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Moving from SQL to NoSQL Database: An In-Depth Handbook | BangDB
Published on Oct 20, 2021

Moving From SQL to NoSQL Database: An In-Depth Handbook

The systems you’ve used to grow your business in the past are not the systems that will support you into the future.

Moving From SQL to NoSQL Database: An In-Depth Handbook

Relational databases were created back in the 70’s. Imagine trying to play a 4k movie on 70’s television, or checking your favorite news app on a phone from the 70’s… 

Impossible, obviously.

For almost every area of modern life, you use modern technology because it just makes sense. The same is true for your business tech. 

So we thought it was time to show you what it takes to migrate from your outdated SQL system to something more scalable, flexible, and technologically sound.

Steps to Switch Database Systems:

  1. Choose a NoSQL database provider
  2. Familiarize with the new system
  3. Conceptualize how you will represent your data
  4. Make the leap from SQL to NoSQL
  5. Rewrite your application code for NoSQL

The process can seem daunting at first, but many major companies, such as Marriott, Ryanair, Gannett, Art.sy, Foursquare and more, started with relational systems and later upgraded to support their exponential growth. 

In the rest of this article, I’ll walk you step-by-step through the process so you know exactly how it works.

Step 1: Choose a NoSQL Database Provider

Before you can move anything, you’ll need a service provider. You can learn more about some of the fastest NoSQL providers here. If you just want to see an overview of some of our top choices, here are our favorites:

  • BangDB
  • MongoDB
  • Cassandra
  • ElasticSearch
  • Amazon DynamoDB

The database provider you choose should be based on what you need to accomplish with your application; however, BangDB is considered one of the fastest, easiest, and most reliable providers in existence, so it is always a good choice in our opinion.

Step 2: Familiarize with the New Database System

Once you’ve chosen a service provider, you need to understand a little about their solution. You don’t have to be an expert in NoSQL, but it helps to have an idea of what that service is capable of and how you can implement it for your application.

  • Download the database system if possible
  • Read some of the manuals and online tutorials
  • Use the system for one or more test projects

Start by downloading the system if it has a free version. BangDB (mentioned above) has a completely free, open-source option that can be upgraded for Enterprise use and additional functionality later on. That means you can download it, learn it, and test it before going all-in.

Most service providers offer online tutorials that are really insightful and can help you avoid common challenges as you make your move. You can read these yourself or have your developers review them to make sure they *get it* before diving into the deep end of the pool.

We also recommend putting your new database service to use on small test projects before migrating your entire application. Hands-on experience will help you and your developers get a feel for the power you’re about to have in the palm of your hands, and as you’ve probably heard… 

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Voltaire

Even though migrating data from one system to another is actually pretty simple, it is important to get familiar with the new system before you make the move.

Looking for an innovative NoSQL solution?

Step 3: Conceptualize How You Will Represent Your Data

Another pre-move consideration is how you plan to represent your data in the new system. You have several options, and the right one for your business will depend on the capabilities you need. 

Common NoSQL Data Store Options:

  • Key-Value Pair
  • Document
  • Column
  • Graph

Key-Value Pair
In this database set up you will store key-value pairs with a record. A key can be a numeric or string value and needs to be unique within its record.

Document
A document store is used for keeping semi-structured data. Data in a document store is encoded in standard formats such as XML, JSON, YAML, and BSON. 

Column
Instead of storing data in rows, this database type stores information in columns which simplifies the aggregation process to make it easier to analyze information quickly. Columns can be unlimited in number, and can also be grouped into logical “families” with read and write carried out in columns rather than rows.

Graph
Graph is useful for applications that represent data in graph format where information is interconnected. This type of database implements nodes, edges, and properties. 

Start to think about what you need your application to do because life is much easier when you migrate to a database solution that makes natural sense for the goals of your app.

Step 4: Make the Leap from SQL to NoSQL

You’re finally ready to migrate from your old relational system to your new, improved NoSQL. For many applications, this process is relatively easy.

For example, most migrations can make use of SELECT * FROM statements against the original database. After that, they can then be loaded into the NoSQL database using whatever language you choose.

That said, each type of NoSQL is somewhat different, so your migration process may vary. To understand the exact steps to load your data into your new system, you will need to consult the service company’s tutorials or documentation.

For information on BangDB’s migration process, see the Developer’s Manual page here.

Step 5: Rewrite Your Application Code for NoSQL

Once your data has been moved into the new system, then the final step is to rewrite your application code so that it can query the NoSQL database with statements like insert() or find().

You will want to test your application prior to launch to ensure everything functions as expected, and you will also want to stage your application launch following similar due diligence steps as you would normally take with your old relational system.

In addition, you will also want to spend time learning your new database administration tools so you have a strong understanding of the different options available to you, and how everything works.

Migration Challenges to Expect

Before you start your data migration, it is helpful to have an idea of some of the common challenges others have faced.

Moving Large Volumes of Users

If you’ve been in business a while, you may already have a large number of users. Sometimes that can cause hesitation and reluctancy when it comes to moving from one place to another. While the new system may work flawlessly, that doesn’t mean problems never occur. 

The Solution? Start with a phased migration where you move a small number of users such as 3-5% and then 10-15%, and then 30-40%. Once you’ve done this several times and you feel comfortable with the process, then you can remove all of the remaining users at once with confidence.

Data Optimization

Optimizing data is another potential challenge companies sometimes face. Migrating from a relational database to NoSQL isn’t particularly difficult; however, the new system needs to be optimized for your application. To ensure your new system is optimized for your application, you will need to know which queries your app runs and which queries you want to optimize the data store for so you can avoid any speed problems.

Choosing the Right Database Design

If you’ve never worked with NoSQL before, then it can be challenging to conceptualize how your data might be represented in the new system. To solve this problem requires spending some time understanding the different data models by reading through tutorials or working with a developer.

Choosing the Best Service Provider

There are many options to choose from. We’ve discussed quite a few of them on our blog, and the right one for your business will depend on your needs. 

That said, BangDB is considered one of the most flexible, easiest to use, open-source database service providers. Not only that, but it comes with a completely free version that can be downloaded and tested prior to migrating any data at all.

For those reasons, we recommend having a look at BangDB to find out if it might be right for you. If it turns out to be the exact right solution, then you can download BangDB here for free.

Further Reading:

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