Technology is moving quickly, with many ever-growing businesses, digital products, and online consumers. And vast amounts of data are generated with accelerated growth and domination in the online space. The data is bound to storage, updates management, and analysis.
If you’re starting a firm, picking the right backend technology is one of the most challenging tasks. First, your target is to convert millions of users to paying clients. You also don’t want to make a mistake that would, in turn, cost you a significant amount of money in the long run. Obviously, you want to work with a trustworthy database and support cloud storage power.
While there are numerous options to choose from, this post compares two of the most popular: Firebase and MongoDB. The two giants are NoSQL-type databases.
With developer expectations rising in an era of cloud technology dominating, Firebase and MongoDB are working to deliver robust, scalable, and usable modern databases that suit their needs.
Like other industries where consumers seek fully managed, highly functional, and seamless self-service experiences, developers are no different. Let’s break down the two heavyweights unlocking high developer productivity and data efficacy.
Firebase: An Overview
Launched in 2012, Firebase is an all-in-one platform that simplifies and accelerates application development. Besides database services, Firebase provides background connections operating in real-time as a backend as a service (BaaS). It encompasses a whole ecosystem for creating and releasing web and mobile applications. While most of its components are open source, Firebase is an exclusive technology.
Firebase has many in-packed features. The first is a real-time database that allows developers to deliver applications with real-time data synchronization across clients and offers offline support that streamlines data consistency.
Next is authentication, which allows developers to build identity platforms for their application users. With this feature, you can implement various authentication techniques, including custom authorization, social network login, and email passwords.
The Firebase Cloud Storage allows you to securely store and serve multiple user-generated content like files, photographs, and videos. Using its inbuilt APIs, you can scale uploads, downloads, and file management.
You can also host (deploy your web application) using the Firebase hosting solution. And if you’d want to analyze and monitor performance, Firebase offers you exhaustive analytics and monitoring tools to gather insights on usage behavior and patterns. The insights can help you optimize applications and enhance user experience.
MongoDB: An Overview
Kicking off in 2009, MongoDB is an open-source database that manages vast amounts of unstructured data. Supporting extensive use cases, MongoDB commands the industry by powering a wide range of applications regardless of the area.
With the primary value of data storage, the platform provides many valuable features that serve all your developer imaginations making great use of it. MongoDB employs binary JSON (BSON), organizing data into flexible (JSON-like) documents to store and recoup complex data structures seamlessly.
MongoDB has many features, including high availability, scalability, indexing rich query language, and a flexible schema. In the case of flexible schema, MongoDB’s document object model allows you to store various data structures. The benefits of this are when application data requirements evolve with time.
Moving to scalability, MongoDB is horizontally ascendible, distributing data across many servers to handle data loads. This, in turn, asserts high availability and performance on scaling your application.
MongoDB uses inbuilt replica mechanisms and automatic failover tech to enhance high availability, ensuring fault tolerance and data availability. You can set up replicas for data recovery and redundancy. MongoDB has multiple options for indexing, like the single field, compound, and geospatial indexes, which improve query performance through fast data retrieval.
Firebase vs. MongoDB: Key Distinction
There are many factors to evaluate when choosing a database. Here are our criteria.
Use Cases and Applications
Let’s delve into each of them in detail.
#1. Key Features
Firebase and MongoDB have multiple features, making them stand out amongst many other databases. But here are details for each.
Firebase includes key features like incredibly inbuilt analytics; app development made easy, and growth-user engagement tools. Looking at the analytics tool, its dashboard is suited for observing user patterns and measuring various characteristics; it helps understand how users interact with your application so you can optimize it.
The tool further breaks down to provide more robust features like unlimited reporting, audience monitoring, and integration with other services. In the app development made easy section, you can iterate on cloud messaging, authentication, test lab (where you test in the lab as opposed to users), hosting, remote configuration, dynamic links, crash reporting, and real-time database storage.
Additionally, the growth-user engagement has features like AdWords, app indexing, invites, and notifications, all centered on developing great commercial apps.
MongoDB has essential technical features with out-of-the-box capabilities whether you need to run privately on-site or in the public cloud. The database follows the Document Model storing data as documents clustered in collections.
