MongoDB vs. PostgreSQL: Unraveling the Database Dilemma

Aditi Prakash
August 26, 2023
12 min read
MongoDB and PostgreSQL are powerful database systems that serve different needs. While MongoDB is a leading NoSQL document-based database, PostgreSQL is a robust relational database management system.

This guide provides an in-depth comparison between the two, touching on their strengths, use cases, and how to choose based on your specific needs.

The database landscape has evolved significantly to accommodate diverse data needs and varying application requirements. Traditionally, relational databases dominated the scene. However, the rise of new data types and dynamic use cases led to the emergence of NoSQL databases.

Today, the landscape is characterized by many types of databases, including NoSQL databases, like MongoDB, that provide flexibility for unstructured data, while traditional relational databases, like PostgreSQL, excel in structured data management and complex querying.

In this article, we will explain the key features of MongoDB vs PostgreSQL and compare them in detail to highlight their best use-case scenarios and help you make the right choice.

What is MongoDB?

NoSQL databases are built to handle large volumes of unstructured or semi-structured data, providing greater flexibility and scalability. 

MongoDB is a popular open-source NoSQL database management system that can handle diverse and dynamic data. It offers a flexible, document-oriented approach to data storage and retrieval. 

MongoDB’s architecture uses documents, which are the same as records in relational databases but can hold more complex and varied structures.

Key Features

Here are the main features of the document database:

  • Document-Oriented: MongoDB stores data in documents. It uses a Binary JSON (BSON) format that is capable of holding nested fields and arrays.
  • Dynamic Schema: Unlike fixed relational schemas, MongoDB’s dynamic schema allows documents in a collection to have different structures, facilitating agility in development.
  • Scalability: MongoDB scales horizontally by distributing data across multiple servers or nodes. This is known as sharding and leads to high scalability.
  • Query Language: MongoDB Query Language (MQL) enables efficient querying of documents. It supports complex filtering, sorting, and aggregation.
  • Indexes: The NoSQL database supports various indexes, improving query performance. It includes single-field, compound, geospatial, and text indexes.
  • Aggregation Pipeline: The platform’s aggregation framework allows for complex data transformation and grouping.
  • High Availability: MongoDB supports replication, maintaining multiple copies of data across nodes to enhance availability and fault tolerance.
  • Geospatial Data: MongoDB includes support for geospatial queries, making it suitable for applications dealing with location-based data.

What is PostgreSQL?

Relational databases are traditional databases that store and manage data in structured tables with rows and columns. Each row represents a record, and each column represents a data attribute.

They use SQL (Structured Query Language) for querying and manipulation. SQL databases emphasize data integrity and consistency.

PostgreSQL, often called “Postgres,” is a powerful open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) known for its strong focus on data quality, advanced querying capabilities, and extensibility.

It can handle structured data, making it an ideal choice for applications that require robust data management, data analytics, and ACID transactions.

Key Features

Postgres boasts the following main features:

  • Relational Structure: PostgreSQL follows the relational database model, which enables efficient data retrieval and manipulation.
  • ACID Compliance: Like most SQL databases, Postgres adheres to ACID principles, ensuring data consistency and reliability by providing Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability for transactions.
  • Advanced Querying: The relational database allows for complex analytical queries, joins, subqueries, and window functions for in-depth data analysis.
  • Extensibility: Its extensible architecture enables users to create custom data types, operators, functions, and even procedural languages, enhancing its versatility.
  • Concurrency Control: PostgreSQL uses Multi-Version Concurrency Control (MVCC) to manage concurrent read and write operations while maintaining data consistency.
  • Indexing: The database supports various index types, including B-tree, hash, GiST (Generalized Search Tree), and GIN (Generalized Inverted Index), optimizing query performance.
  • Triggers and Rules: Postgres allows triggers and rules, enabling automatic execution of actions when specific events occur in the database.
  • Full-Text Search: It includes powerful full-text search capabilities, making it suitable for applications requiring advanced text searching and indexing.
  • JSON Support: The database offers native support for storing and querying JSON data, providing flexibility for applications with semi-structured data.

Key Differences: MongoDB vs. PostgreSQL

Here’s a table presenting a concise overview of the key attributes, allowing for easy comparison for MongoDB vs. PostgreSQL.

MongoDB vs PostgreSQL differences

Let's explore these differences in detail:

  • Data Model
  • Schema Flexibility
  • Query Language and Capabilities
  • Scalability and Distribution
  • ACID Properties and Transactions

Data Model

MongoDB uses a document oriented data model. Data is stored in flexible, JSON-like documents with dynamic schemas. This allows you to store different types of data in the same collection.

PostgreSQL is a relational database management system. It uses a relational model to store data in structured tables with predefined schemas, ensuring integrity through normalization.

Schema Flexibility

MongoDB offers high schema flexibility. You can change document structures within a collection without affecting other documents, making it suitable for evolving semi-structured or unstructured data.

PostgreSQL enforces a strict database schema where table structures must be defined upfront. Altering the schema might require data migration.

Query Language and Capabilities

MongoDB utilizes its own query language, MQL (MongoDB Query Language), and supports queries with a JSON-like syntax. It also supports aggregation pipelines for advanced data manipulations.

PostgreSQL uses SQL, a popular programming language for querying and manipulating relational data. It excels at complex analytical queries, joins, and indexing.

Scalability and Distribution

Document databases, like MongoDB, support horizontal scaling through sharding to help handle large datasets and high traffic.

PostgreSQL is scalable through replication and clustering, but horizontal scaling can be more complex than MongoDB.

ACID Properties and Transactions

MongoDB provides ACID guarantees at the document level. Transactions involving multiple documents are supported.

