MySQL is an SQL Database Server. Let's analyze each of these terms to help us define what exactly MySQL is.
A server is a piece of software that runs in the background on a computer. It is built to keep running and executing specific tasks. All the way through this book, you will deal with two different servers: HTTP servers and MySQL servers.
A database is a structured collection of data. It may be anything from the task list you use everyday, to information about the global population. A database is structured in a way that allows you to retrieve information easily and quickly depending on the kind of data it stores. You would not store a list of recipes the same way a big company will store its customer information. But the point these two databases have in common is that the information is easy to find and use.
MySQL is a relational database management system. An RDBMS defines relations between data structures. A relation between two data structures is a way to construct new virtual structures in a way that will enforce some constraints or conditions. This will help the user to construct a robust application. Most of the operations we will describe in this book are relational operations.
SQL stands for "Structured Query Language". The SQL language, which is commonly used on database software, will let you talk in a human-friendly way to the server to retrieve information from your database and manipulate the data in it. You may find many other flavors of SQL database server, for example Oracle, IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, but they will all speak the same basic language: SQL.
Advantages of MySQL
MySQL has some advantages and disadvantages when compared to other databases. Let's take a look at some of them:
Disadvantages of MySQL
MySQL is not perfect. Its main disadvantage is that it lacks some of the more advanced features found on commercial database systems, which are also found on some of the other free database systems, like PostgreSQL. However, we won't need those features for the type of application that we're considering in this book.
Where To Get MySQL
MySQL can be obtained from many web sites and FTP servers. However, the official homepage for MySQL is http://www.mysql.com. Here you will be able to choose your operating system, choose the closest mirror to you, and choose between an HTTP or FTP transfer when you download.
On MySQL.com you will find a number of files available for download:
There are many good products available to download for use with MySQL, we will review some of them at the end of the chapter.