SQLite vs MongoDB – What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons)

SQLite vs MongoDB – What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons). Data persistence and management have always been important parts of modern applications. Traditionally, the seemingly most efficient way to store and manage application data was by using relational tables or databases and controlling them through a structured query language (SQL).

However, large, complex databases can be difficult to manage over time – especially without a dedicated database administrator. Consequently, small software development firms have long searched for easier and cheaper SQL alternatives to help them manage application and user data. With SQLite and MongoDB have been two of the most likely solutions. As such, the following guide will explore the differences between these solutions.

Let’s start with SQLite vs MongoDB – What’s the Difference?.

What is SQLite?

Firstly SQLite is an open-source embedded file based relational database management system (RDBMS) written in C. While many may mistake it for a client/server SQL database like PostgreSQL or MySQL. Rather, it’s a library that software developers can bind or integrate into other applications.

Nevertheless, SQLite was developed and released by famed open-source pioneer, D.Richard Hipp in August of 2000. As such, it’s significantly older than MongoDB.

Notwithstanding, Hipp named it SQLite because it was lightweight in terms of setup, configuration, database administration, and the resources to run it. However, this is only one aspect of SQLite’s features. The SQLite’s other most notable features are:

Features of SQLite

  • Self contained: To use SQLite it does not need a lot of support from your operating system. Thus, it is incredibly portable. Moreover, you can import and export SQLite databases between 64-bit and 32-bit machines/operating systems. Accordingly, it’s ideal for mobile devices (Android and iOS), gaming consoles, and smart TV/media device applications.     
  • Serverless: It does not require traditional client-server architecture to function. Again, SQLite is an in memory library that software developers can use directly. Thus, it is most often implemented by integrating it into the application that accesses it. The application accesses and stores data by reading and writing it to an SQLite database file that’s stored on a disk. Incidentally, you can identify an SQLite file using  the extensions .sqlite3, .sqlite, and .db.    
  • Zero-Configuration: Because SQLite is serverless, software developers aren’t required to install or configure it right before using it. Additionally, SQLite does not rely on any configuration files. As such, it’s easy to use out of the box. You don’t have to start (or stop) a server to connect an application to an SQLite database.
  • Transactional: All SQLite transactions enforce ACID (atomic, consistent, isolated, and durable). Thus, all SQLite transactions take place completely or not at all. Regardless of the occurrence of unexpected interruptions. 

While SQLite’s features should be enough to help you understand its advantages, let’s expand on them further.

Pros of SQLite

  • Open Source: that means it’s source code is available for you to view and customize. Furthermore, it’s free for both commercial and private use.
  • Cross platform: Again, SQLite has high portability makes it ideal for cross platform application integration. Therefore, you can use SQLite on platforms and operating systems such as Windows, macOS, Linux, etc. Moreover, it can be used on a wide variety of embedded operating systems such as Symbian, Android, and Windows EE.
  • Highly Efficient: SQLite uses columns with mutable lengths. Thus, it will only allocate as much space as an entry requires. For instance, if you have a VARCHAR column with a 200-character limit and place a 10-character long entry into it, SQLite will only assign ten characters to it. Additionally, it will not attempt to fill the space and allocate all 200 characters to it.
  • Comprehensive API Support: Because SQLite has been around so long, it’s amassed a vibrant and active community. As such, it offers APIs for a large host of different programming languages. For instance, .NET, JAVA, Objective-C, and Python.
  • Highly Flexible: The variables in SQLite are dynamically typed. Thus, the value of the variable isn’t determined until it is assigned a value and not defined at the time of declaration. Additionally, SQLite allows you to simultaneously work with multiple databases on the session at the same time.

