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Self-hosting your database: what are the pros and cons?

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This article will be interesting for those considering one or more of the following:

  • Building a database themselves
  • No-code databases
  • Self-hosting a database on-premises
  • Technical vs. no-code databases

Is it better to self-host your database or let it live in the cloud?

Both options have many pros and cons, but what’s right for you depends on your company, industry vertical, regulations, and resources.

At first glance, cloud-hosting might seem like the right choice. After all, it’s a cost-effective solution that enables access to top tech talent and cutting-edge technology with zero capital expenditure.

However, before committing, you must look at different variables, including the type of database, compliance requirements, and future goals.

Before we dive right into the key differences between hosting and database options, let’s define them.

What is a self-hosted database?

Self-hosting is exactly what it sounds like. You host an application on a server you control and host the database on-premises or on a rented server in a data centre. Whether it’s a highly technical database like PostgreSQL and MySQL or a no-code database like Airtable and Baserow, you can store enterprise data in-house.

In this scenario, you’ll oversee the administration and maintenance of your own server (usually on-premises). You have complete control of all your data and services, and you don’t have to depend on third-party providers.

Pros of self-hosting include:

  • Configuration controls
  • Improved security
  • No vendor lock-in
  • Speed

Cons of self-hosting include:

  • Not easily scalable
  • Not as adaptable (as cloud hosting options)
  • Can be resource-intensive
  • Ongoing operational overheads
  • Technical knowhow to setup and maintain it

What is a cloud-hosted database?

Cloud-hosting allows your database to live on the cloud. This approach enables seamless access to your database from anywhere. With total managed hosting services from companies like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Digital Ocean, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), you really don’t have to do much. However, both AWS and GCP offer more functionality that most people don’t need, and can cause some confusion for the inexperienced.

Pros of cloud-hosting include:

  • Affordability
  • Adaptability
  • Demands less technical expertise (compared to self-hosting)
  • Improved utilisation of resources
  • Scalability

Cons of cloud-hosting include:

  • No configuration controls
  • Recurring costs
  • Security
  • Vendor lock-in (depending on the type of database, for example, Airtable is more difficult to migrate away than MySQL and Baserow)

While cloud-hosted databases are popular, in highly regulated industries like finance, you might not have the option of storing sensitive customer data externally. Businesses that want more control over privacy and security protocols also depend on self-hosting. This approach helps enterprises ensure that security best practices are followed consistently. You also don’t have to depend on a third-party to secure your sensitive data.

What is a no-code database?

In software development, the concept of no-code relates to quickly building applications without engaging in programming. The no-code approach essentially decouples both programming languages and related syntax from logic.

No code databases are more like enterprise apps that sit on top of the database engine. This approach helps to make database creation and management more user-friendly for non-technical users. For example, it’s like Microsoft Access back in the day where non-techy users leveraged the graphical user interface to build tables, queries, and views.

No code database apps today concentrate on the same user-base. They allow business users to create powerful databases using user-friendly tools. It’s essentially a visual approach that enables and accelerates database creation. All you must do is leverage the drag-and-drop pre-configured blocks to build a robust database.

What is a technical or advanced database?

Technical or advanced databases describe modern incarnations of relational databases (like SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle Database, and PostgreSQL) and non-relational or NoSQL databases (like Apache Cassandra, CouchDB, CouchBase, and MongoDB). We call these databases “technical,” as you need some programming and domain-specific knowledge to use them.

Others include object-oriented databases (like ObjectStore, and Wakanda), wide column databases (like BigTable and Scylla), key-value databases (like Amazon DynamoDB and Redis), and document databases (like Amazon DocumentDB and Apache CouchDB).

Hosting a technical database vs. no-code database

Self-hosting highly advanced databases like PostgreSQL isn’t straightforward. You would need at least a database administrator to set up and maintain the Postgres database on-premises. For example, you’ll need an experienced professional to install, configure the server, establish authentication and proxy services, create user profiles, and maintain it.

No code, open-source databases like Baserow make the initial setup, hosting, and maintenance a breeze. You don’t have to hang around the IT department begging for favours, and you don’t have to wait too long before your project is up and running.

Baserow, an Airtable alternative, is a no-code database app that you can run without ever leaving your browser. If you host Baserow on your own server, you don’t have to worry about any vendor lock-in. If you have some developers in your team, you can quickly build custom plugins to better suit your business needs.

Even if you have a ton of rows, you won’t ever have to compromise on speed. Best of all, as Baserow is browser-based and user-friendly, you won’t have to hire any data engineers to use it.

If you decide to self-host your Baserow database, all you must do is deploy it on Cloudron, Heroku, or Ubuntu. You can leverage the self-hosted database application builder to get your project off the ground in no time.

Alternatively, instead of self hosting, you can setup your Baserow database using the hosted version, where your database is hosted for you. All you have to do is create an account, register, and start building your database. While you don’t need a data science degree to use it, it’ll help to have a basic understanding of relational databases to get the most out of the platform.

If you’re wondering if no-code databases are right for your business, we can help. Reach out for more information. Or, if you want to have a general chat about Baserow and self-hosting, feel free to engage our users in the Baserow community forum.

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