Mastering PostgreSQL for Developers

February 3, 2024

The Complete Guide to Unleashing the Power of Postgres

Table of Contents

  • Introduction - In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the robust world of PostgreSQL (Postgres), exploring its powerful features, its differences compared to other database systems, and how to harness its capabilities fully.
  • What is Postgres - PostgreSQL, often called Postgres, is an open-source object-relational database management system (ORDBMS) emphasizing extensibility and SQL compliance. Initially released in 1996, Postgres has since become one of the preferred choices for developers when managing and interacting with data.
  • How Postgres Differs from MySQL, AWS RDS, and Other Databases - Postgres differs from MySQL and other databases in various significant ways. While MySQL is often lauded for its speed and efficiency, Postgres's advanced feature set and emphasis on standards compliance, data integrity, and robustness make it a preferred choice for complex, enterprise-level applications.
  • Working with Postgres - Understand its robust features and functionalities, such as its support for various data types, JSON, and efficient indexing mechanism. 
  • Accessing Postgres Remotely - One popular way of accessing a Postgres database remotely is by creating an SSH tunnel. Other methods include using pgAdmin, a feature-rich PostgreSQL administration tool, and PostgreSQL's native psql command-line interface.
  • Common Challenges with Remote Access - Accessing a PostgreSQL database remotely can offer great flexibility and convenience for developers. However, it comes with its own set of challenges and potential issues. These issues can range from network problems and security concerns to configuration and permission issues.
  • Overcoming Remote Access Challenges with Remote.It - is a platform that offers secure remote connectivity to your devices and services, including databases like PostgreSQL. It creates private secure connections that enable users to access their services from anywhere without waiting for network configuration changes.
  • 10 Postgres Tips and Tricks Every Developer Should Know - Postgres is a powerful, open-source object-relational database system favored for its robustness and wide range of features. To help you harness its full potential, we've compiled a list of ten essential tips and tricks that every Postgres developer should know.
  • Summary

This guide offers a comprehensive understanding of PostgreSQL, exploring its strengths, differentiating it from other databases, and addressing how to overcome its associated challenges. It also provides practical tips and tricks to enhance efficiency when working with Postgres. By mastering these aspects, you can fully harness the capabilities of Postgres and leverage them to build robust, high-performance applications.


For developers, few skills are as coveted as the ability to leverage the power of PostgreSQL. As one of the most advanced open source database systems available today, PostgreSQL offers an unparalleled mix of performance, robustness, and flexibility for building modern data-driven applications.

However, realizing PostgreSQL's full potential requires mastering its unique capabilities. This comprehensive guide aims to take you from beginner to expert by diving into PostgreSQL's advanced features, examining how it differs from alternatives like MySQL, and providing actionable tips for accessing, optimizing, and securing your PostgreSQL databases.

Whether you're looking to optimize legacy applications or build new products from the ground up, advancing your PostgreSQL skills will provide a key competitive advantage. With the sheer volume of business data increasing exponentially each year, the demand for PostgreSQL experts will only grow. This guide equips you with the knowledge needed to join the ranks of elite PostgreSQL developers.

Follow along for intuitive explanations of PostgreSQL concepts, hands-on examples you can apply immediately, and expert perspectives on navigating common challenges. By the end, you'll be confident to start building robust, enterprise-grade applications powered by PostgreSQL for data storage and analysis. The only question is - are you ready to take your PostgreSQL development skills to the next level?

What is Postgres?

PostgreSQL, or Postgres, is an open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) created at the University of California at Berkeley in 1996. PostgreSQL has now been under active development for over 30 years and has earned a strong reputation for its proven architecture, reliability, data integrity, robust feature set, extensibility, and the dedication of its open source community.

As an enterprise-class open source database, PostgreSQL provides high performance and scalability and advanced features crucial for supporting mainstream government, finance, healthcare, manufacturing, education, telecom, and more applications. It aims to conform with SQL standards and offers compatibility with many SQL database systems.

Unlike proprietary databases, PostgreSQL offers users complete control over their data. Organizations can utilize PostgreSQL without paying expensive commercial database licenses or being locked into rigid vendor agreements. The active global PostgreSQL community constantly works to improve and enhance PostgreSQL, releasing frequent updates as open source software.

