How to Back Up MongoDB? A Complete Guide

SimpleBackups founder

Laurent Lemaire

Co-founder, SimpleBackups

July 18th, 2023

Imagine one day you realize that you accidentally deleted all your critical business data, with no way to restore it. How would your organization pull through without backups and no chance of recovery? 

This article will give you an overview of MongoDB and explain how to create secure data backups.  

The Need for Backing Up MongoDB

As with every database, regularly backing up MongoDB is paramount to prevent data loss or compromisation due to malfunctions, human error, cyberattacks, or natural disasters. 

Additional benefits of regular backups include:

  • Solid data security against cyberattacks, breaches, and sprawls: You can rest assured your backup is stored separately from primary systems by creating multiple data copies. The backup data remains protected and accessible by authorized people despite a compromised production system.
  • Easy management when restoring data: In the event of critical system issues, having a backup readily available means recovery is a breeze. It helps administrators restore data to specific time stamps to reduce downtime and data loss.
  • Accurate data replica sets: It's like rewinding in real-time. Replica sets maintain multiple copies of data in different locations. So, data is synchronized to other locations for easy access during hardware or network failures.
  • Compliance with standards and legalities: Depending on your storage region, different laws apply to backups. For instance, Europe’s GDPR policy protects personal data and emphasizes the need for regular backups and recovery procedures. Another example is USA’s HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Security Act). Healthcare providers must have adequate backup and recovery measures that protect health information. 
  • Undisrupted performance and uptime: Incremental backups capture changes since the last backup - this can be at specific time stamps like every hour or once a day during less activity periods. Consequently, this reduces resource usage, the time needed to back up, and interruptions. 

MongoDB Backup Strategies

While choosing a backup strategy for MongoDB, consider the traffic you are handling and your server's CPU, RAM, and disk space when deciding which backup process(es) to deploy. 

Depending on your hardware, your options include:

MongoDump Command:

This logical backup compiles data from the client API and dumps it into a designated BSON backup file. File collection at a granular (high-detail and individual level) makes restoration easier. Specific, unnecessary nodes remain accessible during backups.  

Remember that this option is better for small to medium-sized deployments, not large systems. MongoDump uses one CPU core or a single-threaded backup, limiting performance with massive amounts of data. Space and memory requirements also become difficult to manage.   

MongoDB Cloud Manager/ Atlas:

This cloud-based option uses native snapshots of your data as backups. You can trigger these snaps whenever required or configure a predesignated time for regular, recurring backups.

MongoDB Ops Manager:

This application runs in your data center to continuously back up data. It provides point-in-time restore options through an agent that connects to your database.

Oplogs consistently compress and encrypt data after initial synchronization. This creates database snapshots every 6 hours and stores them for 24 hours.\
\
You can customize the snapshot schedule, but it depends on network speed. Slow internet connections can be problematic and disrupt uploads. 

Database Files Snapshot:

The most straightforward backup solution instantly copies and stores all data in a secure, physical location.

MongoDB doesn’t automatically pause operations.

Experts recommend stopping all write operations to ensure consistency. Although you have complete control over snapshots, restoration is complex and only available at breakup points.

Principals of MongoDB Backup

There are three primary principles of all MongoDB backups. Here is a comparison of your options: 

With MongoDB, there are two significant ways of importing and exporting your backup data: 

  • binary copies 
  • BSON files of all your data

Backup deployment and regular backups rely on MongoDB Dump because it uses a cron job. Using MongoRestore, you can instantly retrieve all your data. This tool is ideal for small file backups because it focuses on essential functions, speed, and MongoDump integration.  

On the contrary, MongoExport produces JSON or CSV output files of your backup. It provides additional control over granularity and which fields to export. This makes it ideal for files of all sizes.

Step-by-step Guide to MongoDB Dump

To create binary backups of your database data and export a replica set or sharded cluster, follow these steps: 

Direct Backup

This step generates a dump folder in the selected directory. From the system command line, run MongoDump using the command:

mongodump <options> <connection-string>

You can also use the same command to connect to MongoDatabases with the -uri command. Remember, you can only include 1 formatted string like -user or -password per command.   

If you want default configurations, use the command: Mongodump on its own. 

Remote and Secure MongoDB Instances 

Host and port numbers can be customized with the -URI string. Here is an example of the command:

mongodump --uri="mongodb://<host URL/IP>:<Port>" \[additional options].

For a specific port number, use the following:

mongodump --host="<host URL/IP>" --port=<Port> \[additional options].