Cons of SQLite

  • Lack of Multi User Capabilities: Most fully fledged database management systems allow you to secure your database using a username and password. Unfortunately, while you can encrypt your SQLite databases, it doesn’t feature nuanced granular access control. In fact, the GRANT and REVOKE commands do not work in SQLite. As a result it has very limited security. This can be an obstacle for software developers trying to use SQLite to design applications with multi-user access capabilities.
  • Uses Serialized Write Operations: the tool uses file based databases. Consequently, it is unsuitable for concurrent writes and reads – especially on platforms where only a single stream can be locked onto a file.
  • Unsuitable for Large Datasets: Again, SQLite is a file based DBMS. As such, some filesystems have limitations on how large singular files can be. For instance, FAT32 file systems cannot accommodate files that are larger than 4GB.
  • Limited Features: does not support right outer joins or full outer joins. Unfortunately, it only supports left outer joins. Additionally, the ALTER table statement only allows you to rename the table or add a column – nothing more. Moreover, SQLite views are read only and it only supports for each row triggers. However, there are ways around these limitations.

Next in the article blog SQLite vs MongoDB – What’s the Difference? is to introduce MongoDB.

What is MongoDB?

MongoDB is similar to SQLite in that it uses a file oriented approach to database management. However, it implements this a little differently. It uses a document-orientated database or document store which uses a JSON like syntax.   

As such, MongoDB is referred to as NoSQL. Consequently, it’s a great alternative to creating and modeling databases through SQL. Nevertheless it’s list of products and licenses has evolved over the years. Initially, large software corporations used MongoDB’s free features to turn a profit. Accordingly, MongoDB now uses a Server-Side Public License (SSPL) to prevent companies from taking advantage. Nevertheless, private users can access its community edition – which is still mostly open source.

Features of MongoDB

Some of MongoDB’s more notable features include:

  • Ideal for hierarchical data structure:  Hierarchical databases are arranged in a dendriform structure. Because MongoDB’s databases are implemented using JSON, it’s far better at managing hierarchical data than SQL implementations.
  • Scalability: the MongoDB can be scaled vertically or horizontally, while most SQL based databases are limited to vertical scaling – through the increase of physical memory (RAM). Nevertheless, you can scale MongoDB databases by adding more servers (shards/clusters) and running them in parallel to each other.
  • High Performance Levels: If you have the system resources to accommodate MongoDB, it can perform 100x faster than other RDBMSs. Since it stores a large portion of its data in the machine’s RAM. Consequently, it allows faster access to data.
  • Simplicity: the JSON query syntax may be easier to grasp than SQL. Furthermore, it’s far more expressive and easier to understand for users who have JavaScript experience.
  • Ad Hoc Query Support:  Allows you to initiate ad hoc queries that allow you to get immediate information about the state of the database. As such, software developers can use this feature to determine which queries are cued. Incidentally, it allows them to create better resource management for their applications.           

Cons of MongoDB

The limitations are with MongoDB. They include:

  • Lack of Trigger Support: MongoDB does not support triggers and stored procedures. Consequently, it is substantially less flexible than SQL derivatives.
  • Less Support than SQLite: SQLite has been around longer and has more well established support. Furthermore, you can transfer knowledge from other SQL implementations you’ve used before and use them for SQLite. Unfortunately, MongoDB does not have the same adaptability. Additionally it’s support is mostly community driven. 
  • High Memory Usage: Requires a high amount of storage and memory to work. Thus, it may not be suitable for certain filesystems or low powered machines.
  • Lack of Joins: there is no traditional joins in the same way most RDBMSs do.
  • Duplication of Data: The MongoDB does not have well defined features to protect against possible duplications. Therefore, you’re likely to find duplicate entries in your MongoDB database. Consequently, it may lead to database corruption.

SQLite vs MongoDB – 10 Key Differences

Although both MongoDB and SQLite offer comprehensive data management technologies, they’re very different products. As such, this section will provide an overview of some of their key differences.

Database Model

SQLite Database Model

On one hand SQLite functions as a library for software applications. As such, it is known as an embedded database management system. This aspect allows it to run serverless. Nevertheless, like most SQL databases, it uses tables to store and model its data. Thus, it essentially still utilizes a relational database model which includes primary and foreign keys.  

MongoDB Database Model

On the other hand MongoDB uses a no SQL database model. Consequently, the structure of the database is document determined. Some implementations of MongoDB do support SQL. However, MongoDB relies on JSON/JavaScript as its query language. Nevertheless, it essentially uses a mixture of a hierarchical and object oriented model. 