Collections need not be of the same set of fields. Naturally, the document model is more adaptable for developers as it allows the documents to be treated as objects.
Sharding, in MongoDB, is another valuable tool for splitting large data sets. This way, it’s possible to accommodate and scale a growing web application with millions of users.
Another feature of MongoDB is replication. Replication helps counteract server-side vulnerabilities (like server crashes and service interruptions) by deploying multiple servers for disaster recovery and backup. When it comes to authentication, MongoDB has several mechanisms (tackled in the security section) for authorizing user access to the database.
MongoDB has database triggers, which allow you to perform and execute code on the occurrence of certain events. Triggers help maintain data consistency and integrity. Moreover, MongoDB has native time series collections to enhance storage efficiency and performance with measurement sequences.
Additionally, MongoDB has Ad-Hoc queries tool that allows developers to update queries in real time, improving performance. The indexing feature in MongoDB grants your applications’ users a fast search speed.
MongoDB indexes operate on real-time everchanging application needs and query patterns. The last feature in MongoDB’s essential tools is load balancing, which grants users a consistent quality experience and view of the data they’re accessing.
In this case, MongoDB is particularly made for database needs. Firebase is cross-platform development SDK (Backend-as-a-service) with a database built into it.
#2. Data Models
Data modeling in Firebase and MongoDB has some similarities. But there are differences based on database structures and approaches.
Firebase uses a JSON-like data structure for storage purposes. In a hierarchical tree organization, data is stored in key-value pairs where each node can contain other nodes, just like JSON objects.
MongoDB, however, uses BSON (Binary JSON) data format for storage. While it uses collections similar to JSON objects, it has additional features like data types and rich querying capabilities.
Despite both databases being schemaless, allowing you to store data with different structures in the same node, MongoDB is more flexible as it enables schema validation.
#3. Scalability and Performance
Both databases are designed well to scale on performance, but MongoDB’s configuration flexibility drives a faster experience. While this gives MongoDB a head start, it narrows down to the problem at hand and usage patterns.
Firebase runs on a serverless architecture that scales automatically and handles traffic spikes. Leveraging Google’s infrastructure, Firebase avails high availability and responsive user experience based on real-time experience and offline data access.
MongoDB scales horizontally by distributing data across multiple servers. You can also partition large databases into smaller, faster, and more manageable parts, called sharding. Employing rich indexing and a flexible schema, MongoDB delivers high performance while working with complex data structures.
MongoDB is specially designed for large applications with fast-moving data pipelines and online transaction processing. But if you’re building a small-scale application, Firebase will serve your needs.
#4. Data Security
As your application runs, you need processes, controls, and tools to secure your data and maintain confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Firebase and MongoDB have different approaches to security.
Firebase approaches security through the flexible (simple or complex) Firebase Security Rules that protect your app’s data on granular levels based on your application needs. These rules leverage JSON for configuration, which can be written in many languages.
The most selling aspect of Firebase is flexibility, where you can customize rules that suit your applications’ structure and behavior and allow you to leverage your data when authorizing access.
Next is its granularity, where rules can be broad or narrow as per specific needs. And finally, independent security follows on declaring rules outside your application (on the Firebase CLI or Firebase console); bugs can’t compromise your data, and clients aren’t tasked with enforcing security. You can define rules for every Firebase product in your application, making it secure. Here’s the gateway to how rules work and setting up some basic ones.
With MongoDB, there are various features to implement security, including authentication, encryption, and access control across all your deployments.
Authentication in MongoDB ratifies a client’s identity to determine whether to grant them access. That being the case, multiple authentication techniques are available; they include salted challenge-response authentication mechanism (SCRAM), certificate, Kerberos, LDAP proxy, and internal/membership authentication.
Fast forward to role-based access control, MongoDB grants users roles evaluating their access to database operations and resources. If a user is not assigned a role, they’re locked out of the system. Closing with encryption, MongoDB has queryable and transport security measures.