For remote MongoDB files:

mongodump --host="10.10.10.59" --port=27017

You can implement access controls and authenticators like usernames and passwords for your backup. Use the syntax:

mongodump --authenticationDatabase=<Database> -u=<Username> -p=<Password> [additional options

Collections and Databases 

You can run a -DB instance using:

mongodump  --db=<Backup Target - Database> \[additional options].

But, to select an entire collection, execute:

mongodump  --db=<Backup Target - Database> --collection=<Collection Name> \[additional options].

For a specified collection, the command is:

mongodump  --db=<Backup Target - Database> --excludeCollection=<Collection Name> \[additional options].

Backup Directory

The next step is changing your backup folder's location or overall directory. The syntax for this is:

mongodump --out=<Directory Location> \[additional options]

 To switch the backup folder with the backup directory, run:

mongodump --host=10.10.10.59 --port=27017 --authenticationDatabase="admin" -u="barryadmin" -p="testpassword" --out=dbbackup

Archive Files 

Next, you need an archive file for your output; otherwise, its standard form is stdout. You can’t combine -archive and -out. Therefore, define your archive file using the following: 

mongodump --archive=<file> \[additional options]

OR

mongodump --host=10.10.10.59 --port=27017 --authenticationDatabase="admin" -u="barryadmin" -p="testpassword" --archive=db.archive

Compress Backup

Once your data has been backed-up, the files must be compressed, regardless of the output format. Remember, JSON and BSON files must be compressed individually, not together. Use the command: 

mongodump --gzip \[additional options]

The steps above focus on standalone sets.

Replication as a Backup Method

In a nutshell, MongoDB replication creates multiple copies of the same data on multiple MongoDB servers. To create a new replica set: 

1. Initiate Mongod

To enable the MongoDB instance you desire, specify its port value and path through system commands using: 

$ mongod --port 27017 --dbpath /var/lib/mongodb --replSet replicaSet1

2. Configure Replica Set

Replica sets involve multiple instances communicating with each other. However, you must establish their link by specifying their hostname and IPs. Use the code: 

mongo –host node-2 –port 27017

mongo –host node-3 –port 27017

Please note these commands must be used for every server changing their port and path as required.  

3. Enable Replication

After configuring your replica sets, open the Mongo Shell from your primary instance. Use the command: 

rs.initiate()

The Mongo Shell should change to the replica set’s name. 

4. Add/ Remove MongoDB instances.

Once your Replica set is prepared, initialize it by adding instances. To do so, enter the syntax: 

rs.add(<servername:port>)

You can check the status of the replication using: 

rs.status()

To remove an instance, you must shut it down first through:

db.shutdownserver

Then, connect with the primary server and use the following remove command: 

rs.remove("server_name")

Third-party Backup Tools

New users might find MongoDB too complicated to wrap their heads around, especially if they are unfamiliar with the technology that powers it. It’s common to struggle with how time-consuming and labor-intensive the application is, increasing the probability of errors.  

A third-party backup solution simplifies and automates your process. The Top 3 MongoDB Backup Tools on the market include: 

1. SimpleBackups:

Price: Free service for the first project - Then starts from $34/ month.

SimpleBackups is an all-in-one, cloud-based backup automation tool. It offers robust security and encryption, including multiple-factor authentication. Users can schedule consistent backups for several databases, including MongoDB and MySQL.

The platform also supports multiple storage options, including Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage Wasabi, and Dropbox. 

Using incremental, serverless backups optimized for all types of data sets SimpleBackups apart. It only captures changes made since the last backup to reduce storage size and costs significantly.

Its user-friendly interface lets users of all tech-expertise levels configure backups schedules, sources, and destinations within 12 straightforward clicks. 

Business and compliance needs like GDPR can be met through its flexible data retention policies. SimpleBackups offers web access and easy data restoration in the event of data loss or system failure. The platform also keeps a detailed log of backups for troubleshooting and audits. 

In a nutshell, SimpleBackups is a comprehensive, customizable backup solution that meets individual and large-scale needs. 

2. Percona: 

Price: Free 

Percona is a versatile database backup and management system. One of its notable strengths is Linux and cloud compatibility, indicating its seamless integration and support for various environments. Whether you’re using on-premise servers or a cloud, Percona can adapt itself to meet your criteria. 

The platform offers industry-standard data integrity and security protocols to protect your backups. This ensures sensitive information is always safe, even during transfers. 

Percona demonstrates flexibility through its extensive support for different technology stacks. A few examples include PostgreSQL, MongoDB, and MySQL. It relies on data replication and synchronization across multiple servers to back up data with minimum risk of failure or downtime. 

