What is ACID Database: Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation and Durability

December 5, 2023

In today’s data-driven landscape, transactional databases form the backbone of modern database management systems. Therefore, understanding the intricacies of ACID properties within these databases is crucial. It ensures that every operation, from a financial transaction to an online purchase, is meticulously executed with precision, guaranteeing the integrity and consistency of data.

Central to the reliability and integrity of these databases are the ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) properties. These properties ensure that transactions are processed reliably and securely, maintaining data consistency and integrity even in the face of system failures or concurrent access.

In this article, we will delve into the world of transactional databases, exploring the significance of ACID properties and best practices for maintaining them. From transaction management to concurrency control and backup strategies, understanding and implementing these practices are essential for organizations looking to uphold data integrity and ensure the smooth functioning of their business-critical systems.

Before we delve into some of the best practices to enhance your database performance and prevent potential bottlenecks and data inconsistencies, let’s quickly explore the transactional system and ACID properties.

Transactional Database Overview

Transactional databases are foundational components of modern information systems. A transactional database, also known as a transactional system, is a type of database designed to manage and process transactions. The transaction refers to the sequence of one or more operations performed on a database. These operations include data retrieval, insertion, updation, and deletion.

In a transactional database, data is organized and stored in rows, with each row representing a record within a table. Transactional databases are optimized for OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) workloads, which involve frequent, small-scale transactions such as inserting, updating, or deleting records. These databases provide mechanisms for ensuring data integrity, concurrency control, and transaction management, making them suitable for applications that require real-time data processing and high transaction throughput.

At the heart of transactional databases lie the ACID properties: Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability. These properties ensure that transactions are processed reliably and securely, even in the face of system failures or concurrent access. Let's explore each of these properties in more detail.

What are ACID properties in a Database?

ACID refers to Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability. It is a set of essential properties that defines and preserves the reliability of transactions in database systems after executing a group of operations. ACID properties ensure the integrity of data operations, safeguarding against errors and concurrent access.

Some widely used databases known for ACID compliance are Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, SQLite, and Oracle database.

Let’s briefly explore each of the ACID properties:

#A: Atomicity

Atomicity states that a transaction is atomic, meaning it is a single unit of work. This property ensures that all the operations within the transactions are successfully completed, and the changes are committed to the database, or none of them take effect (all-or-nothing). If any part of the transaction fails due to a network issue, system crash, or an error, the entire transaction is rolled back, ensuring the database remains in a consistent state. 

Let’s consider an example of an e-commerce application to understand how atomicity ensures the integrity of the transaction. 

In an e-commerce application, if you make an online purchase, the atomicity will ensure:

All-or-Nothing Commit: In this scenario, the database should: 

  • reduce the available quantity of the purchased product from the inventory,
  • deduct the purchase amount from your wallet, and
  • record and update your order details, including the product purchased, quantity, total cost, and other relevant information.

All of the above operations collectively form a single transaction.

Consistent State: When any part of the transaction fails, the product quantity will remain unchanged in the inventory, none of the amounts will be debited from your wallet, and your order history will not be updated in the database. This approach prevents partial updates, maintaining the integrity of the database.

#C: Consistency

Before committing a transaction, consistency checks are essential to ensure the database maintains its integrity, adhering to both business rules and database constraints. 

Consistency verifies only valid data is written to the database. This approach acts as a safeguard against potential anomalies, data corruption, and invalid entries, maintaining data accuracy.

Consider an online bookstore where you’re purchasing a book with a discount. The business rules for this offer dictate that the discount cannot exceed 50% of the book’s original price. Before committing the transaction, the database must perform a consistency check to adhere to pre-defined rules. If the discount applied surpasses the limit, the transaction should be blocked or aborted. This ensures the database accurately reflects valid transactions and prevents the creation of entries that could compromise the integrity of the database.

#I: Isolation

Isolation ensures that one transaction cannot impact the outcome of another transaction. In other words, each transaction appears to execute in isolation, without interference from other transactions. This property becomes crucial in scenarios where multiple transactions are executed simultaneously. Without proper isolation, issues such as data inconsistency and integrity violations can arise. Usually, this is achieved by using locking mechanisms to keep uncommitted transactions isolated.

For instance, let’s consider customer X and customer Y are interested in purchasing the last available product. Customer X adds the last available product in the cart and proceeds to checkout. The inventory is updated to reflect the added product, but the transaction isn’t completed. At the same time, customer Y also attempts to purchase the same product. Isolation prevents customer Y from seeing the uncommitted reservation made by customer X, providing a similar view of the inventory. 

Now, two scenarios can take place: 

  • If customer X proceeds with the purchase, this transaction is committed, and the product is marked as sold. 
  • If customer X decides to cancel, this transaction is rolled back. 

In both scenarios, regardless of whether customer X proceeds or cancels, isolation ensures customer Y’s transaction operates independently, providing a clear view of the product’s availability. 