Queryable encryption allows you to encrypt data from the client side and store sensitive data in a fully randomized form in the database. For the transport (TLS/SSL) encryption MongoDB enciphers your network’s traffic, ensuring that it’s only readable by the designated client.
In this case, MongoDB’s security measures provide many options and approaches to tackle database security. Also, remember that if well customized, Firebase rules can deliver similar levels of security.
Like with any other software, your choice in the database must be able to connect with other applications and share data through application program interfaces (APIs). Both databases can integrate with other apps; let’s find out which.
Firebase’s key integrations include Google Ads, AdMob, Google Marketing Platform, Google Play, Data Studio, Big Query, Slack, Jira, PagerDuty, and Android Studio. All these apps are integrated without the need for code.
Besides being a database, MongoDB is an evolved data platform with many advanced tools. Using its drivers, you can connect with all popular languages, frameworks, integrated development environments (IDEs), graphical user interfaces (GUIs), runtime environments (RTEs), and operating systems.
MongoDB works well with C, Python, Java, JSON, and TypeScript. Supported frameworks include Laravel, Django, Flask, and Angular. More details on MongoDB compatibility are here.
Here, your choice will be based on the services you want to integrate. If you’re flexible with code, then MongoDB wins. If you prefer no code and your intended integrations are covered, Firebase would be the best option.
#6. Use Cases and Applications
While Firebase and MongoDB serve as database systems, they serve different purposes and use cases and applications. Here’s a breakdown.
Firebase is a comprehensive web and mobile development platform offering various services like real-time database, authentication, hosting, cloud functions, storage, and more.
Real-time updates suit applications like collaboration tools, chat apps, and live dashboards. With authentication, you can integrate social logins (like Facebook and Google) to automate sign-ups and logins.
Other use cases include cloud storage and hosting for your applications. You’re also able to track analytics for your application.
MongoDB, being a NoSQL database, is flexible and has multiple use cases. You can use it in content management systems (CMS) where content structures frequently change, in the Internet of Things (IoT) to generate massive amounts of data, e-commerce applications to handle complex catalogs and user-generated data.
Additionally, mobile applications with large data user requirements can scale with MongoDB. You can also use it in big data analytics to store and process large volumes of data. MongoDB can store and process user behavior data for building personalized recommendation systems.
Summarizing the Differences
Here’s a table to showcase the differences between Firebase and MongoDB:
Cross-platform software development kit (SDK) with an inbuilt database.
Many features to implement security, including authentication, encryption, and access control.
Uses a JSON-like data structure for storage.
Uses BSON (Binary JSON) data format for storage.
Runs on a serverless architecture that scales automatically and handles traffic spikes.
Scales horizontally by distributing data across multiple servers.
Tackles security through the flexible (simple or complex) Firebase Security Rules.
Many features to implement security, including authentication, encryption, and access control across.
Firebase has many integration apps, which are enacted without the need for code.
Works well with many programming languages, frameworks, and development environments.
Real-time collaboration, social login automation, cloud storage/hosting, analytics
Content management, IoT data handling, e-commerce, big data analytics, recommendation systems
To build a successful and robust application, you must make the right choice when selecting your database. And to choose the best database for your application, pay attention to update procedures, scalability, data complexity, etc.
When comparing the two options, there are similarities to check on and key differences to note. Depending on your application needs, you’ll give preference to either. You’ll have to consider other factors to the talent in building your software.
MongoDB offers flexibility in integrations and compatible languages if you have the right expertise for working with code. If, on the other end, you’re looking for backend services with a database in one place, Firebase is a suitable option for developers who prefer backend services with a built-in database.
To put it all together, small-scale, less-traffic applications can be built using Firebase, while large-scale and high-traffic generating apps that need high performance can be developed on MongoDB. Remember that the choice between Firebase and MongoDB depends on specific application requirements, data complexity, and anticipated scalability needs.
This guide shares some information to enlighten you when picking your database. However, it’s wise to research as technology evolves. Staying updated with the latest information on both database systems will help you make the most informed decision.
John Walter is an Electrical and Electronics Engineer with deep passion for software development, and blockchain technology. He loves to learn new technologies and educate the online community about them. He is also a classical organist.
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