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Relational Vs. Time-Series Databases: Become an Expert in 20 Minutes

If you’re here, you already know how important data is for the health of your business. But even if you’re collecting tons of data—and tons of the right data—that doesn’t mean you’re storing that data correctly.

Efficient data storage can make all the difference in the world. Take a peek at our recent webinar where we dissect the costs and benefits of both relational and time-series databases.


Having the right data at your fingertips exactly when you need it will save you a ton of headaches down the road...and help you make big, impactful decisions a whole lot faster.

Below you’ll find a quick blow-by-blow of what we covered in our webinar—if you’d like to dive deeper, we highly recommend you take a look at the video. But without further ado...

We love energy data.

We’re a consultancy located in Honolulu, Hawaii—one of the world’s hotbeds for renewable energy growth, and a real proving ground for the type of remarkable software solutions we love to help our clients build.

Simply put, we love energy data; we also love helping businesses like yours collect, manage, and make sense of the energy data that drives your firm forward.

When solar firms are interested in storing energy data, they’re often presented with two choices—relational databases and time-series databases. So the next obvious question is...

How do you decide which type of database to choose?

Before you get into choosing a database for your energy data, you’ll need to ask yourself questions like:

  • Exactly what kind of data am I working with?
  • How much data will I need to store over time?
  • How will my team be accessing this data?
  • How will my data storage needs change over time?

That last question is a big one, as oftentimes technology decisions are based on what we know now.

So how do different types of databases affect the way you store and manage your priceless data?

Relational databases versus time-series databases

In a relational database, data represents the current state of an entity. These types of databases are good for:

  • Content management systems
  • Storing transactional data
  • Storing data that needs to be updated over time
  • Long-term storage

For example, an online ticket booking company might use a relational database. A seat on an airplane is either booked or not booked—this type of database is storing the state (booked/not booked) of an entity (a seat).

With energy data, we’re more concerned with analytics than the state of any given group of data. While relational databases are great at displaying the current state of your data, it’s not so great at telling you the history of your data—and your energy data’s history is crucial.

This is where time-series databases are useful. You might use a time-series database for:

  • Monitoring systems over time
  • Analytical/reporting data
  • Append-only changes (write once, read many)
  • Short-lived data sets

In this type of database, you’re able to visualize the change of state over time. In fact, data stored in a time-series database is always related by time.

When you’re looking at, say, 50 solar monitoring feeds, you’re more concerned with the change in data over time, rather than the current reading at any given point of the day.

So which one should your business choose—relational or time-series?

We use both.

Both types of database have their uses. When we’re building an application for a client, we typically use both.

When your business needs large-scale systems with multiple end users, stakeholders and data types (as most renewable energy businesses do), you’re usually going to be in a position where both relational and time-series databases have a role to play.

For example, your data scientist who is concerned with analyzing and aggregating data over time would find a time-series database extremely useful. Meanwhile, your system engineer who’s checking to see how many of your monitoring devices are currently collecting data would be grateful for a relational database. Luckily, you can have both.

If being able to efficiently wrangle all of your business’ data in a way that pleases everyone in your business, chat with one of our specialists today—renewable energy software is literally all we do.