12 Best Free & Open Source Database Software

There is database software behind every application you can imagine. These are used for storing information such as product details, customer data, finances, or anything else that might be important for a business. Users on social media have all their information stored in databases. Even hackers use databases regularly for collecting personal information when they invade a website.

Having a database is essential for most businesses. However, there are various kinds of databases and if you have just started a company, it might not be obvious which one you should choose. Databases have evolved a lot in the past few decades and nowadays you can store even petabytes of data if you want. We know that beginners can get confused while looking for the perfect database software.

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If you are one of them, keep on reading. In this article, we are going to share some helpful information about the most popular databases right now. First off, we will divide our selection into the three most popular types of databases that people use: document databases, graph databases and relational databases.

Of course, there are many more of them, but it’s always better to go for the most popular ones and then once you become familiar with databases, you will know which one to switch to. As there are different categories when it comes to database software, the prices can greatly vary as well. Fortunately, there is plenty of database software for free.

We are going to show you some open-source database software for each of the three categories that are absolutely free. Based on our reviews, you will be able to choose the database that suits your needs the most. The following database software is especially recommended for app creators and smaller businesses as a low-budget option.

Top 3 Free Relational Databases

Relational databases exist since 1979 when Oracle developed the first version. They quickly gained popularity and became the most commonly used databases. Nowadays, you can find tons of them, both free and premium ones. There can be significant differences between relational databases.

Like for other popular tools and software today, you can find a high number of web-based options for databases as well. Some of them work only a specific platform, while others can be implemented on multiple platforms. However, there is a common thing in all relational databases: they all use the SQL language for their tasks. Now let’s see the three relational databases that we mostly recommend!

  1. MySQL

MySQL is probably the most well-known database on our list. The initial release of this software was back in 1995 and it only improved since then. They kept MySQL free and open-source, as it was right from the beginning. The developers added a lot of new functionalities to graphical user interface that make it easier to use.

There are also more command line tools in MySQL than before, so that users can seamlessly access and manage their data. The community edition of the database comes with a wide range of useful features, including MySQL Connectors, Workbench, NoSQL, Pluggable Storage Engine, Transactional Data Dictionary, Replication and much more. MySQL is not restricted to a specific platform. In fact, you can use it on more than 20 operation systems and platforms.

This software has an overwhelming number of positive reviews on the Web. It is widely used by both small and big businesses as one of the most flexible solutions. Even Facebook and WordPress use it, two companies that work with a huge amount of data.

  1. Microsoft SQL

Microsoft SQL is also a huge name among the relational databases. It has been released by Microsoft back in 1989 and now it is used by many big companies like Cerner, Dell and Georgia Pacific. They have developed numerous versions to make sure it suits the needs of small businesses, huge enterprises and individuals.

Of course, not every Microsoft SQL version is free, but they offer an Express edition for those who work on smaller projects. It is somewhat scaled down, but the whole engine is integrated into it and it also supports an unlimited number of databases and users. Users that work with Express are able to work with up to 10 GB of data.

It is optimal for freelancers who build applications and home projects. You get some useful features even with the free version, including tools for management and development and Azure backup which ensures that your data can be safely restored at any time. Based on the user reviews, Microsoft SQL is fast, user-friendly and lets you manage your data with GUI and CLI as well.

If you compare it to MySQL, it turns out that more large businesses use Microsoft SQL, especially IT companies. However, this doesn’t change the fact that the free version gives access to all the useful features that can benefit small businesses and individuals, just like MySQL.

  1. PostgreSQL

Now PostgreSQL is not as popular as the previous two database software, but definitely a recommended one. They released the first version in 1997 so they don’t have as much experience as the bigger names, but there are numerous big companies that use it. For example, companies like Fujitsu, Red Hat, Capital One and Raytheon are all powered by this software.

As stated on their website, almost a third of the tech companies from all around the World use PostgreSQL to power their apps. The fact that this relational database has an open-software license can greatly benefit the companies. Every business has its own specific needs and PostgreSQL lets you change the code according to those needs. It also has several useful features such as foreign data wrappers, partitioned tables, triggers and table inheritance just to mention a few.

Based on the reviews, this software is a great tool if you want to store, process and extract a huge amount of data. If you take a look at who uses PostgreSQL, it turns out that this tool is rather popular among small and medium companies. Overall, this is surely one of the free database software that has tons satisfied users under its name.

Top 3 Free Document Databases

Now we are going to present you three document-oriented databases, or you can also call them document stores. These are basically computer software with the main purpose to store and manage document-oriented information. Document databases are also the most widely used NoSQL databases.

Most relational databases arrange the data into a table format using rows and columns like in Excel. This is not the case with document stores, as they are much more flexible. In document databases, you can use a high variety of data structures according to your needs. This flexibility makes them great tools for web developers that work with a huge amount of dynamic data.

You can get the following three open-source document databases for free. They are highly popular right now among businesses and individuals, but let’s see what each of them has to offer.

