speed. Because you don’t have to deal with any low-level stuff you can concentrate on the product without sacrificing time, money, and other resources on building proper infrastructure. It is easy to create marketing campaigns, new software products, and MVPs even if you don’t have DevOps specialists.
Clouds are ephemeral and exist everywhere. There’s no need to order hardware and set it up. You might get into production in a single click without further interruptions.
Using clouds as a platform for databases significantly lessens risks for any kind of business. Cloud providers implement best features and practice techniques that produce the most reliable and secure systems. They’re also great engineers and that means paying DBAAS will always bring you the DB configured the best way possible.
Acceptable prices. The cloud service will usually be cheaper than renting a server with a virtual machine. Moreover, the price of a cloud database will vary depending on the stress that your application or website experiences. You will only pay for the power, storage, and resources that are necessary and used by your product.
As for the cons, you have much less control over the software because most of it will be abstracted. And that’s why some users have security concerns because sometimes it is illegal to entrust the data to a third-party.
Cloud deployment models for databases
We have already discussed types of DB, but there are also different deployment models of the cloud — methods of publishing databases on the web.
They are common for all the cloud services and include:
Public Clouds — This is an infrastructure that has no owner, an open platform for everybody wanting to rent resources from the hosting provider who created the whole system.
Private clouds — these ones imply creating cloud services that are used by a concrete group of developers.
Hybrid clouds — such clouds combine the characteristics of both private and public.
Multiclouds — solutions that offer users two or more different cloud services as one product.
How to choose a cloud database
In choosing a cloud database you must consider two things:
Performance. Your business might grow very fast. And the database should be running on a server that will satisfy the crowd that will use your products. The best cloud solutions scale quickly and always stay performant.
Security. This one is easy and understandable. Don’t store your data on no-name servers, choose big tech companies like Amazon or Microsoft or small startups that are not yet compromised.
Other characteristics like price and functionality are for you to decide.
Best cloud databases
Let’s list some of the cloud solutions we recommend you start with.
Amazon is one of the biggest players in this area. Amazon creates outstanding cloud services and provides resources to many large corporations and hosts.
Amazon is a tech giant which ensures that anything you deploy on AWS is secure and will be accessible 24/7. It offers different kinds of databases (including SQL database in the cloud and NoSQL alternative) and different layers of abstraction from lack of control over the DB to something that involves DevOps specialists to operate.
Azure is a family of cloud services developed by Microsoft. You may use it as a bridgehead for your virtual machine with a database installed or as DBaaS. Microsoft offers both ways of deploying an application to the web.
Microsoft is also famous for the reliability and functionality of Azure servers. A lot of popular hosts choose their cloud clusters as a platform for their own products because it impresses them with an unprecedented level of uptime (running without shutdowns).
One more big name in the area of cloud computing. The company that creates not only technically awesome infrastructure but can also offer their users a proactive and qualified technical support team.
Cloud solutions made by Oracle fit well in projects that require quickly adaptable servers to achieve top performance and effectiveness. Oracle also offers great value for money products.
This one is a bit different because it is only made just for real-time databases that are a must in products like digital chat rooms. Firebase and Firestore help developers to create online storage that produce the required information in no time. That's why it is so popular among developers who create sophisticated web projects.
It is located on a gigantic Google Cloud platform, so you don’t have to worry about server reliability.
Hostman is the best cloud database solution for those who want a solution that is the average of all of the services listed above.
Hostman relies on powerful servers DigitalOcean and Microsoft Azure, therefore it helps hosted applications to run smoothly most of the time.
It offers a Marketplace where you can find a database of the type you like and deploy it in a few clicks.
Also, Hostman gives you more control over your data and other low-level stuff.
You can try Hostman now. It is free for the first 7 days and is then availalbe from just $5.5 per month.
As you can see, cloud databases are not so different from traditional ones. They differ only in the technology stack used to implement and deploy them. But the idea and purpose are the same. You should choose the one that best meets your requirements.