PostgreSQL offers robust ACID compliance with transactions spanning multiple tables, ensuring data integrity and consistency.

Performance Considerations: MongoDB vs PostgreSQL

Performance considerations between MongoDB vs PostgreSQL can vary widely based on workload, data volume, indexing strategies, and hardware. Here’s a general overview:

  • Speed: MongoDB is designed for high-speed, low-latency operations, making it suitable for read-heavy workloads. The document database allows retrieving whole documents in a single operation, which can be very efficient for specific use cases.

    PostgreSQL performs well for complex analytical workloads. To optimize query performance, it employs advanced indexing techniques, such as B-tree, hash, and GiST indexes.
  • Resource Utilization: MongoDB’s scalability and sharding capabilities can distribute read and write loads across multiple nodes, enhancing resource utilization and throughput. However, write-heavy workloads can be impacted by the necessity of maintaining indexes and data distribution.

    PostgreSQL is efficient for both read and write operations, making it suitable for mixed workloads. Its ability to create specialized indexes and utilize optimization features like query caching contributes to resource efficiency.
  • Real-World Benchmarks: MongoDB provides benchmarks and performance guidelines, showcasing its capabilities in various scenarios. However, real-world results for the document database can vary depending on factors like data size, query complexity, and deployment setup.

    Postgres also offers benchmarks and performance tips. You can also use pgbench to run benchmark tests on the relational database.

When comparing real-world benchmarks, it’s essential to consider the following:

  • Relevance: Benchmarks should match your application’s workload and data characteristics.
  • Version: Database performance can vary between versions, so ensure benchmarks are up-to-date.
  • Customization: Both MongoDB and PostgreSQL can be tuned for specific workloads, which might not be fully represented in generic benchmarks.
  • Hardware: Hardware configurations significantly impact performance. What works well in one setup might not apply to another.

Integration and Ecosystem

Both MongoDB and Postgres integrate with many programming languages, with official drivers for Python, Java, Node.js, and more. They also work well with web frameworks.

PostgreSQL has robust extensibility features that allows for custom data types, operators, and functions. Numerous community-contributed extensions enhance its capabilities. It also supports Geographic Information System (GIS) data, making it a preferred choice for location-based applications.

Both databases have large active communities contributing to plugins, drivers, and more. The PostgreSQL Global Development Group maintains the relational database and provides extensive documentation and community support.

Use Cases & Real-world Implementations

Let’s delve into how these databases are used in real life. 


MongoDB is commonly used for content management systems, real-time analytics, IoT applications, inventory management, and the backend of mobile and gaming applications.

The document database has been successfully implemented to drive data operations in leading global companies, with MongoDB Atlas being used by ForbesToyotaVodafone, and more.


Postgres’ data structure, ACID compliance, and extensibility are useful for data warehousing and complex analytical querying by data-driven teams. It is also utilized in financial and healthcare applications, scientific research, and online forums.

The relational database has driven operations in InstagramFoursquare, and Twitch.

Choosing between MongoDB and PostgreSQL

 Here are some critical considerations for choosing between MongoDB vs. PostgreSQL:

  • Data Structure and Flexibility: MongoDB’s flexible schema could be advantageous if your project deals with dynamic or evolving data structures. A relational database, like Postgres, is a good fit if your project requires a normalized data model.
  • Query Complexity: MongoDB is the ideal solution for projects with simple queries and where document-based retrieval is beneficial. Postgres is excellent for projects with complex analytical queries and aggregations.
  • Scalability: If your project anticipates rapid growth and needs to scale horizontally, MongoDB’s sharding capabilities are valuable. Postgres is suitable where vertical scaling, replication, and careful architectural planning can handle foreseeable growth.
  • Transaction Support: PostgreSQL is a good choice for projects requiring ACID compliance and complex transactions across multiple tables. If your project requires database transactions involving multiple documents within a collection, MongoDB’s support for multi-document transactions is useful.
  • Data Volume: Document databases, like MongoDB, help with large volumes of semi-structured or unstructured data that can be stored in documents. PostgreSQL is used for projects with structured data.
  • Ecosystem and Integration: Consider the compatibility of each database with your preferred programming languages, frameworks, and tools.

MongoDB, PostgreSQL, and Airbyte: Simplifying Data Integration

Once you’ve chosen the right database tool for your project, you need to streamline data movement between your sources, database systems, and other applications. A dynamic data integration platform like Airbyte is the key to this. 

After exploring the nuances of both the databases, consider checking out our article on migrating from MongoDB to Postgres leveraging Airbyte, a dynamic data integration platform.

Airbyte has 350+ built-in data connectors to relational databases, like Postgres, non-relational databases, like MongoDB, and hundreds of other sources and destinations. Using the open-source platform, data teams can simplify data transfer and create no-code data pipelines with ease.

Airbyte pipelines can help streamline your data ecosystem by centralizing data from all related sources, databases, and applications. Data engineers can also build custom connectors in minutes for their unique use cases.

Airbyte also enables data teams to scale their operations via seamless integrations with hundreds of applications to accommodate growing data volumes, users, and processes.


MongoDB vs PostgreSQL excel in different areas and continue to evolve with new features and improvements. 

The NoSQL database is excellent for scenarios involving flexible data models, rapid development, real-time analytics, and situations where horizontal scalability is crucial. The relational database shines when complex queries, strong transactional support, data integrity, and structured data storage are required.

The decision of MongoDB vs. PostgreSQL is driven by your project’s requirements, including data structure, scalability needs, query complexity, and transactional consistency. In some cases, hybrid solutions that combine the strengths of both databases might be the best approach.

The Airbyte blog has more information about databases and how to effectively use them for your organization.

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