  1. MongoDB

MongoDB came out in 2009, which is definitely not old if you compare it to the other popular database software. People quickly noticed the potential in this database tool and it became so successful that more than 30 million users downloaded it so far. MongoDB is a perfect solution for any type of business that needs to store and manage data.

Huge companies like Bosch, Adobe, Nokia and EA rely on MongoDB when it comes to data management, performance and reliability. This open-source software works well on the most popular operating systems and platforms. They offer driver support for more than 10 programming languages such as C++, Java and Python.

MongoDB is mostly used by computer software and IT companies and the amount of downloads is evenly spread between small, medium and big companies. Despite the fact that this database software solution is free and has an open-source license, it is still one of the most reliable and robust tools out there.

Applications have evolved a lot in the past few years, and MongoDB is designed to meet the latest requirements of application developer teams that want to create powerful apps. It is fast, reliable and guarantees a seamless workflow.

  1. CouchDB

CouchDB came out back in 2005 and it started as a project funded by Damien Katz, a former IBM programmer. After two years, it became open-source software until Apache started supporting it as one of their Apache Software Foundation projects in 2008. Once they finished the project in 2010, they presented the first full version of CouchDB.

Based on the user reviews, CouchDB is completely user-friendly and has an extensive documentation that helps you master the database. It is a great solution for storing documents effectively while building applications. With this tool, any time you update the documents, it is quite straightforward so sync them with the database.

Therefore, what Apache focused on with CouchDB is to ensure a fast and continuous workflow for the users. This database software is also recommended for those who want to set up and run small APIs, store user info or website data, recommend products for customers, data replication and much more.

The latter examples represent what most businesses use CouchDB for. This database is mostly used by smaller businesses, because it is often not completely suitable for larger companies that work with a huge amount of data. Still, CouchDB is one of the highest rated database solutions in its category.

  1. DynamoDB

DynamoDB is one of the cloud software solutions offered by Amazon Web Services. You can get this database for free. However, if you overstep their limitations, you will need to pay some extra according to the resources you used. These limitations include a monthly cap of 200 million requests, 2.5 read requests and 25GB of storage space.

Then once you start to use it as a premium package, you will have plenty of ways to scale it up depending on your needs. Since DynamoDB is fully managed, there is no need to worry about administrative tasks. Amazon takes care of all the updates and configuration you need while making sure that you don’t run out of resources.

With their Management Console, you can keep track of pretty much everything that keeps your database alive. Another great thing in DynamoDB is that you can rely on full backups which are good for securing your data and keeping it archived. It is very easy to remove bits of data that you don’t need anymore, resulting in some extra free space.

DynamoDB is especially good in resource management. Since the database uses numerous servers to handle your data and traffic, it can always maintain high performance. This database software solution is definitely recommended for small and medium businesses.

Top 3 Free Graph Databases

If you are interested in another NoSQL option, here are the best three graph databases. These are all based on graph theory, using nodes and edges to structure the data. The nodes are entities, while the edges define the relationship between those entities.

In such structure, every node has its own identifier and a number of incoming or outgoing edges assigned to it. It is often much easier to process data this way, as graphs provide a straightforward way to represent complex interactions between the bits of information you work with.

Graph databases let you work with data stores where bits of data are directly linked together. In most cases, you only need a single operation to retrieve them. With a graph database, it is much easier to work with highly complicated hierarchical data structures than with any other relational software. Now we are going to show you three graph database software solutions that we mostly recommend. Keep reading!

  1. ArangoDB

First off, we are going to present you ArangoDB, the biggest name right now among graph database solutions. It is not solely a graph database, rather a mix of a graph and document-style software. This one actually fits into multiple categories, meaning that you get a graph database with huge flexibility.

ArangoDB is partly based on cluster datasets and it has useful features such as nested properties, distributed graphs and pattern matching. By choosing this database solution, you will be able to get an enormous amount of help from its extensive documentation, community and technical support. ArangoDB is developed by a team that has lots of experience in different types of databases and the result speaks for itself.

The learning curve is not steep at all. You can quickly get used to it and exploit all the benefits of this database, especially if you delve into their documentation. ArangoDB is recommended for those who want a NoSQL solution, but still want the benefits of SQL. This database ensures something that businesses need the most: high performance.

According to the vast majority of reviews, ArangoDB is perfect for small tech companies. Just take a look at the number of 5-star ratings it got and you will be immediately convinced.

  1. Neo4j

Another popular option when it comes to graph database solutions is Neo4j. It is significantly older than the previous one, being released in 2007 and been through a lot of improvements. This software is based on a query language called Cypher, which ensures a highly efficient and straightforward way to execute queries.

Now Neo4j is a database tool that fully fits into the graph database category, but it has some powerful add-ons for analysis, data management, and network and asset management as well. You can get this open-source database for free. If you want to take advantage of all the scalability options and backup, you should go for the premium version.

Free users are not eligible for technical support; however, the Neo4j community largely makes up for it. Since the software is highly popular right now, there are plenty of ways to find guides and documentation if you need help. The best thing about Neo4j is that it is beginner friendly, so it works well as a database solution for small businesses that don’t have much experience in all the IT technicalities.

