Databases have become essential backend storage tools for nearly every application imaginable. If your application contains data that needs to be accessed, you’ll need a database to store and retrieve it quickly.

A database management system (DBMS) is software designed to use, retrieve, and define rules to validate and manipulate the data in the databases. There are many DBMS types: relational, object-oriented, hierarchical, and network-based.

Choosing a suitable DBMS is essential for the success and speed of your application. With many open-source DBMSs available, including MySQL, MariaDB, SQLite, PostgreSQL, and Neo4j, choosing the most suited database for your project can be challenging.

Let’s compare the two most popular open-source management systems — MySQL vs SQLite — detailing how they work, their fundamental differences, pros and cons, and finally, which is preferable for WordPress-hosted web applications.

Benefits of Using Open-Source Databases

While there are many proprietary DBMS options, open-source databases have proven to be the most popular. Their main benefits include the following:

  • The database information isn’t shared with others, providing a security advantage.
  • Lower cost of scaling to support higher amounts of data or requests
  • Some open-source databases operate on an available-source basis, making them more flexible to match your application’s needs.

What Is SQLite?

As mentioned before, DBMSes consist of four main types. Most of these types deal with data in a hierarchical model, organized in a tree-like architecture, and connected through links.

SQLite is an open-source relational database management system (RDBMS). RDBMSes store data in multiple two-dimensional tables instead of one big table. Each table consists of rows that contain a unique value called a key, which is used to relate the tables. That’s why these DBMSes are called relational.

There are two types of keys in RDBMS: the primary key and the foreign key. The primary key is the unique value that identifies each database row, while you can use the foreign key to reference other tables. For example, suppose you have a database of employees in a company. There’s no need to add the department name to the employee table. Instead, you can add a column with a reference — the foreign key — to the department in the employee table. This foreign key references a specific row in the “department” table.

SQLite, as the name implies, is lightweight regarding setup, administration, and storage.

Most databases require a server process, but SQLite is serverless, meaning the application can read and write data directly without client-server architecture. In addition, the serverless SQLite doesn’t require installation or configuration, making it self-contained and less dependent on the operating system (OS).

These features make SQLite suitable for the Internet of Things (IoT), embedded applications, and desktop applications.

What Is MySQL?

Fast, reliable, and easy to learn, most applications use MySQL as their preferred DBMS.

Unlike SQLite, MySQL follows the client-server architecture and requires a server to run. The server handles commands like retrieving, manipulating, and adding data using a structured query language (SQL).

MySQL also comes with a built-in graphical user interface (GUI) called MySQL Workbench for accessing the data. It also offers a command-line interface (CLI) called mysqladmin for managing usable data.

Moreover, MySQL is platform-independent, which means it can run on any OS and is compatible with different programming languages like Python, Java, and C++.

Being the most popular DBMS comes with another advantage: its community. Millions of tutorials are available on the Internet to help you learn MySQL, and you can find an answer to almost any question or problem online. As Oracle maintains MySQL, you can find tutorials, certificates, and support on the MySQL website. You can also read more about MySQL on our blog.

SQLite vs MySQL: Use Cases Breakdown

While MySQL and SQLite are both open-source RDBMSes, they have very different architectures and use cases.

Architecture

MySQL follows a multi-layer, server-client architecture that consists of a client, server, and storage. The client layer handles user queries and commands using GUI or CLI. The server layer processes the commands’ logic, creating a new thread for each request. Finally, the storage layer is responsible for storing the data tables.

In contrast, SQLite is a serverless DBMS that compiles the SQL into bytecode, which is then executed using a virtual machine. The back end stores the tables on the disk in a B-tree implementation.

Data Types

Like most DBMSes, MySQL uses static types for data storage, meaning that you must define column datatypes at the time of table creation.

While most database engines still use static types for string data, SQLite uses dynamic types for storing data — the value stored in a column determines the column datatype. For example, if you create a table of the integer type at the creation time, you can store any data type in this column as the type is associated with the value itself, not its container. Additionally, MySQL has backward compatibility for common static types.

Instead of data types, SQLite uses storage classes for data. These are more generic than data types and can take one of the following storage classes: NULL, INTEGER, TEXT, BLOB, and REAL.

Scalability

MySQL’s server-client architecture is well-designed for scalability and large databases. The server layer simplifies the server’s capabilities without updating the client side.

On the contrary, SQLite is limited to single-user access, making scalability difficult. Additionally, the required amount of memory increases as the database gets bigger.

Portability

MySQL needs to be compressed into a single file before moving, which can take a long time as the database increases. Meanwhile, SQLite saves the database into a single file, making copying and transferring easy. As SQLite runs queries on a virtual machine, its dependency on an operating system is minimal.

Security

Anyone can edit and view SQLite’s single data file. SQLite doesn’t have a built-in authentication system, so the security is limited to the permissions set on that file.

On the other hand, MySQL has many security features, like supporting user management with different permission levels and using the secure shell (SSH).

Ease of Setup

MySQL requires many configurations like server configuration, user administration, and backup. On the other hand, SQLite is easy to install and doesn’t require any configurations to run.

SQLite vs MySQL: Pros and Cons

MySQL Pros:

  • Easy to learn
  • Compatible with almost every OS
  • Works with many languages like C++, PHP, Java, Perl, etc.
  • Supports multiple user environments
  • High performance

MySQL Cons:

  • Some instances of data corruption (though not critical)
  • Debugging tools need some improvements
  • Requires substantial memory

SQLite Pros:

  • Low server performance and memory requirements
  • Decreases energy consumption
  • Self-contained and portable
  • Included by default on all PHP installations

SQLite Cons:

  • Does not support multiple-user environments or XML format
  • Can handle only one connection at a time
  • Performance degrades as database size increases
  • Cannot query databases from clients

SQLite vs MySQL: Which is Better for WordPress?

WordPress is a popular content management platform (CMS) written in PHP, which uses databases to store all website information, such as user data, posts, settings, and content.

The default DBMS for WordPress is MySQL, making it the de-facto choice for most WordPress sites. It’s well suited for large-scale projects as it scales easily and provides greater security. However, SQLite is ideal for smaller projects with fewer connections, especially if you need to skip the complications of configuring a MySQL database.

While you can make SQLite work with WordPress using workarounds, it’s not straightforward. The WordPress core team has started discussing making WordPress officially support SQLite. Implementing this feature may take some time, but having the choice of database type during WordPress installation would be super helpful.

There is also MariaDB, a strain of the much larger MySQL. MariaDB offers improved performance, more agile updates, and better licensing. While they are generally similar, there are some instances where MariaDB is preferable. You can read more about MariaDB vs MySQL here.

Summary

Databases are essential for most applications. While databases have different license types, open-source database management systems provide an excellent alternative to other proprietary solutions.

Comparing SQLite vs MySQL is challenging as both have handy features and unique use cases. SQLite is lightweight and portable, making it better for small-scale applications such as IoT and low-traffic websites. On the other hand, MySQL has a vast community base and is better for scalable applications.

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