Demystifying Cloud Databases: A Beginner's Guide to Firestore, DynamoDB, and Azure Cosmos DB

As web development evolves, it's becoming more common to see cloud databases being used as storage solutions instead of traditional on-premise databases we've been accustomed to. That's not to say that on-premise databases are obsolete, but cloud databases offer benefits that are difficult to ignore, such as scalability, flexibility, accessibility, and disaster recovery [1]. In this article, we'll explore some of the cloud databases available and their use cases. Specifically, we'll look at Firestore, DynamoDB, and Azure Cosmos DB to highlight their strengths and differences, and provide guidance on choosing the right cloud database for your projects.

What are Cloud Databases?

Cloud databases differ from traditional on-premise databases as they are infrastructures that use cloud computing over a network of remote servers instead of on-premise infrastructure. This approach enables web developers to access data securely and work across many devices to scale as needed. Cloud databases come in different models, including relational, non-relational, and graph databases.


Firestore is a NoSQL document-based database, designed for mobile and web application developers to store and sync app data in real-time. Firestore offers users the ability to store and share data across Android, iOS, and web platforms. The platform is built on Google Cloud Platform and is fast and automated, which enables users to handle large amounts of data without worrying about scaling as the database architecture can handle it [2].

Firestore is schemaless and provides flexibility by allowing data to be organized in collections (similar to a table in SQL) and documents (document fields encapsulating key-value pairs). It also supports queries, so you can retrieve, filter, and sort data in real-time. Firestore also provides users with a range of features such as offline data, automatic syncs, and real-time updates, making it an ideal solution for mobile and web applications.

Firestore Use Cases

  • Real-time document collaboration
  • Real-time messaging applications
  • Sensor data in IoT
  • Large scale iOS and Android applications
  • High frequency data ingest’


DynamoDB is a NoSQL database developed and provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS). The database uses key-value and document data models, which enables it to handle diverse data types while maintaining high performance and scalability. DynamoDB offers users the flexibility to store data at a massive scale, making it an ideal solution for users dealing with large amounts of data – petabytes scale and above [3].

DynamoDB is a fully managed database by AWS and eliminates common database administration tasks such as hardware and software provisioning, setup, configuration, and patching operations. It also offers automated backups, point-in-time recovery, and seamless scalability on the backend, making it a zero maintenance cost solution for developers.

DynamoDB Use Cases

  • Ad tech systems
  • Gaming leaderboards
  • Sensor data applications
  • Real-time messaging applications
  • Large scale iOS and Android applications

Azure Cosmos DB

Azure Cosmos DB is a globally distributed, multi-model, and fully managed NoSQL database developed by Microsoft. The database provides users with a range of data models, including document, key-value, graph, and column-family data models. Azure Cosmos DB is optimized for performance, scalability, and availability globally, making it an ideal solution for web and mobile developers [2].

Azure Cosmos DB is designed to scale horizontally to meet the needs of rapidly growing applications and handles high-throughput workloads with low latency and SLAs. The platform offers features such as automatic indexing, multi-API models, the ability to work with popular NoSQL frameworks like MongoDB, and supports SQL queries against JSON documents. Lastly, the database provides global distribution, cross-region replication, and conflict resolution. These features make Azure Cosmos DB an excellent solution for building apps with global reach.

Azure Cosmos DB Use Cases

  • Internet of Things applications
  • Real-time gaming applications
  • Time-series data applications
  • Geospatial and location-based applications
  • Highly scalable e-commerce applications

Choosing the right Cloud Database

Choosing the right cloud database is essential to optimize cost, performance, and scalability for your application's success. Here are some considerations to have when choosing one:

  • The type of data being stored
  • Scalability
  • Performance
  • Availability (reliability)
  • Cost
  • Security
  • Development effort and learning curve

Cost Considerations

The choice of cloud database can have a significant impact on development, operations, and maintenance costs. Some cloud databases, like DynamoDB and Firebase, offer pay-per-use billing. Hence you only pay for what you use, while others offer tier-based pricing models based on the level of resources you use [4]. Carefully consider your needs, usage patterns, and growth projection before selecting a cloud database.

Security Considerations

The security of your data should be a top priority. Some cloud databases providers, like Azure and Google, offer more granular security controls such as fine-grained access control, encryption of data at rest and transit, and security compliance with industry standards [5]. Be sure to evaluate each vendor's security capabilities and align them with your specific security requirements.

Learning Curve

The learning curve associated with each of the cloud databases varies. Some, like Firebase, offer intuitive interfaces that can be readily comprehensible by most web developers, while others like Azure require more specialized skills. It's essential to consider the time and resources available to invest in learning, deployment, and maintenance of the cloud database.


Cloud databases have revolutionized modern web development by introducing scalable, reliable, and cost-efficient solutions to store and manage large volumes of data. Firebase, DynamoDB, and Azure Cosmos DB offer unique features that make them ideal for various use cases. The choice of the right cloud database should consider several criteria such as cost, functionality, performance, scalability, and security. Evaluating these criteria will help you find the right database solution for your development needs.


  1. What Is a Cloud Database? - Definition from Techopedia.” (accessed Dec. 07, 2021).
  2. What Is Cloud Firestore? | Firebase.” (accessed Dec. 07, 2021).
  3. What is DynamoDB? - Amazon DynamoDB.” (accessed Dec. 07, 2021).
  4. How much does Firestore cost? | Firebase.” (accessed Dec. 07, 2021).
  5. Security capabilities of Azure Cosmos DB | Microsoft Docs.” (accessed Dec. 07, 2021).