Firebase VS MongoDB: Which to Choose and When to Use?
Choosing the right database is one of those critical decisions that a manager can come to either be thankful for or, in the alternative, can lead to profound regret.
There are more than a dozen potential solutions out there, such as PostgreSQL, SQL, Redis, Cassandra, and more. But for many businesses, it boils down to two: Firebase (Firebase Firestore) and MongoDB. They are both long-established, and providers could easily refer us to hundreds of customers delighted with their service. So far so good, but that doesn’t mean that both will deliver results the same way.
It is important to differentiate between Firebase and Mongo Atlas, which are BaaS platforms, and Firebase Firestore and Mongo DB, which are databases. Here, we will take a deep dive into the databases, including the features they offer, examine their pros and cons, and form a view on how to identify the most appropriate solution for your specific business needs.
What is Firebase?
Firebase is more than just a database. It can more accurately be described as a background-connected real-time engine, providing Backend as a Service (BaaS) and a real-time database service called Firestore. Firebase comprises a whole ecosystem for the creation and release of web apps and mobile apps.
Firebase launched in 2012 and was acquired by Google two years later. It offers a wide range of features, which we will look at in more detail soon. It is used by some seriously big-name companies, including Trivago, Wattpad, The New York Times, and Duolingo.
It is important to note that Firebase itself is proprietary technology, although many of its components are open source, which can lead to confusion.
Features of Firebase Firestore
As we already mentioned, Firebase comes packed full of features. These include the following:
- Firebase comes with a NoSQL database service called Cloud Firestore, which allows it to connect in the background. There is also Firebase real-time database.
- Users can connect to Firestore and use it offline. It automatically syncs when they reconnect.
- It has Cloud storage and cloud functionality.
- It offers dynamic links as well as ML-kits.
- It provides in-app communications and performance monitoring.
- It offers a range of authentication methods, including e-mail, Google, and Facebook logins.
- It has advanced features and tools for web hosting.
- It can be classed as an efficient database, since it syncs with real-time changes.
- Firestore can be used alongside various Firebase testing services, including Firebase Test Lab, Firebase Crashlytics, Firebase App Distribution, and Firebase Performance Monitoring.
- It is highly scalable and designed to scale based on user demand automatically. It offers consistent performance, regardless of the size - query time does not depend on the database's size.
Pros of Firebase Firestore
Firebase is the go-to solution for thousands of businesses, including, as we saw earlier, some major players across diverse sectors. Clearly, it has a lot going for it, but there’s no such thing as the perfect solution for everyone. We’ll single out the key pros and cons of Firebase Firestore, starting with the positives:
- Easy to learn if you’re new to programming and app development, Firebase won’t give you sleepless nights. The Firestore database is easy and reasonably intuitive to use. If you opt for a paid version of Firebase, it’s even easier and you have some great support, if you still manage to get into any difficulties.
- Safe hosting is a vital property. One of Firestore’s big selling points is the safety and security of Firebase’shosting services. Data security is vital in any industry, regardless of the type of data, whether it is static or dynamic content, you know it is safe. This is, after all, Google, and they could never risk being anything less than the best in class. What’s more, non-zero configuration SSL is an extra boost to overall security levels.
- Speed - Firebase is fast and safe, a combination guaranteed to raise a smile, particularly among those who said it could never be done! Developers can use the Firebase CLI to get their new app up and running in seconds.
- Superior quality apps - Firebase offers a range of testing services that operate alongside Firestore, whereas other platforms offer only one. More rigorous testing means better-performing apps.
- Сurrent and future benefit of ML Kit by including a machine learning kit and dedicated APIs, the makers are making those “simple” AI processes, with which we are already acquainted, such as voice or text recognition, easier. Firebase Machine Learning renders cloud-based APIs which work well with the Google Cloud ML technology.
- Fast delivery - the Content Delivery Network (CDN) for static content is best in class in terms of pace.