Moreover, the software provides customized packages for on-premise deployments focusing on streamlined processes and optimized performance. With Percona, businesses and individuals can leverage the benefits of a cost-effective cloud backup to safeguard their MongoDB data.

3. Google Cloud Backup and DR: 

Price: $300 free credits. Pay-as-you-go model. 

Google is synonymous with innovation, and its Cloud Backup and Disaster Recovery platform is no exception. It offers an in-depth suite of tools for data protection, such as virtual testing clones. This feature creates duplicate data sets for users to test the restoration process. Businesses can validate their backup strategies to prevent errors in the future. 

Whether it's Google Cloud SQL or other storage options, you have several storage options for your backup. Further, Google Cloud Backup supports various formats, including backups for VMware and Computer Engine VMs to meet diverse infrastructure requirements.

Through its incremental backup capabilities, Google Cloud Backups offer regular data scans every 15 minutes. This minimizes resource use, impact on production systems, and the risk of data loss. 

Creating a Backup Schedule

Timing is everything when it comes to successful database backups. Replicating or snapshotting data at predefined intervals ensures you have access to up-to-date backups. Without regular backups, you might lose critical updates leading to data inconsistencies or incomplete recovery in the event of failure. 

You can reduce the risk of unexpected errors, hardware failure, and data breaches by scheduling your backups. A well-planned backup schedule guarantees that your data is replicated during low-activity periods and outside business hours. 

Many industries have local or regulatory requirements that mandate regular backups. For example, GDPR’s Article 32 requires industries to secure personal data through regular backups and encryption. 

Likewise, HIPAA’s Security Rule requires covered providers to create retrievable, electronic replica sets of protected health information. By creating and adhering to a schedule, you can demonstrate compliance. They provide critical data for audits and legal inquiries. 

Your backup schedule depends on considerations like the data changes scale, how critical your data is, and the acceptable risk level. You can reduce the impact on system operations and interruptions by avoiding peak usage times. For example, databases with critical, sensitive information might require backups every 15 minutes, while other data can be backed up weekly.

Once you determine your backup requirements, SimpleBackups can automate your MongoDB backup process. SimpleBackups helps you configure backup schedules, data sources, intervals, etc. This eliminates the need for manual intervention and the risk of human error. 

Restoring MongoDB from Backup

In addition to its backup tools, MongoDB offers a simple restoration utility called Mongorestore. If you used the MongoDump tool to create your backup, you can enter the following syntax to deploy the restore process: 

mongorestore <options> <connection-string> <directory or file to restore>

This is the basic command, and it automatically restores all data within the selected directory. However, the codes differ if you wish to restore data from standard inputs, compressed files, or archives. Instead, use the following based on your use case: 

Secure MongoDB instance:

mongorestore \[additional options] --authenticationDatabase=<Database> -u=<Username> -p=<Password> \[restore directory/file]

Remote MongoDB instance:

mongorestore \[additional options] --uri="mongodb://<host URL/IP>:<Port>" \[restore directory/file]

Compressed Files:

mongorestore --gzip \[additional options] \[restore directory/file]

Archive Files:

mongorestore \[additional options] --archive=<file>

Backup and Security

Secure backup strategies focus on preventing unauthorized access, data corruption, and loss. It's crucial to protect your backups during transmission and storage through encryption and authentication mechanisms. Consider backing up your data to various locations, on-site and off-site, or in the cloud. Regularly test and restore your data to ensure the process is smooth and your backups aren't damaged. 

Finally, always have a backup plan and regular security reviews to ensure you have a robust data protection framework in place. 

Understanding the Basics of MongoDB

MongoDB is a document-oriented, open-source NoSQL database built in C++. It uses JSON-like documents, Dynamic Schema, and related data formats for cross-platform compatibility. It supports drivers for multiple programming languages, including PHP, Python, Java, .Net, C++, C#, and C. 

The word "Mongo" is derived from "Humongous," it represents the large scale of data the program can handle and manipulate. Even among NoSQL databases, MongoDB stands out because of its document orientation, flexibility, automatic scaling, data availability, and high performance.

Key Features that Set MongoDB Apart: 

Flexible, document-oriented architecture 

Allows to store data in collections rather than splitting it. These documents are self-contained, which suggests you can store images, videos, text, and other content formats.

This feature is handy as a content management system. You can easily store, retrieve and manipulate web pages, blogs, articles, and multimedia as independent files rather than shifting the entire database.

Schema-less database

Programmed in C++ that uses BSON format. It implies the database can store various documents with unique sizes, content, and fields. You don't have to worry about the constraints of conventional databases, like having a fixed document schema.

