In this blog, we’re walking you through the upsides and downsides in NULLs in MySQL – have a read!
Everyone has heard about
NULL values – one can hardly find a DBA or any developer that didn’t make use or seen such values in his work. Part of that is because
NULL values signify the absence of something – but another part of it may be attributed to the fact that we only see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to them. In this blog, we will tell you everything you need to know about
NULL values in MySQL and beyond.
What Are NULL Values?
NULL values are just what you think they are – a string signifying nothing existing in a column.
NULL values are frequently implemented into any table in a very simple and straightforward manner – a query like so will do:
1 CREATE TABLE demo_table ( 2 `column_1` VARCHAR(25) [NOT] NULL [DEFAULT…] 3 );
Such a query can be modified to let a table know that whenever any data is inserted into that column, it should or shouldn’t be
NULL with a default value of X (the default value can also be
NULL which is beneficial in some cases.)
You get it –
NULL values exist to signify a user that no value exists in a column. As easy as that. Don’t confuse it with the column being empty though – empty values and
NULL values are not the same as you will soon find out.
How to Work with NULL Values?
Fortunately or not, all developers and DBAs will encounter
NULL values during some course of their work – and for that, they must know how to properly work with those values. It is wise to follow a couple of key rules:
Keeping these things in mind, we can move further. The first thing you need to know is that you cannot compare
NULL values since all and any comparisons with
NULL will equal to
NULL. Thus, getting a valid result is simply impossible.
Second very important thing to note that users who search for
NULL should search for such values without comparison or equality operators and instead, use
IS NULL or
IS NOT NULL operators.
NULL values can however be very beneficial for those who work with analytical or other data because employing them together with default values (e.g. specifying the default value of a column to be
NULL instead of some other value) can help users save time and know what to expect once data is inserted into their database – if no data would be inserted, the results of the column would be
NULL and queries like
LOAD DATA INFILE would be significantly faster on columns having the
NULL value if we compare those kinds of queries with queries like
UPDATE that we would need to run after inserting the data itself.
Those who work with partitions and need
NULL values should be vary of the fact that MySQL does not prevent users from using
NULL as part of a partitioning expression, yet all of the values containing
NULL will always be inserted into the lowest partition possible. We won’t get into the nitty-gritty detail around this, but those who are interested in the specifics should have a read through How MySQL Partitioning Handles NULL over in the documentation.
NULL does not equal “nothing” and contrary to a popular belief,
NULL queries will occupy data on the disk, so if you’re concerned about that, please set the default value of your columns to be empty (“”) or
Other Things to Know
Aforementioned things are pretty much everything you need to know about
NULL values in a couple of paragraphs – however, there are other things you should do to empower your database instances, no matter which kind of DBMS you find yourself running.
One of those things is the usage of SQL clients like DbVisualizer – as a SQL client, DbVisualizer is used by notable companies such as NASA, Google, Tesla, Saab and others, and it can help you work with any database management system you desire. With its powerful features each crafted to be able to solve the most pressing real-world database problems faced by developers and DBAs alike, DbVisualizer is a great choice for CEOs, team leaders, or engineers alike.
NULL values in various database management systems and especially MySQL are treated differently – partitions insert them into the lowest partition possible, equality operations are not possible, and nothing isn’t the same as
NULL either – with that said,
NULL values can be very beneficial in some cases: wield their sword powerfully enough, and you will surely benefit from all of the upsides they provide to DBAs and developers alike.
We hope that this blog has been informational and that you will explore our blog for more information in the future, and until next time!