Overall, PostgreSQL provides a highly capable, reliable, and customizable database system for powering essential business applications at scale. Its open source accessibility and advanced feature set makes it a prime choice for organizations looking to build robust environments for managing data.

How is Postgres different from MySQL, AWS RDS, and other databases?

Postgres stands out in various ways in databases like MySQL and AWS RDS. 

  • Complex Data Types: Unlike MySQL, Postgres supports many complex data types, including arrays, hstore for key-value storage, and JSON for unstructured data.
  • Transactions and Multi-Version Concurrency Control (MVCC): Postgres offers full ACID compliance (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability), superior transactional integrity, and MVCC, which provides high concurrent performance. MySQL's InnoDB engine also supports ACID, but it lacks the MVCC feature of Postgres.
  • Extendability: Postgres is highly extendable. It allows custom functions, operators, and data types, which aren't as easily achievable in MySQL.
  • Comparison with AWS RDS: AWS RDS is a managed service using different database engines, including MySQL and Postgres. The difference lies not in the database capabilities but in the management, scaling, and maintenance provided by AWS for these databases.

Database Comparison Table


Let's dig into some common questions about Postgres’s inner workings to understand this powerful database tool better.

When does Postgres store data?

Postgres stores data when a transaction is committed. It uses Write-Ahead Logging (WAL), meaning changes are first recorded in the log, and then made in the central database.

Are columns case sensitive?

By default, Postgres is case-sensitive for identifiers (like column and table names) but case-insensitive for data queries. However, it automatically folds all identifiers into lowercase unless quoted.

Which Postgres version am I using?

To find out which version of Postgres you're using, execute the following SQL command: `SELECT version();` This will return information about the Postgres version.

Can Postgres handle billions of rows?

Yes, Postgres can take billions of rows. The size of a table is only limited by the storage available. However, managing large data sets requires proper indexing and partitioning strategies to ensure good performance.

Can Postgres store JSON?

Unlike many traditional relational databases, PostgreSQL has native support for storing and querying JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) data. This allows you to store schemaless JSON directly within PostgreSQL without transforming it into rigid relational structures.

PostgreSQL provides two JSON data types - JSON and JSONB. JSONB is the preferred option for most use cases as it stores JSON in a binary format, resulting in faster read/write performance and efficient indexing. The JSON data type stores JSON as plain text.

With its native JSON support, developers can build flexible, scalable applications in PostgreSQL without integrating separate JSON data stores. Whether you need to store complex application data, quickly iterate on features with Agile methodologies, or manage IoT data streams, PostgreSQL’s robust JSON functionality makes it a leading choice for working with semi-structured data.

How does Postgres Index work?

Indexes are essential tools in Postgres for speeding up data retrieval. Postgres provides several index types: B-Tree, Hash, GiST, SP-GiST, GIN, and BRIN, each suitable for different types of queries. The most commonly used one, B-Tree, is excellent for handling equality and range queries.

Postgres offers a flexible, robust, and advanced solution for diverse database needs. Its capabilities are vast, from handling complex data types to managing billions of rows efficiently. Understanding how Postgres works and its differences from other databases like MySQL and AWS RDS can help you get the most out of it. Whether you're a small startup or a large corporation, Postgres has the tools and scalability to match your data needs. 

When utilized effectively, Postgres can be a game-changer for your data management. So, are you ready to get the most out of Postgres?

Access Postgres remotely

With today's distributed teams and cloud-based environments, having the ability to access PostgreSQL databases from anywhere securely has become crucial for developers to maintain productivity and collaboration.

PostgreSQL, commonly known as Postgres, is widely praised for its broad functionality and robustness. Still, to make the most of these features, developers need to be able to access their databases remotely. Here, we'll explore standard methods to access Postgres remotely, including through Secure Shell (SSH), pgAdmin, and PostgreSQL's native psql command-line interface.

Secure Shell (SSH) Tunnel

A popular way of accessing a Postgres database remotely is by creating an SSH tunnel. An SSH tunnel offers a secure connection between your local system and the remote server, essentially forwarding the port on which your Postgres database is running to your local machine. This method is praised for its high level of security, as SSH encrypts the data being sent over the network.

