What Is MongoDB? A Simple Guide for Web Developers

Headshot of CareerFoundry contributor Alex Williams.

For all the changes in programming in the past year, developers in 2024 should keep MongoDB at the top of their to-do list. If you haven’t heard of it already,

MongoDB is a non-relational database—in fact, it’s the most popular NoSQL database among developers worldwide.

Created in 2007 by the team behind the technology that turned Google into an advertising machine, Eliot Horowitz, Dwight Merriman, and Kevin Ryan developed custom data stores to overcome some limitations of databases of the time. 

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about using MongoDB as a new developer.

  1. What is MongoDB?
  2. MongoDB advantages and disadvantages
  3. Is MongoDB good for web development?
  4. MongoDB FAQs
  5. Wrapping up

1. What is MongoDB?

MongoDB is a database management platform that provides a NoSQL alternative to traditional databases such as SQL. While SQL is excellent when used with structured data, non-relational databases are very useful for developers that work with unstructured, distributed data. 

MongoDB is a helpful set of tools and capabilities that can manage text and documents, data storage, and fast transfer and retrieval. In fact, it was designed with accessibility in mind, even when you need to do complex querying. 

MongoDB acts as a database server where organizations can maintain several databases. It’s very efficient for developers to fetch and work with data.

The above reasons are why it’s so popular with some of the biggest names in every industry, including government, energy, and financial services. Large organizations use MongoDB for essential business information because it is super easy to scale large amounts of data and distribute it rationally, all while offering high availability. 

What is a non-relational database?

A non-relational database stores unstructured data without a schema across many nodes. Instead of relying on fixed tables like relational databases, non-relational databases are built to move data and scale efficiently. 

Relational databases are great for advanced analytics and storing unchanging data, but not so great for speed and rich development. Non-relational databases like MongoDB work with unstructured JSON data for web development.  

2. MongoDB advantages and disadvantages

MongoDB was built to make web development easy. But just like any other developer platform, MongoDB comes with its own set of pros and cons to consider. 

MongoDB advantages:

  • NoSQL databases like MongoDB are simple to maintain.
  • It’s open-source, so it’s free and less costly to use. 
  • It’s highly scalable; all you have to do is add more machines to your resource pool.
  • MongoDB supports integrated system memory caching to improve output performance. 
  • It’s AI-compatible through MongoDB Atlas, allowing users to build AI-powered apps.
  • The platform is easy to use and has numerous features to add to the users’ capabilities.

MongoDB disadvantages:

  • It requires quite a bit of memory for data storage and retrieval. 
  • There are naming restrictions for databases on Windows.
  • BSON document size is limited to 16MB.

3. Is MongoDB good for web development?

Developers need tools that support large amounts of data to build modern web applications. MongoDB was created to address the need for software engineering and web development tools that meet the needs of today’s developers.

But what is MongoDB doing that makes it so well-suited to meeting these needs? Firstly, it uses a simple document model, so developers can learn and use it with ease while still offering users the ability to meet complex requirements. 

Each application that businesses work with has to be designed and built on a quality database that can maintain and support data transfer with other apps for a fast and secure user experience. Traditional (read: old-school) web applications depended on relational databases, but modern developers are leaning into alternative data stores like NoSQL with tools such as MongoDB. 

In short, MongoDB is great for web development. These databases help organizations design and build data-driven applications that look great and integrate seamlessly with other systems. They are built for high throughput, so developer platforms like MongoDB are superfast and come with automatic features to help maintain your applications. 

When to use MongoDB

Now that you’ve learned what is MongoDB exactly, it’s time to see when you should be thinking about deploying it.

If you’re working with unstructured data like text and rich media, then this tool could be the solution for you. It’s also great for Big Data systems. Here are some common instances of when to use it:

  • You’re working with lots of unstructured data
  • You’re working in the cloud
  • Your team uses Agile for development
  • You require simple data accessibility
  • Your organization runs performance-critical applications
  • You want instant data recovery options
  • You have an undefined or unstable schema
  • Your organization doesn’t have a database admin

When not to use MongoDB

Non-relational databases are wonderful tools, but they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Here’s when not to use MongoDB:

  • You work with a lot of structured data
  • You work with stored procedures
  • Your organization requires ACID compliance

A web developer discusses MongoDB with two of his colleagues in an office.

4. MongoDB FAQs

Now that you’ve grasped what it is, how it works, and the pros and cons of using it, here are the answers to a few common questions about MongoDB:

What is MongoDB Atlas?

MongoDB Atlas is a cloud database service that enables users to deploy and scale MongoDB clusters in the cloud in only a few clicks. The DBaaS offers data distribution and mobility across AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud implementations.

The platform also boasts built-in automation to optimize resources and workloads. Plus, since it is a managed service, users never have to worry about on-premise hardware, software updates, or configuring their setup.

What’s more, Atlas enables you to work with that hottest technology of the past year—Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Users and businesses can create a host of ML/AI apps through support integrations for large language models (LLMS), full-text search for prompt accuracies, and time-series collections, to name just a few.

Read more about MongoDB and AI on their website.

Which companies use MongoDB?

There are more than 35,000 companies that use MongoDB to build applications. Here are some names you may recognize:

  • Google
  • Red Hat
  • NetSuite
  • eBay
  • MetLife
  • Shutterfly
  • Aadhar
  • Electronic Arts (EA)
  • Vanta
  • Ulta Beauty
  • Forbes
  • Toyota
  • Flobiz
  • Marcello

Is MongoDB worth learning?

Yes! The aforementioned 2023 Stack Overflow survey across over 75,000 developers revealed that MongoDB is one of the most desirable databases in the world, along with the likes of PostgreSQL.

Why? It’s very fast, can handle unstructured data efficiently, and provides better indexing and search operations than similar platforms. 

Another reason you should learn MongoDB is that it integrates very well with Node.js, the most widely used backend framework. It’s simple to learn, and it makes developing with Node.js a breeze. 

Finally, MongoDB is worth learning because it’s a crucial component of the MERN and MEAN stacks (Hint: MongoDB is the “M”) that backend, frontend, and full stack developers use regularly. 

5. Wrapping up

So, now you’ve learned all about what is MongoDB! As you’ve seen, this tool is widely popular among developers in nearly every industry.

For beginner web developers mapping out their learning pathways, it’s a key tool to add to your skillset. Leveraging MongoDB to build services and applications helps rising developers stand out from their peers on a resume and on the job.

Besides that, it’s an excellent tool that allows developers to develop modern web-based applications that require a fast deployment system and scalability that meet the needs of evolving organizations. It’s no surprise then, that students of the CareerFoundry Full-Stack Web Development Program are taught MongoDB as part of their studies.

If you’d like to learn more about web development, check out these articles:

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