This database tool is definitely recommended for those that want to understand and manage relational databases more easily. All in all, Neo4j is a flexible and user-friendly graph database that holds its ground among the highest rated databases right now.

  1. OrientDB

Being released in 2010, OrientDB is among the more recent database solutions on the Web. It became highly popular thanks to its versatility. It is basically a highly efficient mix of four different database models. You can use this software as a document, graph, object-oriented and key value database solution as well, making it quite a flexible option for businesses.

OrientDB comes with numerous features that make it stand out of the crowd. First off, the database is easy to use, especially for those who have experience in SQL. This database provides high performance right from the start. However, if you run out of resources, you can always scale it up by adding more servers.

If you start using OrientDB as a beginner, there is no need to worry. You can catch up with all the graph knowledge necessary by reading their documentation. For those companies that want to manage, analyze and implement large amount of complex data in a simple way, this database is a perfect choice. OrientDB is commonly used for big data analysis, developing newsfeeds (and other social media features) and web applications. Another great thing is its graph editor that visualizes the data and lets you manipulate it easily. This database software is rather popular in the document database category, but even more successful as a graph database. It is mostly recommended for small and medium IT or computer software companies.

Other Popular Free Databases

We have showed you the three main categories when it comes to database software. Those were the most widely used types, but there are many solutions that don’t fit into the three categories. Just to mention a few, there are flat-file, object-oriented, object-relational, wide-column and operational databases. These are still quite well-known, but there are many more.

You can find countless database software on the Internet. Usually, users that pick a NoSQL solution want more flexibility and a faster solution overall. They want the software to implement tasks and retrieve the data as fast as possible.

Since each business has its own specific needs, it is often a good idea to start experimenting with other types of database software. The following three database tools that we are going to show you definitely don’t fit into the three categories we started with. However, they are still among the more popular ones and we absolutely recommend you to try them out.

  1. Hive

If you want a good place to store and access your data at any time, you should give a shot to Hive. You can imagine it as a virtual warehouse that you can manage using a language called HiveQL. Its admin panel is similar to SQL and the whole database tool relies on Apache Hadoop, a software package created to manage and analyze huge amounts of data.

Hive can be applied to different types of databases and file systems that need to be structured and queried. It is widely used for storing and analyzing data to generate informative reports. HiveQL is designed in a way to work with numerous different data formats and on all types of backend. The database is scalable and it is easy to program when it comes to analysis and data management.

Hive is recommended for businesses that need to deal with complex tasks on a daily basis. The database lets you analyze and store your data in many different ways. Since we are talking about big-data storage and analysis, it is not surprising that mostly big companies use Hive as their database solution.

According to the reviews, this software can be really useful despite the fact that it is a bit slower and more complicated than the typical database solution. Its most useful features include data partitioning, optimization for logical plans and the ability to use external tables.

  1. Elasticsearch

Elasticsearch is multi-purpose software that came out in 2010. This one is rather intended to be a search engine. However, it gained a lot of popularity in the past few years as a NoSQL database solution as well. The Apache Software Foundation built it on top of Lucene, which is open-source software with the main function to retrieve information.

Numerous huge companies use Elasticsearch for their data stores, such as Kickstarter, Codecademy, Uber and Mozilla. This database tool is able to collect large amounts of data and makes it easier for these companies to discover certain trends and patterns in big data. You just need to add some documents and Elasticsearch will do the rest of the work. A cool thing in this search engine is that it supports multitenancy, meaning that the software is able to serve multiple users at the same time.

Other than that, you will be able to search in almost real-time. With Elasticsearch, you can get two tasks done at the same time: search and analytics. It is completely scalable, allowing you to run the database on your computer or a bunch of servers full of data while providing the same performance. Companies of all sizes are using Elasticsearch and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive across the Web.

  1. Cassandra

Cassandra was initially released by Facebook as open-source software back in 2008. Then in 2009, they handed it over to Apache and it became a huge project. The final, stable version of this NoSQL database was released a few months ago in 2018 February.

This database is currently one of the most scalable software options available on the Web. It is a great choice even for bigger companies that are working with high write speeds and need to query constantly. It has an exceptionally fast write ability that you can rely on. Cassandra is a decent alternative if you are looking for a database that can store high amounts of business data.

It is rather user-friendly, there are no complications whatsoever during its configuration. Another great thing is that you can run the database with the initial configuration for most tasks, no need for modifications. Cassandra is mostly preferred by tech companies of all sizes. It is important to note that this software is not the best choice if you want to use it on small databases.

Based on user feedbacks, it is far more complicated to use than other databases that specialize in small datasets. All in all, Cassandra is a top performer right now among the high-performance NoSQL databases that are designed to work with big data.

Wrapping it Up

As you can see, there are many options when it comes choosing a database, however it is always project dependent.  So choose wisely the database you want to use for your next project.

Also if you have any other suggestion, please comment below.


David Cross

David is the chief editor at WebHostingMedia right from the beginning. He has a great passion for building and managing websites and creating helpful content. He is also interested in programming - currently learning python.