What Is an ACID Database? (With Components and Importance)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 6, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Most organizations rely on data and information stored in databases to operate. Database management systems, like ACID, can help companies to maintain integrity in its database while processing transactions reliably. Understanding the ACID system can help you perform effectively as a database administrator.

In this article, we discuss what an ACID database is, explore its components, discuss the types of system failures, review its importance, and answer some frequently asked questions.

What is an ACID database?

An ACID database refers to the functionalities and properties in a database system that retrieve, manage, and optimize data and information. It's a standard setoff feature that ensures that your data transactions process securely. It achieves this by applying the four key properties defining each transaction, namely atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability (ACID) functions.

Like creating files or documents and updating their contents within a database, transactions are like functions. The database helps prevent the loss of those files or prevents them from becoming corrupt because an ACID protocol focuses on how your database can recover from errors during a transaction. It can increase workplace productivity by providing and maintaining a reliable and accurate database. It also helps employees interact better with the management and customers effectively because of the availability of necessary information.

Related: How to Become a Database Administrator (With Average Salary)

Components of an ACID database

Here's a list of each component in the database:

Atomicity

Atomicity in the database implies that it's compulsory for the system to complete the process or the transaction in a database or file, or return to its former state. It means that the system treats each transaction in a database, whether write, read, delete, or update data, as a single unit. Essentially, either the system completes all the transaction elements or reverts the changes for the completed part.

Atomic database transactions operate an all-or-nothing approach where the process goes through completely before effecting a change in status. For example, imagine you're transferring funds from one account to another and encountering a network timeout. Atomicity ensures that a complete debit affects a corresponding credit on another account, otherwise, it terminates the whole transaction. This function helps protect your data in case of any interruption, such as system or hardware malfunction. It also helps prevent incomplete saves or transfers, especially when you can't tell where the transfer stopped before the interruption.

Consistency

This feature in database management implies that the system maintains a high level of data integrity during any processes or changes or the transaction terminates completely per data validation rules. It also implies that a complete transaction can only cause changes in a predictable and predefined manner. To regulate this process, you may design and implement constraints, triggers, cascades, and parameters in the database to take effect in case of any detrimental or malicious activity. The effect of these parameters is that it compels the system to self-abort and return to its former state.

This feature works as a precautionary measure that helps you protect your data from breaches or access violations. It also ensures that errors or corruption in data don't create adverse consequences to data integrity. You may also implement declarative constraints, including business rules or systems that automatically take effect across the system database or any applications and programs functioning in it. For example, when you transfer funds across accounts through a system application, the consistency feature ensures the total value of all the funds at the start of the transaction matches the value at the end of the transaction.

Isolation

Isolation as part of database management means that each transaction occurs distinctively without reliance on another. It implies that the write or read functions don't affect other write or read functions in a transaction, such that one transaction can't read data from another incomplete transaction. For instance, when multiple staff or clients access a database simultaneously, the system operates a transaction line or global cues. One transaction is complete before running another while maintaining isolation. While it gives the advantage of secure systems through data protection, a negligible downside may be slowing the system down.

For example, Exfiy, an e-commerce website, runs several transactions in a day. You have seven copies of a book left and ten customers placing orders. The system resolves the orders in which the customers clicked the "purchase" button, prioritizing the first customer. The last three customers on the queue get a notification that the book is no longer available because the system ran each transaction in isolation while preventing the website from selling more books than are available. Isolation ensures that concurrent data transactions don't affect or interfere with each other, as the intermediate state of one transaction is isolated and invisible to others.

Durability

Durability in a database transaction implies that the system successfully makes changes to the system and saves them and that those changes are permanent. It also protects your changes from the effects of hazards like security breaches, system failures, service or power outages, and other unplanned events. If you encounter any of these, durability in the database management system ensures your file is safe when you reboot a portion or the whole of the database. This durability is important to businesses as it prevents inconvenience to employees or customers.

For instance, when a customer places a valid order for a book, pays, and receives receipt and shipping details, the customer believes that the company has the transaction records. They also believe that the company still possesses those details even if there are glitches in the app. Durability ensures that the details of a transaction in a database are still complete and accessible even when the system malfunctions. It also ensures that the changes in a database persist regardless of system failures.

Types of system failures

Some examples of system failures that may occur in a transaction database are:

  • System failure: System failures, the most common form of transaction database errors, are the result of a hardware or operating system fault. It can also result from bugs in the database management system code.

  • Transaction failure: A transaction failure may result from wrong data input or violation of data consistency. It may also result from a deadlock in the database management system or a network timeout.

  • Media failure: Media failure is the rarest form of system failure and occurs when the system can't read from or write on a storage device, such as an external hard disk. This failure may result from bugs corrupting the operating system or errors from the media itself.

Related: How to Become a Data Architect (With Essential Skills)

Importance of ACID compliance

Here are some reasons it's important to adopt an ACID-compliant database:

  • Reduced risk and cost-saving: An ACID-compliant database eliminates errors like multiple orders or payments and irretrievable funds that may pose a financial risk to the business and customers.

  • Less user disruption: In instances where the system may experience system failure, durability ensures minimal impact as customers may not notice it.

  • Consistent accuracy: Here, the transaction result always matches the most recent customer transaction status.

  • Precise timeliness: When multiple employees or customers access a database simultaneously, the isolation function in an ACID-compliant database ensures the records are up-to-date instead of overriding the changes.

  • Protected transactions: An ACID-compliant database ensures people don't lose money when they transfer funds across accounts, and the deposit operation fails.

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FAQs about ACID database

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about this concept:

What is ACID compliance?

An ACID-compliant system means that the database possesses all four components: atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability. It also means that the database management system includes functions that ensure information and data in the software remain consistent. An ACID-compliant database ensures that the data or information within the database remains safe, consistent, and accurate, regardless of system failures.

When do you require an ACID-compliant database?

An acid-compliant database is important for companies with large data to run its operations. It gives companies the confidence that its database remains intact regardless of errors, as it's the highest principle of data integrity and reliability. In addition, the ACID function helps you create parameters that your transaction may adhere to when preventing loss or failure. It's a cost-effective option as it saves funds you may otherwise use to fix data breaches if you encounter security issues. The primary reason is that the ACID functions act as a source of transaction database recovery.

Again, an ACID-compliant database is instrumental in resolving conflicting orders in the order in which the transactions occur. When you encounter incomplete transactions, it helps you determine the extent of cost. It helps foster productivity by maintaining the data consistency necessary for strategic business analysis and daily operations. Finally, it's advisable to use the database when you're more likely to have several users or processes accessing data or running processes simultaneously.

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