Bottom line: Being backed by Google gives Firebase many advantages. Not least, the Firebase App Indexing tool helps to boost the app’s search ranking, which can only be good news for revenue generation. In addition, Firebase App Indexing helps you to monetize the app more effectively.
Cons of Firebase
We mentioned already that nothing is perfect. Let’s take an objective look at the downsides of using Firebase Firestore.
- Pricing can be ambiguous - Firebase offers a free plan, called Spark, which provides unlimited access to no-cost services and no-cost quotas for paid services. The Blaze plan offers the same as Spark plus pay-as-you-go for additional paid services. The problem is identifying what is free, what is paid, how much you get for the free quotas, and how much you have to pay for extras. All the information is on the pricing page, but it is far from straightforward and can make budgeting problematic.
- Limited hosting options - Firebase is cloud-based, meaning your only hosting option is Google Cloud. With open-source alternatives, you have more options for hosting, either on some other cloud solution or even a local server.
- Insufficient support for iOS - Despite its pretensions towards cross-platform app development, there is no denying that Firebase is more biased towards Android than iOS. Being a Google product, that shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it cannot be ignored. Also, it makes complete sense as the database is backed and powered by Google. But on the flip side, it does not have enough support for iOS.
- Data migration can be awkward, an inevitable consequence of Firestore being noSQL. You can’t simply export to a CSV file or Excel as you can with an SQL database. Also, it does not provide for flexible filtering on fields or to create a snapshot and restore it later. You need to take time to understand how to write Firebase rules.
What is MongoDB?
MongoDB is a far less complex beast than Firebase - which is not necessarily bad. It is simply a NoSQL document database that offers proven scalability and flexibility. When we say proven, we mean it. MongoDB has been around for longer than Firebase, first released in 2009.
Having said that, MongoDB has its platform, which is MongoDB Atlas. MongoDB can handle immense quantities of data, making it a tool of choice for large-scale applications. This becomes clear when you look at some of the international giants who use MongoDB. They include eBay, Adobe, Verizon, SEGA, EA, Coinbase, etc.
Features of MongoDB
MongoDB does not come with such a wide range of features as Firebase, as Firebase has all the firepower of Google behind it. However, it is still a powerful tool. Here’s what you can expect to get with MongoDB:
- A schema-free database that is based on C++
- An efficient query and indexing system
- Data replication capability
- Aggregation and Map-Reduce capabilities
- Sharding and load balancing for optimum performance
Pros of MongoDB
Like Firebase, MongoDB has served some of the most successful businesses well over the past decade, so it has plenty of strengths. Some of the most notable ones are as follows:
- Code-native data - In a triumph for simplicity and plain thinking, MongoDB stores data in document format. It means data is structured to be accessed from any language, for instance, Python, Java, etc.
- Advanced analytics - Making analytics better and easier is Mongo DB’s entire raison d'etre. It takes complex querying in its stride.
- Horizontal scalability - As a distributed database designed from the ground up, MongoDB is all about easy scalability. Developers can create clusters using real-time replication and fragment large, unwieldy data sets across multiple structures.
- Ready for anything - MongoDB can store files of any size.
Cons of MongoDB
Like any tech solution, MongoDB has its limitations. We’ve looked at the pros, but we have to balance them against the cons.
- High memory demands - The way MongoDB stores data has advantages, as just discussed, but it is not efficient. There is some data redundancy and none of the joins functionality you get with an SQL database. It all adds up to significant memory demands.
- An upper limit on data size and nesting - Although the quantity of data is not an issue for MongoDB, size can be. It cannot handle documents larger than 16MB. Nesting, meanwhile, is limited to 100 levels.
- Duplication can be an issue - Some users find that duplicate data can crop up. This makes data management more complex, as you need to work in processes for flagging it and dealing with it before it can mount up.
- Data migration can be awkward - As with Firebase, this is an inevitable consequence of noSQL. You can’t simply export to a CSV file or Excel as you can with an SQL database.