Because the NoSQL database can store dynamic data structures with varying formats, it can handle large volumes and forms of information. The flexibility makes MongoDB an excellent platform to back up IoT devices and social media.

Primary and secondary indices to designate fields

This method makes accessing specific information from the database pool easier. 

You can create particular indices like timestamps or locations for quick and accurate data retrieval, analysis, and processing. It makes MongoDB a top choice for financial applications.

Sharded cluster support

Allows you to distribute data over several physical servers for horizontal scalability. A shard key divides extensive data into smaller chunks for uniform dispersal.

You can use sharing for high-traffic websites because it can handle concurrent requests. Further, by distributing data across multiple servers, businesses can scale up effortlessly and improve response times. 

Load balancing

This feature helps you maintain high data availability at all times.

It generates multiple-replica sets of all data to store in various locations; thus, if one server fails, you can still retrieve your data safely from another.

Replica sets imply data redundancy and seamless failovers to prevent service interruptions or data loss.

The MongoDB Architecture

MongoDB's general architecture sends data from applications to drivers. With the Mongo shell, or commanding interface where users add code to perform operations, this information is sent to its server and storage engines.

The software was developed by combining essential SQL relational database features with the innovations of NoSQL. They prioritize data handling and scalability while eliminating old-school approaches like predefined schemas and relationships. Users can leverage the best of both worlds - structuring large amounts of data using SQL queries while accessing many performance benefits like diverse data types and easy growth. 

MongoDB can accommodate broad application and deployment criteria because it relies on multiple storage engines. A storage engine manages and retrieves data within a database system. MongoDB’s engineering allows users to choose from different options based on their requirements.

Their default WiredTiger storage engine is known for its blazing performance, compression, and encryption. On the other hand, their encrypted storage engine is ideal for sensitive data files, offering an extra layer of security. They also offer in-memory storage within RAMs - but these are limited by available memory, and if the server stop, all data is lost. 

A customizable architecture means users can combine the storage engines depending on installation. For example, an in-memory storage engine might be ideal if you require ultra-fast data access with low latency. However, you can opt for a hybrid with encrypted storage if you have sensitive data. 

Conclusion

Backups are critical for various reasons, including data protection, compliance, and business continuity. Fortunately, MongoDB offers various mechanisms to help back up your data instantly.

The MongoDump feature is the easiest to use for small files and offers flexibility, low maintenance costs, and easy-back-ups even for beginners.

But, SimpleBackups can automate the process for you, protect your data and eliminate the risk of data loss. You can discover the tool’s reliability with a commitment-free trial. 

Remember to back up and test your data and protection measures regularly. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the main differences between MongoDB Dump and MongoDB Export?

The key differences lie in their data format and granularity levels. MongoDB Dump creates binary backups of the entire database or specific collections. It captures data at lower levels, including all data structures and indexes, making it ideal for complete backups or point-in-time recovery.

On the other hand, MongoDB Export exports data in specific formats like JSON or CSV. It allows you to select query results and portions of the database for more granular control. You can also filter fields and other conditions. 

How often should I back up my MongoDB database?

Backup frequency depends on how much data there is, how frequently it is changed, and how critical it is.  

What are the key considerations when choosing a third-party backup tool for MongoDB?

Ensure the tool is compatible with MongoDB and offers backup automation, scheduling, and support features. Also, consider security features, scalability, and ease of use. 

How do I automate the backup process in MongoDB?

Schedule your MongoDB backups using a tool like SimpleBackups.It will automate the process for you, so all you have to do is enter the basic script on MongoDB's shell. 

What are some common mistakes to avoid when backing up MongoDB?

Common mistakes include not testing the restoration process, neglecting encryption, and not having remote cloud backups to protect data against physical damage. 

What are the steps to restore MongoDB from a backup?

Use the MongoRestore command tool, specifying the backup directory or file. The shell will restore your data, indexes, and configuration automatically. 

What are file system snapshots, and how do they work with MongoDB?

File system snapshots capture a specific point-in-time of the entire data file, including MongoDB files. Operations freeze to create a consistent Xerox copy of the files. This eliminates the need for separate backups on MongoDB.  

How do I ensure the security of my MongoDB backups?

It is recommended to use encryption features like access control and user authentication during backup and upload. Also, using a cloud provider can protect your backup against evolving threats. 

How can I test the integrity of my MongoDB backups?

Perform regular restores and validate that all the data matches your original data. Also, test the functionality of the data in case of file corruption. 

How does replication serve as a backup method in MongoDB?

Replication serves as a backup form, creating data redundancies across multiple servers.



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