Types of Databases Explained


Relational, non-relational, object-based. These are all types of database management systems. Surprised? Don’t be. Confused? Read this article!

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All developers are aware of database management systems. There’s a whole host of them, really — relational database management systems store data in a row-based table structure and connect data elements via normalization or other measures, non-relational database management systems store data as documents and JSON arrays instead. Whatever the case, every developer has to work with databases in his or her life. That’s why understanding the types of them available to use is so crucial to any database administrator. Read on and find out everything there is to know!

What are the Available Types of Databases?

There are multiple types of database management systems. The database management system types are as follows:

Relational Database Management System (RDBMS)Such types of databases store data in a row-based table structure.
Non-relational Database Management System (Non-relational DBMS)Such types of database management systems store data as documents. Data is provided as a JSON array.
Object-based relational database management system (ORDBMS)Such database management systems are similar to relational databases, but they do have an object-oriented database model instead, hence the name.
Cloud databasesSuch types of databases have to do with cloud-based services. Think Google Cloud, AWS, Microsoft Azure, and the like.
Centralized databasesSuch databases serve as “centers” for something larger — think about a central library that has data of each library in school, etc.
Network-based databasesNetwork databases follow the network data model — data is represented as nodes with links between them.
Personal databasesSuch databases are usually designed for a single user and usually live on a local system.
Distributed databasesA distributed database is a database that has its data distributed between different database management systems.
Hierarchical databasesSuch databases store all of the provided data in a “hierarchy” — e.g. a tree-like structure.

Most Popular Databases

Putting all kinds of databases aside, three types of databases take the cake. Those are relational database management systems (RDBMS), non-relational database management systems, and cloud data stores.

According to DB-Engines, the most popular relational databases are Oracle, MySQL, and MS SQL, followed by an object-relational DBMS PostgreSQL, which is followed by a non-relational database MongoDB. After them, we have Redis and Elasticsearch.

Each of those databases have use cases specific to them — Oracle databases are used for enterprise resource planning, streamlining business processes and financial operations, MySQL is one of the most widely used databases in the world and its use cases are related to ACID compliance, support for XML and JSON, as well as applications requiring multiple / different database engines. The same goes for SQL Server. PostgreSQL is unique for having a very wide variety of data types to choose from — data types offered by PostgreSQL include but are not limited to numeric data types, monetary types, character data types, binary data types, date and datetime data types, the boolean data type, enumeration-based data types, geometric data types, and other types.

PostgreSQL indeed has a very extensive list of data types since this database management system also includes support for network address data types such as inet, cidr, macaddr, and macaddr8, bit string types, text search types such as text search vector (tsvector) and text search query (tsquery) data types, XML data types, JSON data types, array data types, composite and range data types, and even pseudo-data types. PostgreSQL is the only database management system that has such a wide array of data types — its pseudo data types can be used to declare an argument within a function. Pseudo-datatypes begin with the keyword any: those include any, anyelement, anyarray, anynonarray, anyenum, anyrange, and other data types.

What Database Type to Choose?

Now that you know your way around databases and their types, you will be pondering around concerned which database type is the best for your specific use case. And the answer to this question is pretty straightforward!

Look at the table above — pretty much all of the answers you need are contained within that table. That means that for most general use cases you would choose from relational database management systems (MySQL, MariaDB, their brother Percona Server, and the like), if you need your data stored as a JSON array or as documents you would choose non-relational databases like MongoDB, if you need support for a lot of data types you would choose object-relational database management systems fit for that specific purpose (hint: that’s PostgreSQL), and for most other use cases, cloud-based database management systems like AWS and the like would help you.

What SQL Client to Choose?

After choosing a database management system, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t suggest you also choose a proper SQL client.

We would be ashamed not to recommend an industry-standard, highest-user-rated SQL client on the market, DbVisualizer. DbVisualizer will not only help you run standard SQL queries — it will also act as your personal assistant when visualizing your most precious data sets and provide you with powerful ERD capabilities.

Even companies like Netflix, Tesla, and NASA have DbVisualizer as their prided SQL client of choice — will you? DbVisualizer follows stringent security standards like NIST and ISO27001, and we also have a special 21-day free trial just for you! Just click here and you’ll be on your way to database heaven.


In this blog, we’ve walked you through various types of databases available to developers and database administrators alike. No matter if you’re a novice or an expert, this blog we hope that this blog has provided you with some valuable information in regards to the next steps in your database journey.

Take from this advice what you can, stay tuned for more blogs, and until next time!

Frequently Asked Questions

What do the terms DBMS, RDBMS, and ORDBMS mean?

These terms refer to the type of the database:

  • DBMS means “Database Management System”
  • RDBMS adds “relational” to the mix, so “Relational Database Management System”
  • ORDBMS adds “object” to the mix, so “Object Relational Database Management System”

Why should I use an SQL client?

You should consider using SQL clients like the one built by DbVisualizer because they are built to help you with a wide variety of different database-related tasks and activities from SQL queries to ERD diagrams.

What database management system should I choose?

Choose MySQL for most general use cases, if you want a non-relational DBMS, have a look into MongoDB, and if you’re after cloud-based solutions, look into Amazon Redshift or the like.

Why are there so many databases available in the first place?

There are multiple available types of database management systems due to industry demands. Every database management system is built differently to solve different problems — some are famous for one thing, others have a name because of another thing: they all solve industry issues.

Where can I find an up-to-date rating of the most popular databases?

Look into DB-Engines.

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About the author
Lukas Vileikis
Lukas Vileikis is an ethical hacker and a frequent conference speaker. He runs one of the biggest & fastest data breach search engines in the world -, frequently speaks at conferences and blogs in multiple places including his blog over at
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