When it comes to choosing a relational database management system (RDBMS) for your application or project, two popular options that often come up are PostgreSQL and Microsoft SQL Server (MSSQL). Both are powerful, feature-rich databases that have been around for decades and have garnered a significant following among developers and database administrators.

PostgreSQL vs SQL Server? While PostgreSQL is an open-source database renowned for its standards compliance, extensibility, and powerful features tailored for complex queries and large-scale operations, SQL Server, a Microsoft product, is celebrated for its seamless integration with other Microsoft products, exceptional performance, and comprehensive support.

This detailed comparison delves into the core of PostgreSQL and SQL Server, examining their features, performance, security and also their similarities. Weigh in all the factors to choose the right database!

Introduction to PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL logo - PostgreSQL vs SQL Server

PostgreSQL is a widely acclaimed open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) that extends the SQL language with a rich set of features. Renowned for its robustness and versatility, PostgreSQL is well-equipped to handle complex data workloads and scale seamlessly to meet evolving demands.

Introduction to SQL Server

SQL Server Logo - PostgreSQL vs SQL Server

SQL Server is a relational database management system (RDBMS) developed and marketed by Microsoft. It is designed to store and retrieve data as requested by other software applications, which may run either on the same computer or on another computer across a network.

Also you can check our article on PostgreSQL vs MySQL.

Major Differences between PostgreSQL and SQL Server

Many factors cause the PostgreSQL server versus the SQL server situation. This portion of the article sheds light on things to consider when choosing between the two products.

PostgreSQL vs SQL Server: History and Release Updates


Originating from the University of California, Berkeley in 1986, PostgreSQL made its debut in 1989 as an open-source relational database management system. Since its initial release, PostgreSQL has undergone numerous significant updates, with the project consistently delivering regular releases under an open-source license. The current version, PostgreSQL 16, was introduced in September 2023 and has been followed by periodic minor releases. Previous major versions of PostgreSQL receive support for five years after their initial launch.

SQL Server

Developed by Microsoft, SQL Server first saw the light of day in 1989 and has since experienced regular new releases. Microsoft SQL Server 2022, the current version, was made available in November 2022. Older versions, starting from SQL Server 2008, continue to receive support from Microsoft. Starting with SQL Server 2016, the product is supported exclusively on x64 processors. It requires a minimum processor speed of 1.4 GHz, though a speed of 2.0 GHz or faster is recommended.

PostgreSQL Vs SQL Server: Platform Support 


Users eager to learn which operating system will effectively run the PostgreSQL server can now check the eligible OS: Windows Win2000 SP4 and later versions, Mac OS X, AIX, IRIX, Solaris, Tru64, Unix, UnixWare, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD. 

SQL Server

The SQL server is not left out of the picture as the compatible operating systems are Linux, Microsoft Server, and Microsoft Windows.

PostgreSQL Vs SQL Server: Programming Language Support 


There is a large difference between the programming languages that the PostgreSQL server supports and that of the SQL server. The programming languages supported by the PostgreSQL server are Python, Tcl, Net, C, C++, Delphi, Java, JavaScript (Node.js), and Perl. 

SQL Server

With regards to the SQL server, the various programming languages supported by the server are JavaScript, PHP, and C#. 

PostgreSQL Vs SQL Server: Features 

Features of PostgreSQL Server

  • There is no cost for downloading the program as it is open-source and can be gotten from the PostgreSQL website.
  • Numerous operating systems can effectively run the program. A number of these systems are Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, UNIX (AIX, BSD, HP-UX, Solaris, etc.
  • Several of the existing programming languages can run on this server. They include Python, Tcl, Net, C, C++, Delphi, Java, JavaScript (Node.js), and Perl. 
  • This server is a perfect fit for data integrity and supports Primary Keys, Secondary Keys, UNIQUENOT NULL, EXPLICIT LOCKS, Advisory Locks, and Exclusion Constraints.

Features of SQL Server

  • The SQL server is characterized by its high-performance ability, especially in dealing with the great workload. It proffers multiple ways to interpret data more analytically.
  • High availability is another feature associated with the SQL server. The server accepts databases like Microsoft SQL Server, MS Access, Oracle Database, SAP HANA, SAP Adaptive Server.
  • This server offers scalability and Flexibility. It is truly simple to build new tables, and recently built or not operated tables can be dropped or eliminated in a database.
  • SQL Server can manage big records and handle various transactions.

PostgreSQL vs SQL Server: Server Licensing Model


PostgreSQL takes an open-source approach. It’s free to use for any purpose, including commercial applications. There are no licensing fees involved, and the software is freely available under the PostgreSQL License, an approved Open Source Initiative license.

