Databases versus plain text

1) Concurrency. Do you have multiple people accessing the same dataset? Then it’s going to get pretty involved to broker all of the different readers and writers in a scalable fashion if you roll your own system.

2) Formatting and relationships: Is your data something that doesn’t fit neatly into a table structure? Long nucleotide sequences and stuff like that? That’s not really conveniently tabular data.

Another example: Nobody would consider implementing software like Photoshop to store PSDs in a relational format, because the data structures don’t really lend themselves to that type of storage or query pattern.

3) ACID (sort of a corollary to #1): If Atomicity, Consistency, Integrity, and Durability are not challenges with a flat file, then go with a flat file.

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