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

SQLite vs PostgreSQL – What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons). For enterprises that take on strategic software development projects, data management tools hold utmost significance. Robust database solutions are the key to success, as they logically help you store and manage clusters of data. Now, a DBMS (Database Management System) is a computer program that communicates with a database. It helps you set up access control for the database, run queries, write data and execute other related tasks. 

By the same token, an RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) is another form of DBMS that employs a relational data model. It stores data in tables, which in RDBMS are officially referred to as relations. A relation is a set of rows or tuples and every single tuple shares a set of columns or attributes.

In this post, we are going to compare two of the popular open source RDBMSs, SQLite vs PostgreSQL with their pros and cons.

What is SQLite?

SQLite is a fully open source, file based Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) that is server less, which makes it fairly self contained. Such Embedded Database has a core engine that works internally within the software program that accesses the data. This approach saves time as processes can directly access the databases without relying on any server. 

This is what makes SQLite easy to use and easy to set up. Using SQLite simply requires you access to the disk file and no other configurations. 

SQLite is written in ANSI C. And, it is known for its robust performance, reliability, and portability, especially in environments with lesser memory. The ACID compliant transactions make SQLite reliable in situations like power outages or system crashes.

Even though SQLite is completely free, it does offer numerous paid extensions for robust encryptions and compression. For an annual fee, it also offers a bunch of support packages for commercial use cases.

Pros of SQLite

  • Flexibility: This allows you to work with multiple databases at the same time. Moreover, it supports major programming languages like Python, C#, Java, Objective C, Visual Basic, etc. It offers powerful APIs to use these key programming languages.
  • OS Support: Supports an extensive range of operating systems such as UNIX, Linux, Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS. It is a highly portable platform.
  • Ease of use: It is a serverless, file based RDBMS that you can run by simply downloading the SQLite libraries. It is a “zero configuration” database that is ready to use right out of the box. It doesn’t need additional configurations and doesn’t take up too many computing resources. It can even easily operate on mobile phones. Since it doesn’t run a server side process, there’s no need to start, stop or restart it.
  • Lightweight: SQLite is lightweight which aids easy embedding to applications. This makes it easier for home appliances and mobile phones to seamlessly run applications that use SQLite server. It consumes less than 600KiB of space and doesn’t require you to install any other third party dependencies for it to work.
  • Performance: SQLite is fast in reading and writing operations along with faster data loads. Moreover, it is also quite efficient in edits.
  • Reliability: In case of a system crash or power outage, you won’t lose too much of your work. That’s because SQLite tool allows you to write smaller queries as compared to the large procedural codes. This makes SQLite more reliable and reduces the possibility of bugs as well.
  • Cost efficient: Doesn’t require high development and maintenance costs, hence it is a cost saving solution. With SQLite, developers can easily write simple SQL queries, instead of complicated procedural codes as seen in other RDBMSs. Besides, its extensibility also is cost saving.
  • Tooling: With SQLite, developers can leverage various popular tools to build applications.
  • Portable: SQLite stores the database in a single file located in a specific directory hierarchy. You can share this file via FTP or detachable media. This makes it highly portable, as opposed to other RDBMSs that often store data in large sets of separate files.

SQLite Cons

  • Limitation in functionality: SQLite imposes format related and syntax limitations as compared to PostgreSQL. This can be a bit overwhelming when you want to code complicated functionalities for the application.
  • Features: SQLite doesn’t support ‘Time’ and ‘Date’ classes. 
  • Limitation in volume: SQLite is ideal for use cases with low to medium traffic, and NOT for high traffic use cases. Further, it also has a limitation for database size; hence it does not suit large scale use cases.
  • Limited concurrency: At a time, only one process can make changes to the database, even though multiple processes can query it simultaneously. This limits its concurrency as compared to PostgreSQL.
  • Lack of user management: SQLite is a file based RDBMS; hence it only offers basic access permissions of the OS in the picture. Hence, SQLite is not ideal to use when there are multiple users seeking special access permissions.
  • Security: as it is a serverless RDBMS, it lacks fine grained locking and enhanced protection from bugs.

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

What is PostgreSQL?

PostgreSQL also referred to as POSTGRES, is written in C language and claims to be the “most advanced open source RDBMS in the world”. It is an open source and free RDBMS that focuses on compliance with standards and high extensibility. 

PostgreSQL is not just relational, but rather an object relational database that can expand its relational model by taking an object oriented approach. This comes in handy when developers have to manage multimedia content or complex data types along with alphanumeric data. In this circumstance, a traditional relational model may pose some limitations. But, object relational mapping allows you leverage applications based on object oriented programming languages and use them to store objects in relational systems. 

PostgreSQL Features

It allows you to seamlessly built new capabilities and functionalities of apps. PostgreSQL is SQL compliant and also offers a bunch of impressive features such as:

  • Foreign keys to help link data within two relations.
  • Updating views.
  • MVCC (multi version concurrency control) for multiple processes to seamlessly access the database at the same time.
  • Comprehensive transactions.
  • Automated triggers.

PostgreSQL is a free RDBMS that users can easily extend and modify by adding new operators, procedural languages, types, functions, indexing techniques, etc. Unlike SQLite, PostgreSQL offers robust support for concurrency.

