How to Query Your Backup with MongoDB Atlas

April 27, 2017

Backups for MongoDB made easy

Ever accidentally drop something out of a database and realize that you aren't sure if it's in your backups? Need to compare data across different points in time? Or ever want to just look at a subset of your historical data without restoring your entire database? Queryable backup, provided in MongoDB Atlas, can help you address some of these challenges.

Backs up for MongoDB

Select Your Snapshot

If you've already enabled backup services when you created your cluster, you can go ahead and begin. If not, you can go to the Configuration section of your MongoDB Atlas interface and enable BACKUPS it at any time via the toggle switch.

Enable Backup

To get started, you can log into your MongoDB Atlas panel and the "Backup" icon on the left side of your screen. Once you've reached the backup section, you'll find an ellipsis ("...") dropdown menu with some options – select the "Query" option.

Select snapshot to query

After you select Query from this menu, you're given the option to select a specific snapshot in your archive. Select the time frame you'd like to query, then click NEXT.

You'll see a "Query a Snapshot" pane. MongoDB Atlas creates a virtual cluster with your backup snapshot. The virtual cluster provides you with the ability to query data much like you would any other MongoDB cluster using the mongo shell.

Open The Secure Tunnel

The connection to your snapshot will be over TLS/SSL and use an X.509 client certificate for authentication. You have the option of using a secure tunnel binary provided by our team or downloading the required certificates. In this example, we'll use the secure tunnel binary, which is available for Windows, Linux, and MacOS. A simple binary is downloaded when you request a backup query. This tunnel binary establishes a network connection to port 27017, directly to the snapshot you selected earlier.

Query a snapshot

I'll select OSX and then click "DOWNLOAD BACKUP TUNNEL" which will prompt me for a two factor password authentication request. This is to ensure those who are accessing your backup data are authorized.

Once the download has completed, decompress it with a double click or via the tar command.

Execute the tunnel to establish our connection like this:

bash-3.2$ ./tunnel-58e3eb6a3b34b96d5cd4b3e5
2017/04/04 15:09:49 Starting queryable backup tunnel v1.0.0.100 (9a817429f7e870b42e22e709148f650026a6b572)
2017/04/04 15:09:49 Listening on localhost:27017'

Access Your Backup

Now that a tunnel to our backup snapshot has been established, it's possible now to connect via the mongo shell.

Access your backup

Open a new terminal window, ensuring you leave the existing connection for your tunnel online. Now you can access your backups using the mongo shell:

bash-3.2$ mongo
MongoDB shell version v3.4.3
connecting to: mongodb://
MongoDB server version: 3.4.3
MongoDB Enterprise > show databases
admin  0.000GB
zips   0.002GB
zips1  0.002GB
zips2  0.002GB
MongoDB Enterprise > use zips
switched to db zips
MongoDB Enterprise > db.zips.find()
{ "_id" : "01001", "city" : "AGAWAM", "loc" : [ -72.622739, 42.070206 ], "pop" : 15338, "state" : "MA" }
{ "_id" : "01002", "city" : "CUSHMAN", "loc" : [ -72.51565, 42.377017 ], "pop" : 36963, "state" : "MA" }
{ "_id" : "01005", "city" : "BARRE", "loc" : [ -72.108354, 42.409698 ], "pop" : 4546, "state" : "MA" }

Close the Tunnel

When you're done with your backup queries, just exit the session and terminate the binary for the tunnel with a control-c or via killing the PID. You can determine the PID and kill on Linux or MacOS with the following command :

bash-3.2$ ps auxww |egrep tunnel
jaygordon        35312   0.0  0.0 145190748   6580 s001  S+   12:17PM   0:00.14 /Users/jaygordon/Downloads/tunnel-58e7b6f9d383ad2a1bbf2dbb/tunnel-58e7b6f9d383ad2a1bbf2dbb
bash-3.2$ kill -9 35312

Your MongoDB Atlas backup query session will last for 48 hours and then will close on its own.


Queryable backups are a huge time saver. Imagine wanting to inspect just a single document in a 2TB collection backup.The time associated with downloading the snapshot, decompressing it, getting it running in a local MongoDB node, and finally running the query would be significant. Not only that, but there are obvious nontrivial costs – both monetary and operational – associated with having to quickly spin up new environments. With MongoDB Atlas, there’s no extra time spent provisioning hardware to retrieve your backup data – you simply run the query and get back to coding!

Get started on the Atlas free tier

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