Isolation prevents one customer’s action from affecting the experience of the other. This approach helps maintain a consistent view of product availability and avoids potential issues related to concurrent transactions.

#D: Durability

Once a transaction is successfully completed (all operations are executed and committed), the changes made by the transaction are durable. This means that the changes persist even in the event of a system failure, power loss, or database crash. Often, mechanisms like transaction logs or disk storage are used to record changes and ensure durability. This property guarantees that the database remains in a reliable state over time.

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Importance of ACID Properties in Transactional Databases

The ACID properties (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) are fundamental principles in transactional databases, ensuring data reliability, integrity, and security. Here's why they are crucial:

  • Ensures data consistency and integrity throughout transactional processes.
  • Prevents data corruption by maintaining atomicity, ensuring transactions are fully completed or fully aborted.
  • Guarantees database validity before and after transactions, upholding data integrity.
  • Prevents interference between concurrent transactions, ensuring isolation and avoiding concurrency-related issues.
  • Guarantees committed transactions are permanently saved, ensuring data recoverability and durability.
  • Crucial for the reliability and trustworthiness of transactional databases, essential for operational continuity and business success.

Best Practices for Maintaining ACID Properties

  1. Transaction Management: Implement robust transaction management systems to ensure atomicity and consistency in database operations. Properly manage transaction boundaries, rollback mechanisms, and commit protocols to maintain data integrity.
  2. Concurrency Control: Employ effective concurrency control mechanisms to preserve isolation and prevent data interference between concurrent transactions. Use techniques such as locking, multiversion concurrency control (MVCC), and optimistic concurrency control to manage concurrent access to shared resources.
  3. Backup and Recovery Strategies: Develop comprehensive backup and recovery strategies to ensure the durability and recoverability of committed transactions. Regularly back up database files, transaction logs, and system snapshots to prevent data loss and facilitate timely recovery in the event of system failures or disasters.

These best practices are essential for upholding the ACID properties and ensuring the reliability, integrity, and security of transactional databases. By implementing robust transaction management, concurrency control, and backup and recovery strategies, organizations can maintain data consistency and reliability, safeguarding critical business operations and ensuring uninterrupted access to vital information.

How to Maintain ACID Properties in Transactional Databases?

Maintaining the ACID properties in transactional databases is crucial for ensuring data reliability and integrity. Here are some of the best practices that you can follow to achieve and preserve these properties:

Transaction Logs

Maintain transaction logs that could be used not only for rollbacks but also for recovery purposes. Verify that these logs are backed up regularly and stored securely. 

Explicit Transaction

Define transactions using explicit control statements to ensure all-or-nothing transaction behavior. This can be implemented using some SQL statements like BEGIN TRANSACTION to mark the start of the transaction, COMMIT to make all changes permanent, and ROLLBACK to undo the entire transaction in case of an error or other conditions.

Error Handling

Implement robust bug-managing mechanisms to handle exceptions. This includes using try-catch block or error handling parameters depending on the database management system you are using. You can also reverse-perform the entire transaction to double-check if any part encounters an error.

Nested Transactions

Use nested transactions to break down complex transactions into smaller units. This will allow you to perform partial rollbacks if needed.

Define Constraints

Always tailor the constraints to your specific data model. For this, you must define and enforce integrity constraints to ensure data consistency. Some of the constraints that you can include: 
~Unique Constraint
: This constraint ensures that a column or a combination of columns contains unique values for each row in a table.
~Check Constraint:
You can define a condition that each row in a table must satisfy.
~Primary Key:
This constraint allows you to define a unique and non-null identifier key for each record in a table.
~Not-null Constraint:
With this constraint, you can ensure that a column does not contain any null values.

Business Rules

Implement business rules and logic at the database level. You can use triggers, application-level checks or constraints, and stored procedures. By incorporating these techniques, you fix business rules directly into the database structure. This allows you to enhance consistency and reduce the risk of rule violations.

Regular Audits & Testing

Once you define business rules and constraints, you need to perform regular audits to ensure the data complies with the defined rules. For instance, you can implement scheduled jobs or scripts to automate the audit process and track changes in the database over time.

Concurrency Control

You can execute effective concurrency control mechanisms to manage concurrent access to data. Here are some examples of how you can achieve isolation property:
~Use exclusive locks to prevent multiple transactions from accessing the same data simultaneously.
~Implement a deadlock detection mechanism to identify and resolve scenarios where more than two transactions are waiting for each other to release their state.
~Define appropriate and fixed timeout values for transactions. This will enable it to terminate if certain conditions are not met within the specific time frame. Timeouts are essential for managing resource contention, preventing long-running transactions, and avoiding potential deadlocks.

Backup and Recovery

Plan a robust backup and recovery strategy. Schedule regular database backups and test the recovery process to ensure data durability.

