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Navicat: More Than Just Backing up MySQL

Volume Number: 22 (2006)
Issue Number: 4
Column Tag: Review

Navicat: More Than Just Backing up MySQL

by MacTech Staff

MySQL Management Tools

There are a number of ways to manage and even backup your MySQL databases. Some people prefer the command line. Others decide that they like a web interface like phpMyAdmin. Finally, you may want to use a standalone application that's a GUI like CocoaMySQL, MySQL Administrator or Navicat.

Because of the issues of backing up a live MySQL database, and even more the case with Retrospect with MySQL databases (see the article on Retrospect in this issue for more information), we needed to find another way to backup our MySQL databases.

If you decide to do this at the command line, you can use 'mysqldump' in a cron job:

mysqldump -A -a --add-drop-table -u username -password "thepassword" > backup.sql

You can restore it with:

mysql -u username -p < backup.sql

The benefit, of course, is that this doesn't require any additional product, it's reliable and it's secure. You can drop it into a script, if you'd like, but if you do, make sure it's owned by root and can only be accessed by root (0700). And, if you do this, you can add in a "logger" statement so that you can monitor things, or ask cron to mail you the output by default. Then again, you may want a GUI, and want to be able to touch the results a bit more easily than what cron does for you.

Why Navicat?

We chose Navicat specifically because of its easy to use scheduling features to backup SQL databases, restore them easily, and even replicate data between databases for nightly updates.

While we started to use Navicat specifically for backups of the MySQL databases, we found a variety of other uses. Specifically, if you aren't fluent with MySQL queries, Navicat helps by allowing you to define a query through the GUI and then shows you what the resulting query would look like.

About Navicat

Navicat is a MySQL database administration and development tool that allows professional developers as well as new users to create, organize, access, and share information in a secure and convenient way. Navicat supports multiple MySQL server connections which can be connected locally or remotely (remote MySQL server can be running on Mac OS X, Linux, UNIX, or Windows platform). Navicat requires Mac OS X 10.1 or later.

Some of the important features of Navicat for Mac OS X include SSH Tunnel, data and structure synchronization, SQL console, views, stored procedure, trigger creation, support for all MySQL server versions above 3.21, creation and deletion of databases, tables, indexes, and users, stored procedures, foreign keys, Unicode and character set support, import / export data in up to 4 most popular formats (CSV, TXT, DBF, and XML), creation / execution of SQL queries, printing table structure, creation of schedule for backup, backup / restore of database, saved queries, support for transferring databases from one MySQL server to another MySQL server, and managing user privileges.

Navicat: Main Interface

Navicat's main interface comprises Server Navigator and Database Window. Server Navigator displays a list of server connections assigned in Navicat. These connections can be set by Navicat to open automatically on start up. Navicat provides 10 views: Connection, Table, View, Stored Proc., Query, Backup, Schedule, Data Transfer, Data Sync, and Structure Sync. Database Window shows the content of the chosen view.

Navicat's SSH tunneling feature can be used to encrypt communications between Navicat and a remote MySQL server. Many MySQL hosting providers block access to the MySQL server from outside hosting company's network, and only grant access to users connecting locally. SSH tunneling allows connecting to a MySQL server from behind a firewall when the MySQL server port is blocked. Navicat's port forwarding function can be used for connecting provided SSH access is available from the hosting company. Navicat communicates with the remote MySQL server in plain text (with the exception of the user password). Navicat's port forwarding function provides security of communications with the MySQL server and it protects MySQL sessions from various attacks.

Typical operations that can be carried out on databases by using Navicat are creating database, opening database, renaming database, deleting database, copying database, moving database, and maintaining a database. Maintenance options for a database include optimize, analyze, check, and repair.

Navicat allows the following operations to be performed with tables: creating a table (from scratch/from an existing one in the database), open a table, design a table, empty a table, duplicate a table, and change table type. In addition to these functions, Navicat also offers functions to maintain a table. These functions include optimize table, analyze table, check table, and repair table. Navicat also features a Filter Wizard that can be utilized to filter records in Navicat's Table Window. Filters can be saved for fast retrieval and they can also be saved to a profile for retrieval when table is opened again.

The options available with Navicat to work with queries are creation of query, opening or running a query, deleting a query, saving a query, and loading SQL file. All the query actions can be stored in a log file for tracking. Navicat also features its "Visual Query Builder" that can be used to create join queries with options to specify selection, grouping, sorting, and projection criterion. SQL Console can be used to run SQL queries. It simulates the command line environment of MySQL.

Stored procedures and functions were introduced in MySQL in Version 5.0. Navicat supports following operations related to stored procedures and functions: create stored procedure/function, design stored procedure/function, and delete stored procedure/function. The feature of views was also added to MySQL Version 5.0. Navicat allows creation, design, and deletion of views.

Navicat's Table Window enables editing, adding, deleting, and sorting data in a table. It also features a blob edit control that facilitates editing of binary data. Navicat can be used to manage user and host privileges. Privilege management operations provided by Navicat include user privilege operations such as creating new user, deleting existing user, and setting privileges of a user, and host privilege operations such as creating new host, removing existing host, and setting privileges of a host.

Navicat's Backup Tools

Navicat's backup feature allows backup of all tables and records of a MySQL database. Backup can be restored by using Restore Backup function. Backup operations allowed by Navicat are creation of new backup, restoration of a backup, deletion of a backup, and extraction of SQL from a database. Navicat's data transfer feature allows transfer of tables/records from one MySQL database to another MySQL database or a plain text file. The target database can be on the same server as the source database or on another MySQL server. Navicat allows saving of a profile for easy retrieval and running of data transfer between databases. Data transfer operations offered by Navicat are creating a new data transfer profile, deleting a data transfer profile, and setting up general and advanced settings.

Navicat can be used to create batch jobs for automating functions such as backup, restore backup, data transfer, import and export. Batch job can be used to execute a series of actions one by one by just executing the batch job. Batch job can also be scheduled to execute at a specified time.

What is MySQL Doing?

One of the cool features of Navicat is that you can see what your MySQL database is doing. There's obviously a variety of other ways you can do that. In the case of Navicat, the GUI has a server monitor that can show MySQL Server Process List, MySQL Server Variables, and MySQL Server Status properties from the selection of MySQL servers. The data synchronization functionality of Navicat transfers data from one database to another with detailed analytical process. The user is authorized to rollback the transferring process, in addition to inserting, deleting and updating records to the destination. The synchronization profile can also be saved for setting a schedule. Navicat also provides structure synchronization to compare and modify the structure of tables with a detailed analytical process.


One of the open source alternatives or the command line may work great for you. In the end, it all depends on what your needs or desires are. If you are looking for a commercial application that can help you reliably with backups and data transfers, we found Navicat did the job well.

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