SQLite Portability

One of SQLite’s biggest advantages is its portability. Since it stores its database in a single file, it’s easy to export and move. Moreover SQLite does not use a server client paradigm. Thus, you don’t have to connect to a server before you can SQLite’s database.

MongoDB Portability

MongoDB has decent portability because it is implemented through JSON Documents. However, it requires the MongoDB server to function. Thus, you’ll need the server to run on the machine that contains the MongoDB configuration files.

Admin Requirements

SQLite Admin Requirements

Here the SQLite has minimum admin requirements. You don’t’ have to set up user name or password to use it. Furthermore, it does not need any configuration from you to function correctly. You can simply run it out of the box.

MongoDB Admin Requirements

You must configure MongoDB before you can run it on your computer. As such, you will need to install the server and configure it. In some cases, you’ll be required to install the Mongo shell.

Supported Platforms

SQLite Supported Platforms

SQLite is available on all UNIX based operating systems including:


Also it is available for Microsoft Windows (Win32, WinCE, WinRT). In fact, it comes with default support for Windows 10 (and onwards).

MongoDB Supported Platforms

The MongoDB is compatible with Linux, Microsoft Windows (2016 and 2019), and macOS. Furthermore, it’s implementable in mobile device based operating systems such as Android and iOS. However, you’ll be required to use an additional SDK such as Realm.

Supported Programming Languages

SQLite Supported Programming Languages

Most programming languages include default or built-in support for SQLite.They include:

  • Delphi
  • C
  • C#
  • C++
  • Go
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • LiveCode
  • Lue
  • Objective-C
  • Perl
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • Visual Basic
  • Xojo

MongoDB Supported Programming Language

Interestingly here MongoDB’s support isn’t as widespread as SQLite’s. However, it still supports the most popular programming languages including:

  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • C
  • Python
  • TypeScript
  • C#
  • C++
  • Go
  • JS
  • PHP
  • Ruby
  • Rust
  • Scala
  • Swift

SQLite vs MongoDB - A Tabular Overview

Attribute SQLite MongoDB

First Release:

17 August 2000
11 February 2009

Originally Developed in:

C Programming Language

Database Model:

Embedded RDMS
Document Store

Supported Server(s):

Linux, Microsoft Windows and OS X Supported servers

Server Side Scripting: 

Not supported
Supported through JavaScript (JSON)

Supported Query Language:

Supports JSON query language (and SQL)

Supported Replication Methods:

Supports only-master-to-master replication

Supported Partitioning Methods:


Supported Map Reduce Methods:

Supports Standard Map Reduce Methods

Support for Referential Integrity:

Supports referential integrity through primary and foreign keys

Thank you for reading  SQLite vs MongoDB – What’s the Difference?

SQLite vs MongoDB - What's the Difference? Conclusion

To summarize SQLite has been around longer than MongoDB. It offers a simple and lightweight implementation of traditional relational database models. However, it’s far easier to use and plug into your applications. Contrastingly, MongoDB offers a new perspective on how to handle and efficiently work with data. Regardless, they’re both great alternatives to traditional client-server databases.

Which one you choose will be determined by your use case. For instance, SQLite is great for embedded applications for smart devices. Alternatively, software developers with JavaScript experience (but with little SQL exposure) may prefer MongoDB. Furthermore, it lends itself well to machine learning applications because of its dynamic schemas and its handling of hierarchal data structures. It can work in both virtualized and cloud computing environments. Nevertheless, both tools are great for simple applications. However, MongoDB may be the better choice if you’re looking to build more complex and dynamic databases.

Please take a look at our MongoDB content here where SQLite information is here.

Avatar for Mduduzi Sibisi
Mduduzi Sibisi

Mdu is an Oracle-certified software developer and IT specialist, primarily focused on Object-Oriented programming for Microsoft and Linux-based operating systems. He has over a decade of experience and endeavors to share what he's learned from his time in the industry. He moonlights as a tech writer and has produced content for a plethora of established websites and publications - including this one. He's always open to learning and growing.

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