Pros of PostgreSQL

  • OS support: Supports all major platforms like Mac OS, Windows, Linux, etc.
  • Features: It uses SQL server and offers a rich set of features similar to Oracle, DB2, and other traditional RDBMSs.
  • Extensibility: PostgreSQL has high extensibility as it runs based on catalogs and uses dynamic loading. You can use it with MySQL, Oracle, and even with NoSQL databases like MongoDB.
  • Procedural Language support: PostgreSQL supports popular programming languages like JavaScript, Ruby, Java, Python, C, C++, C#, Go, and so on.
  • Object relational model: It is an object relational database that offers features similar to an object database such as function overloading and table inheritance. 
  • Concurrency: Can efficiently manage multiple processes simultaneously without reading locks, all credits to the MVCC (Multi version Concurrency Control) implementation. This offers isolation, consistency, atomicity and longevity to all the transactions. Thus, making PostgreSQL ACID compliant.
  • Compliance: Complies closely with the SQL standards.

Cons of PostgreSQL

  • Memory performance: PostgreSQL instigates a new process for every new client connection, thus taking up memory. This makes it not so ideal for large connections.
  • Lack of tooling: there are not many third party tools that help you run and manage PostgreSQL. Plus, the industry also lacks experienced admins who have expertise in operating PostgreSQL.
  • Lacks data compression capabilities.

SQLite vs PostgreSQL - 7 Key Differences

Both SQLite and PostgreSQL are open source, free RDBMSs, yet they differ in multiple factors. Here are some of its key differences:

1. Database Model

SQLite Database Model

SQLite is an Embedded DBMS, which is server less and can easily run within your applications. Every SQLite database contains a single “schema table” that stores the schema for that database. The schema for a database is a description of all of the other tables, indexes, triggers, and views that are contained within the database.

PostgreSQL Database Model

PostgreSQL, on the other hand, employs the Client Server model and relies on a database server to set up and operate over a network.
It uses relational database model that supports both SQL (relational) and JSON (non-relational) querying.

2. Portability

SQLite Portability

SQLite stores the database in a single disk file located within the directory hierarchy. This file is stored in a cross platform format as well, to make it easier to copy or move it. This approach is what makes SQLite highly portable.

PostgreSQL Portability

PostgreSQL is portable only if you export the database into a file and then upload it to a server. This can be a bit tedious at times.

3. Limitation

SQLite Limitation

SQLite has limited concurrency since it is a serverless RDBMS. It can only run a single process at a time, and cannot handle multi user access. Moreover, it only offers an Access Control System of the OS it uses, and no other fancy User Management System. And, since it does not have an Authentication Mechanism, it has poor data security.

PostgreSQL Limitation

PostgreSQL has limited memory performance. Since it offers robust concurrency, it allots 10 MB of RAM for every new process that is forked for each new client connection. Hence, it may lag when there is a large network of connections. Further, PostgreSQL is a complex RDBMS, hence it may have a steep learning curve and amateurs may feel a bit overwhelmed with it.

4. Functionality

PostgreSQL offers powerful features such as concurrency, nested transactions, and compliance with ACID standards. This makes it an ideal platform for when your key focus is data integrity. When it comes to SQL standards, PostgreSQL certainly has a competitive edge over SQLite.

5. Speed

SQLite Speed

SQLite is a lightweight RDBMS and features simple operations, little to no configuration, and minimal design. Hence it offers fast performance.

PostgreSQL Speed

PostgreSQL may be slightly slow to run fast read queries as it is a heavyweight RDBMS with a complex design. However, it is capable of running complex operations.

6. Security

SQLite Security Features

It do not have built in security to protect databases, rather, it relies on its environment such as the operating system to provide security for database content. SQLite doesn’t comprise an Authentication System; hence it lacks the security needed to store sensitive data.

PostgreSQL Security Features

PostgreSQL features myriads of security features for your sensitive and private data. Not just that, it also requires users to run complex configurations, which makes it a secure RDBMS. 

7. Supported Data Types

SQLite Supported Data Types

SQLite supports only 5 data types viz.  null, blob, integer, text, and real. In SQLite, the terms “data type” and “storage class” are interchangeable.

PostgreSQL Supported Data Types

PostgreSQL is able to store almost all data types including numeric, string and date and time ones like MySQL. It also supports data types for bit strings, JSON entries, geometric shapes, network addresses, text searches, and more.  Some examples are serial, integer, character, var char, bigint, bigserial, real, text, date, time, box, circle, line, point, cidr, inet, macaddr, bit, bit varying, tsquery, tsvector, json, jsonb, boolean, xml, bytea and so much more.

Great effort! We have learned SQLite vs PostgreSQL – What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons). It is time to summarize. 

SQLite vs PostgreSQL - What's the Difference? (Pros and Cons) Conclusion

With this, we wrap up our detailed post on SQLite vs PostgreSQL that highlights their key differences. We dived deeper into the various factors that differentiate both these RDBMSs. Though both the databases are open source and free, they still vary greatly in their functionality, features, and limitations. 

Each RDBMS works ideal for a use case that suits its environment. When choosing between PostgreSQL vs. SQLite, consider your unique business data requirements and use case, and pick the one that can capably handle your data traffic.

Please take time to read about our PostgreSQL content here as well as out SQLite content.

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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