SQL Server

SQL Server, on the other hand, is a Microsoft commercial product. It requires purchasing a license, which can be done in two ways:

  • Per-core model: This approach bases the cost on the number of processor cores used by the SQL Server installation.
  • Server and CAL model (Client Access License): Here, you license the server software itself and then purchase CALs for each client device that needs to access the database.

SQL Server comes in two main editions:

  • Enterprise Edition: This is the more feature-rich option, designed for high-performance environments.
  • Standard Edition: This is a more affordable option with a smaller feature set, suitable for less demanding needs.

Important note: While SQL Server is primarily commercial, a free version exists for students and developers. This allows them to build and test applications using SQL Server without incurring licensing costs.

PostgreSQL Vs SQL Server: Scalability 

The capacity to scale up a database to allow it to contain growing sums of data without cutting short performance is scalability. For both servers, the provision for scalability varies and are as follows:


PostgreSQL offers several features that assist the building of a scalable solution. But, although the scalability of the server can be questioned, it can adequately employ the tools of a machine. It employs several CPU cores to enforce one query quicker with the parallel feature. 

SQL Server

SQL Server is scalable, but its ability to be scalability is dependent on what is being used. Scaling the server is doable, but the infrastructure required for this action is to be in place. There is also a Hyperscale feature, which means the upper and lower limit can be included and can therefore scale upwards and downward per your taste. 

PostgreSQL Vs SQL Server: Performance 


In tuning the PostgreSQL server for a heightened performance rate, the developer must be careful about writing queries in the application. Paying heed to performance while writing database queries is very necessary.

SQL Server

However, the tuning process of the SQL Server is normally the responsibility of a Database Administrator and, sometimes, developers. The tuning process is in place to ensure the smooth running of an application in the shortest possible period.

PostgreSQL vs SQL Server: Syntax Differences

FeaturePostgreSQLSQL Server
Aliasing TablesSELECT c.column_name FROM table_name cSELECT c.column_name FROM table_name AS c
Handling Null ValuesSELECT COALESCE(column_name, 'default_value');SELECT ISNULL(column_name, 'default_value');
CASE StatementCASE WHEN condition THEN result ... ELSE result ENDCASE WHEN condition THEN result ... ELSE result END
Regex MatchingSELECT column_name FROM table_name WHERE column_name ~ '^pattern';SELECT column_name FROM table_name WHERE column_name LIKE '^pattern';
Window FunctionsSELECT column_name, RANK() OVER (ORDER BY column_name) FROM table_name;SELECT column_name, RANK() OVER (ORDER BY column_name) FROM table_name;
Handling JSON DataSELECT column_name->>'json_key' FROM table_name;SELECT JSON_VALUE(column_name, '$.json_key') FROM table_name;
Table Aliases in JOINsSELECT * FROM table1 t1 JOIN table2 t2 ON t1.column = t2.column;SELECT * FROM table1 t1 JOIN table2 t2 ON t1.column = t2.column;

PostgreSQL Vs SQL Server: Query Language and Syntax 

PostgreSQL server performs a list of SQL statements, replacing the sum of the previous query in the list. In the simple case, the initial row of the previous query’s sum shall be reinstated. However, if the previous query does not bring back any row, the last sum will appear in its place.

An SQL statement is made up of tokens, and every token signifies a keyword, identifier, quoted identifier, constant, or special character symbol. The table below adopts a simple SELECT statement to demonstrate a basic but complete SQL statement and its components.

Some of the PostgreSQL SQL commands include: 


Abort the current transaction.


Change the definition of an aggregate function.

ALTER AGGREGATE name ( type ) RENAME TO new_name
ALTER AGGREGATE name ( type ) OWNER TO new_owner

Change the definition of a conversion.


Change a database specific parameter.

ALTER DATABASE name SET parameter { TO | = } { value | DEFAULT }

With regards to the SQL server, the SQL or Structured Query Language is a language for programming the data kept in relational databases. SQL functions in easy, declarative statements, and this ensures the accuracy and integrity of databases, no matter the size.

A show of the common commands used for this server is below: 


ALTER TABLE table_name 
ADD column_name datatype;

ALTER TABLE lets you add columns to a table in a database.


SELECT column_name(s)
FROM table_name
WHERE column_1 = value_1
AND column_2 = value_2;

AND is an operator that combines two conditions. Both conditions must be true for the row to be included in the result set.


SELECT column_name AS 'Alias'
FROM table_name;

AS is a keyword in SQL that allows you to rename a column or table using a moniker.


SELECT AVG(column_name)
FROM table_name;

AVG() is an aggregate function that returns the average value for a numeric column.


SELECT column_name(s)
FROM table_name
WHERE column_name BETWEEN value_1 AND value_2;

The BETWEEN the operator is utilized to filter the result set within a specific range. The values can be numbers, text, or dates.

