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Which Database Platform is Best to Know for GIS?

Databases are the backbone of any GIS system. They are the “I” in GIS. This means that a knowledge of databases (particularly the software used to manage them) should be somewhere in your repertoire. And by “knowledge,” I mean learn the basics of a database system. How to access a table. How to make a query. How to log in. These are all considered basic skills. When you finally get that GIS job you want, you’ll likely either need to link map files on your desktop or from the Internet to records stored in a database. Or you’ll need to store all of your data records, including map files, in a database management system. Of course, knowing how to operate one database platform doesn’t mean you’re automatically familiar with all of them. Regardless, knowing even one DBMS gives you two advantages: 1) It shows an employer that you’re familiar with the concepts of a DBMS.  2) It shows an employer you can learn how to work with different database platforms.

I’ll bet you’re wondering this: “Which database system should I become familiar with?” A more important question to ask is this: “Which database system CAN I become familiar with?”…

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3 Responses to “Which Database Platform is Best to Know for GIS?”

  • Tony says:

    Good article. I utilize MySQL in our current schema and am about to switch over to MapServer utilizing postgresql with postgis. I have run into MapServer on both a windows and linux platform and can attest to its useability and scalability as compared to either Oracle or SQL Server; throw in the price tag of all concerned, especially nowadays, and your folks we will soon realize the benefits of opensource.

  • Jason says:

    It would be worth mentioning that Oracle will allow you use their DBMS for developing, testing, prototyping and demonstrating your application. This provides some flexibility to aspiring young database managers to learn the Oracle technology.

  • John says:

    The same goes for Microsoft. They offer SQL Server Express, which is nearly identical to SQL Server Standard or Enterprise and well utilized by ESRI and other GIS application vendors.

    Also the fact is that if you can become familiar with one database platform, transitioning to another one is not that difficult. I learned database design and development using Microsoft Access 1.0 and transitioned to SQL Server easily. From there I later transitioned to Oracle and MySQL as needed.

    So it’s not really a question of what single platform to learn. It’s more important to learn the basics of how to setup and use a relational database management system (RDBMS) and get it talking to your GIS system. The management GUIs and feature sets of each platform differ a bit, but the core RDBMS features and SQL language are similar enough to make it easy for you to transition to whatever database platform your employer uses when the time comes.

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