Failover Checks

You can apply failover mechanisms or redundancy checks to verify if the data remains accessible even in the event of hardware failure or system crash.

Monitoring and Alerts

You can conduct regular maintenance tasks to ensure optimal performance and database durability. In addition, you can also implement monitoring tools to track the health of the database and set up alerts to quickly notify potential issues that may impact durability.

The most important is documentation! It will help you maintain and update your application logic and database schema over time. Additionally, documenting the results of each audit, including any inconsistencies or rule violations discovered during the process, will allow you to proactively identify and address any deviation from pre-defined rules.

Challenges in implementing ACID properties in a database

Concurrency Control

  • It is very challenging to allow several transactions to execute at the same time without compromising their integrity.
  • Locking mechanisms, isolation levels, and deadlock prevention are crucial but are known to be performance hogs.


  • Logging and recovery are important to ensure data consistency in case of system failure.
  • Disk I/O overhead can be a problem when writing logs, especially with high transaction volumes.


  • Ensuring that a transaction is either fully completed or fully rolled back is challenging.
  • It is necessary to have rollback mechanisms and to understand how to deal with partial failures.


  • It is not easy to maintain consistency when there are system failures or network partitions.
  • Managing transactions across nodes is not an easy task.

Performance Trade-offs

  • ACID properties may affect performance because of locking, logging, and synchronization.
  • Balancing consistency and high response times is a challenge, especially in high-throughput and low-latency environments.

ACID Vs. Base Database: What’s the difference

ACID databases prioritize consistency and integrity, ensuring reliable transactions and strict adherence to data validity rules. On the contrary, BASE databases prioritize availability and scalability allowing for eventual consistency and accommodating temporary inconsistencies in favor of performance. It's ideal for modern web applications that handle large amounts of data.

ACID properties in Distributed Transactional Databases

Maintaining ACID properties in distributed databases is challenging due to the difficulties in ensuring atomicity, consistency, and isolation across multiple nodes. Network issues, the complexity of distributed coordination, and the trade-offs between consistency, availability, and partition tolerance further complicate the implementation and maintenance of ACID guarantees while also achieving scalability and performance in distributed systems.

One possible solution to make distributed databases ACID compliant is to use two-phase commit (2PC) protocols to ensure atomicity and consistency across nodes. This is done through distributed locking and versioning to ensure that the transactions are isolated from each other. Reliability is crucial in data replication and logging to ensure that data is not lost in the case of a node failure.

Wrapping Up

Now that you understand the significance of ACID properties in safeguarding data integrity within modern transactional databases, incorporating these best practices is paramount. This will help you build a finely tuned and resilient database system.

In conclusion, transactional databases play a pivotal role in modern data management systems, offering robust support for critical business operations. The ACID properties—Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability—form the bedrock of transactional integrity, ensuring data reliability and consistency.

By implementing best practices such as careful transaction management, effective concurrency control mechanisms, and robust backup and recovery strategies, organizations can optimize database performance while upholding the integrity of their data. Embracing these principles not only enhances operational efficiency but also instills confidence in the reliability and security of the underlying data infrastructure, empowering businesses to thrive in today's data-driven landscape.


Why NoSQL does not support ACID properties?

NoSQL databases prioritize scalability and adaptability over strict ACID compliance. Some of the NoSQL databases are built to handle massive amounts of unstructured data and replicate it across numerous nodes; hence it will be difficult to achieve full data consistency in isolation for ACID properties. Instead, they often use the BASE model, which offers eventual consistency, high availability, and partition tolerance.

Can we use RDBMS without ACID properties?

Although it is possible to implement an RDBMS and not adhere to strict ACID compliance, this weakens the benefits of using relational databases which are integrity of data and effective transaction processing. Eliminating the ACID properties might help with the efficiency in some cases but exposes applications that work with large amounts of data to data integrity conflicts.

Do all databases have ACID properties?

Most current and traditional relational database systems such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle are ACID-compliant. However, many of the current NoSQL databases like Cassandra and MongoDB do not fully adhere to the ACID properties and rather follow the BASE model at the cost of scalability and performance.

Does MySQL have ACID properties?

Yes! MySQL supports the ACID properties especially when using the InnoDB storage engine. InnoDB offers transaction-safe (ACID-compliant) storage with commit, rollback, and crash recovery capabilities to safeguard the user’s data. This makes MySQL ideal for applications requiring reliable and consistent transaction processing.

Is Postgres an ACID database?

Yes, PostgreSQL is an ACID-compliant database system. It confirms that transactions occur accurately and properly by advancing atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability. Due to advanced transaction management, PostgreSQL is often used where the application requires strong data integrity and handling complex queries and operations.

What makes a sequence of database operations a transaction?

A sequence of database operations becomes a transaction when it satisfies the properties of ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability).

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