Here are the steps to set up an SSH tunnel:

1. Open a terminal on your local machine.

2. Use the following command to initiate an SSH tunnel (replace the placeholders with your information):

   ```ssh -L local_port:localhost:postgres_port username@your_server_ip```

3. You can now access your remote database as if running on your local machine.


pgAdmin is an open-source, feature-rich PostgreSQL administration tool that allows you to interface with your databases in a more user-friendly manner. It provides a graphical interface to make database interactions more intuitive. It can be accessed via a web browser and supports all PostgreSQL features. 

To connect to a remote Postgres server using pgAdmin, you must:

1. Launch pgAdmin and go to the 'Servers' tab in the Browser window.

2. Right-click on 'Servers' and select 'Create' -> 'Server'.

3. In the 'Create Server' window, provide a name for the server.

4. Switch to the 'Connection' tab, and input the hostname/IP, port, database name, username, and password.

5. Click on 'Save'. You should be connected to the remote server if all the details are correct.

PostgreSQL's native psql command-line interface

PostgreSQL comes with a native command-line interface, psql, that can connect to your databases. 

To connect to a Postgres server remotely using psql, use the following command:

```psql -h hostname -p port -U username -d database_name```

Then, enter your password when prompted.

It's essential to remember that while these methods allow remote access to Postgres databases, it's critical to implement necessary security measures, such as encryption and secure passwords, to protect your data. With these approaches, developers can comfortably interact with their Postgres databases from anywhere, making database management more flexible and efficient.

Common challenges with remote access

Accessing a PostgreSQL database remotely can offer great flexibility and convenience for developers. However, it comes with its own set of challenges and potential issues. Let's explore some of the most common challenges encountered:

Network Issues

One of the most common issues with accessing a PostgreSQL database remotely is network instability. Network latency can significantly impact the performance of database operations, and intermittent network connectivity can interrupt ongoing processes. Additionally, firewalls and VPNs, while essential for security, may sometimes interfere with remote database access.

Security Concerns

Whenever a database is accessed remotely, it opens up potential security vulnerabilities. There's the risk of data being intercepted during transmission, especially over public networks. Strong encryption for data transmission, like using SSH tunnels, and enforcing secure authentication methods can mitigate this risk.

Configuration Problems

If PostgreSQL isn't correctly configured to accept remote connections, developers will encounter access problems. Common misconfigurations include incorrect settings in the 'pg_hba.conf' file, which controls client authentication, and 'postgresql.conf', which manages server-wide configuration. For instance, if the listen_addresses parameter in the postgresql.conf file is set to 'localhost', then the server will not accept any remote connections.

Permission Issues

PostgreSQL is stringent about permissions. A common problem is when a user does not have the required privileges to access certain tables or execute specific commands in the database. You'll need to ensure that the user role has the right permissions for the operations they must perform.

Time Zone Differences

When working with a remote database, especially one hosted in a different timezone, developers might face challenges with time-related data. This issue can lead to confusion and inaccuracies when inserting and retrieving data.

Version Compatibility

Different versions of PostgreSQL may have variations in features and syntax. If developers use different versions locally and remotely, they might encounter compatibility issues, causing certain operations to fail or behave unpredictably.

While these challenges might seem daunting, they are surmountable with careful planning, good practices, and robust tools. Network issues can be mitigated with stable, secure connections, security can be strengthened with encryption and strong authentication mechanisms, and configuration and permission issues can be tackled with careful setup and management. Addressing these challenges can pave the way for a seamless remote PostgreSQL experience.

Overcoming remote access challenges with Remote.It

Remote.It is a platform that offers secure remote connectivity to your devices and services, including databases like PostgreSQL. Users to access their services from anywhere including remote work, cloud services, or cloud to cloud connectivity. Remote.It can help overcome common challenges like network instability, security vulnerabilities, and configuration problems when accessing Postgres remotely. Here's how:

Network Issues

Remote.It provides a stable and reliable connection over different networks, including mobile, satellite, and low-bandwidth environments. This makes it a robust solution even when network instability is a concern. Plus, it bypasses the need to manage complex network configurations like VPNs or firewall rules.

Security Concerns

The platform establishes end-to-end encrypted connections, ensuring the data transmitted between your device and the Postgres server is secure and unreadable by potential eavesdroppers. Additionally, each Remote.It connection is private, meaning your devices and services aren't exposed to the public internet, reducing the attack surface. Access is granted at a service level so developers can be granted access to the default database on port 5432 without being given SSH access.