How does Firebase and MongoDB Performance Compare?
So far, most would agree that while they are very different, Firebase and MongoDB bring plenty of powerful benefits to the party. Again, given that they have thrived for so long and each has blue chip clients on its books, it is no surprise. Things start to get interesting when you place them side by side. Next, we will put them through their paces by assessing each against key performance criteria.
- Overall database performance: MongoDB wins for being faster and delivering seamless performance. It can store vast amounts and manages these with no impact on performance.
- Languages supported: Firebase supports six programming languages, with four more supported through bindings to the database. MongoDB officially supports 12, but through its strong community, it is confident it can also have a strong community that has developed more libraries and drivers. The upshot is that Monga can probably handle any programming language you care to throw at it - time to brush up on that FORTRAN.
- Usability: Firebase wins the fact that it comes wrapped in its Google-supported ecosystem makes Firebase a clear winner here.
- Security: Both platforms offer awesome security, so even if you are in a sector that has extraordinary security requirements, such as digital banking development services, you can be confident that data is, as the saying goes, as safe as the Bank of England.
So from the foregoing, when would we use Firebase, and when would MongoDB make more sense?
When to Use Firebase vs MongoDB?
Let’s start with Firebase, which is a perfect choice when some or all of the following circumstances apply:
- The app demands real-time data, and you are limited in development time.
- You intend to scale the app frequently or relatively frequently.
- You need real-time synchronization between browsers and devices.
- You require intuitive API, with the ultimate goal of seamless third-party integration.
- You are building an app in one of the following spaces: social media, messaging, or gaming.
Next, let’s focus on MongoDB. What potential scenarios would make this our weapon of choice?
- You need to perform data management on a large scale.
- The app’s data requirements are likely to change over time.
- You require high scalability and enhanced caching.
- The app needs real-time analytics and high-speed logging.
- You want to track data contingent on location.
Where to Avoid Firebase and MongoDB
Perhaps even more important is looking at circumstances when Firebase or MongoDB should not be used. This is the point at which we avoid the potentially biggest elephant traps. Again, let’s take Firebase first.
- Your main objective is to build an iOS app.
- The thought of lock-in worries you.
- You will likely exceed monthly limits and are on a tightly controlled budget.
These are the corresponding contra-indicators for choosing MongoDB:
- Complete ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability) compliance is required.*
- You are looking to create a sophisticated design system.
- You are inexperienced in database programming.
- The data model is created in advance.
* the ACID compliance point is made in an abundance of caution. There have been some reports over the years of data degradation. However, there are no firm reports to back it up. Nevertheless, in a highly sensitive area, it is worth keeping in mind.
We warned readers at the outset that however closely we looked, we could not conclude that either Firebase or MongoDB is better than the other. While they perform much the same function, it is a little like putting a sports car next to an SUV and asking which is better - the answer depends on what you need them to do and how you intend to use them.
If you need assistance, TechMagic is here to help. As a software product development company, TechMagic offers expert guidance and support for all your development needs starting from the discovery phase and ending maintenance.
Based on your needs and market trends, we provide custom MarTech, HealthTech, HR Tech and FinTech services, including blockchain, digital wallet or custom trading software development. Whether you need support with database selection, real-time application development, or scalable data storage, reach us.
Can you use both Firebase and MongoDB?
You could in theory, but as Firebase is fully contained within its own ecosystem, you would be running them both in parallel. It is hard to envisage any situation in which such duplication would be practical or desirable.
Which are the top companies using Firebase and MongoDB?
Companies using Firebase include Alibaba.com, Venmo, Lyft, The Economist and The New York Times. Those favour MongoDB include eBay, Adobe EA, SEGA, Verizon and eHarmony.
Which database is better: MongoDB or Firebase?
There is no easy answer to that question. Both are high-quality solutions with top notch reputations. The real question is which one will best meet your specific needs and circumstances.