PostgreSQL vs SQL Server: Replication

PostgreSQL Replication

PostgreSQL features Primary-Secondary replication with options for synchronous or asynchronous replication. Asynchronous replication utilizes write-ahead logs (WALs) to propagate changes to replica nodes. Streaming replication ensures standby servers receive immediate updates by streaming WALs as they are generated. In contrast, logical replication operates on data’s replication identity, like a primary key, rather than its physical location. While PostgreSQL lacks native multi-master replication, third-party tools provide solutions for this.

SQL Server Replication

SQL Server provides three types of replication:

  • Transactional replication for server-to-server scenarios, delivering changes from publisher to subscriber in real-time.
  • Merge replication suitable for server-to-client environments or conflict-prone situations, allowing changes on both publisher and subscriber to synchronize later.
  • Snapshot replication ideal for infrequently updated data, distributing data exactly as it appears at a specific time.

SQL Server’s replication can be synchronous-commit or asynchronous commit. Additionally, the Enterprise edition offers peer-to-peer replication as an alternative to multi-master replication.

PostgreSQL vs SQL Server: Concurrency


PostgreSQL excels at managing concurrent access to data using Multi-Version Concurrency Control (MVCC). This means multiple processes can work with the database simultaneously without causing conflicts. Here’s how it works:

  • Snapshots: When a process queries data, MVCC provides a snapshot of that data as it existed at the start of the query. This ensures the process works with consistent information, even if another process updates the data while the query is running.
  • Serializable Snapshot Isolation (SSI): This ensures that transactions appear to be isolated from each other, preventing issues like “dirty reads” (seeing uncommitted changes).

SQL Server

SQL Server defaults to a more traditional approach to concurrency control. It relies on data locking, where a process acquires a lock on a specific piece of data while it’s being modified. This ensures no other process can change that data until the lock is released.

However, SQL Server also offers an optimistic concurrency feature. This assumes conflicts are unlikely and avoids upfront locking. When a process tries to update data, it checks if the data has changed since it was last retrieved. If there’s a conflict, the update fails, and the process can handle the error appropriately.

PostgreSQL vs SQL Server: Data Types

Data TypePostgreSQLSQL Server

PostgreSQL Vs SQL Server: Connectors and Integration Support 


The PostgreSQL connector demands an ADO.NET provider. The minimum PostgreSQL database version that is supported is version 9.4. 

SQL Server

On the other hand, the SQL server accepts both trusted and untrusted operating systems, file systems, and other hardware architecture that comply with the product’s documentation. Little or no technical support will be provided for SQL server software used in unsupported operating systems, file systems, and other hardware platforms. 

PostgreSQL Vs SQL Server: Security Features 


The PostgreSQL server provides encryption at various levels and provides flexibility in protecting data from disclosure due to the case of an insecure network. 

SQL Server

Meanwhile, the SQL server is built to be a safe database platform. To this effect, it contains numerous features that can encrypt data, reduce authorization and safeguard data from unscrupulous activities.

PostgreSQL Vs SQL Server: Pricing 

The PostgreSQL server is published under the OSI-certified PostgreSQL license. Hence, there is no fee for the use of this product. This, however, is not the case with SQL Server. SQL is a premium database product. Since the SQL Server 2012 went to a core-based licensing model, its price set by Microsoft remains constant. Currently, the SQL Server Enterprise Edition is valued at $7,128 per core. 

Problems Encountered in the Use of PostgreSQL Server

  • Primary PostgreSQL Node Failure
  • PostgreSQL Replica Node Failure
  • PostgreSQL Replication Failure
  • PostgreSQL Data Corruption

Problems Encountered in the Use of SQL Server

  • Poor Design Decisions
  • Indexes
  • Bad Code
  • Object Relational Mapping

PostgreSQL vs SQL Server: Which Database should you choose?

In conclusion, the decision to choose between PostgreSQL and SQL Server as your database management system ultimately depends on your specific requirements, budget constraints, existing infrastructure, and the expertise within your organization.

If cost is a significant factor, and you require a cross-platform solution with a strong focus on open-source technologies, PostgreSQL may be the preferred choice. However, if you have the budget, operate within a primarily Microsoft-centric environment, and require advanced features and support options, SQL Server, especially the Enterprise edition, could be the better fit.

Ultimately, the right choice depends on your specific needs:

  • Opt for PostgreSQL if you need advanced data types, custom functions, and a cost-effective solution.
  • Choose SQL Server if you require deep integration with Microsoft services, enterprise features, and professional support.

Read more about PostgreSQL Full Text Search.

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Isola Saheed Ganiyu
Technical Content Writer, Hevo Data

Isola is a freelance writer specializing in the domains of data integration and data analysis. He has a passion towards creating engaging and educational content, breaking down these sophisticated subjects for easily understanding.

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