Configuration Problems

Remote.It simplifies the configuration process. By creating a Remote.It account and installing the Remote.It software on the server running PostgreSQL or as a container in the same container network, you can create a service that makes your database accessible anywhere. This eliminates the need for intricate configurations in PostgreSQL and server network settings. There is no need to manage IP address overlaps or subnet collisions as Remote.It will automatically manage network connections.

Permission Issues

While Remote.It doesn't directly handle PostgreSQL permission issues, its zero trust least privileged access prevents unauthorized access to your database or other services running on the same server or within the same network. Only users with the correct Remote.It service level credentials can establish a connection, adding an extra layer of protection.

Time Zone Differences

Although Remote.It does not address the timezone issue directly, having a consistent, reliable, and secure connection allows developers to work efficiently regardless of geographical or time differences. This aids in real-time collaboration and debugging.

Version Compatibility

Remote.It is compatible with all versions of PostgreSQL. It ensures the secure connectivity part, allowing you to focus on aligning your application's PostgreSQL version compatibility.  Remote.It does not address the compatibility of having multiple Postgres versions.

While Remote.It cannot solve every challenge associated with accessing Postgres remotely, it significantly simplifies the process. Its ability to provide secure, stable, and easy-to-set-up connections can help developers avoid many common pitfalls associated with remote database access.

Create your free account and get started with Remote.It

10 PostgreSQL Tips and Tricks for Developers

  1. Use EXPLAIN to View Query Plans - Before executing resource-intensive queries, use the EXPLAIN command to view the query plan and identify potential performance issues.
  2. Implement Indexes for Faster Performance - PostgreSQL supports several index types like B-tree, Hash, BRIN, and GIST. Use indexes appropriately to optimize queries.
  3. Leverage Native JSONB Support - For semi-structured data, JSONB outperforms JSON. It provides faster performance and efficient indexing of JSON documents.
  4. Enable Full Text Search - Get powerful text search capabilities built right into PostgreSQL without needing external libraries. Useful for search applications.
  5. Use Arrays to Improve Performance - Arrays allow consolidating related data into fewer tables, reducing expensive join operations.
  6. Partition Large Tables - Split huge tables into smaller partitions to improve query performance and management.
  7. Perform Efficient Upserts - Use INSERT ON CONFLICT DO UPDATE to update existing rows or insert new rows in a single query.
  8. Write Queries with CTEs - Common table expressions (CTEs) defined using WITH clauses provide temporary views for cleaner, more maintainable query code.
  9. Return Affected Rows - Use RETURNING after inserts, updates, or deletes to return affected rows. Avoid extraneous selects.
  10. Tune autovacuum - Set the right autovacuum thresholds to balance performance and bloat caused by outdated rows.

These are just a few of the many powerful features that Postgres offers. As always, understanding the tools at your disposal is the key to getting the most out of your database.

PostgreSQL, or Postgres, is a robust, open-source object-relational database system. Its advanced features, such as support for complex data types like JSON, sophisticated indexing mechanisms, and full compliance with ACID properties, stand out. Postgres ensures data integrity and offers exceptional performance even under heavy loads, making it a preferred choice for complex, enterprise-level applications.


The flexibility of Postgres is another major advantage, with it supporting a multitude of programming languages and platforms. Its ability to handle heavy read-write workloads and efficiently manage large volumes of data makes it suitable for diverse applications, ranging from financial services to logistics and healthcare.

Moreover, Postgres promotes extensibility, allowing developers to define their data types, operators, and functions. It also provides powerful built-in Full Text Search capabilities, eliminating the need for external search platforms.

Pairing Postgres with Remote.It amplifies these benefits by providing secure, reliable remote access. Remote.It employs Peer-to-Peer (P2P) connections that ensure end-to-end encryption and keeps your services private, reducing the attack surface. This adds a robust layer of security when accessing your Postgres database from anywhere.

Additionally, Remote.It simplifies the configuration process, bypassing the need for complex network settings or VPNs. This user-friendly approach allows developers to focus more on building efficient applications using Postgres and less on the intricacies of remote database access. With Remote.It, managing Postgres databases becomes a seamless, secure, and flexible process.

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