Choosing the primary key for a table is very critical as it is the most important steps in database design. This is because keys play an important role in maintaining a database in a more consistent manner. There are two types of primary keys; natural and surrogate key architectures. This paper discusses the two types of keys, their advantages, and disadvantages.
The natural key is also known as the intelligent or the domain key. The key is logically related to the table, which means, the key is always in a single column hence identifying records in a table which are made of real data. Some of the examples of natural keys are Social Security Number and Tax Id. Surrogate keys, on the other hand, have only a singleton attribute. Their values are entirely numeric, system generated and lastly used in the identifications of tuples in relations ( Link, Luković & Mogin , 2010).
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There are various pros and cons of using both keys in a database. The main advantage of natural keys is the fact that they are well arranged and exist in a schema. Therefore, there would be no need for additional columns in the loading of tables. Besides, they are very easy to search for each natural key had its meaning in the database. The disadvantage with this type of key is that it requires a lot of work especially in making amendments when foreign relationships are built
The advantage of the surrogate keys is that they do not have business intelligence built on them. This means that no one can derive meaning and the relationship in a database as compared to the natural keys. Moreover, they have better performance as compared to the physical keys as they are typically integers. This implies that they require smaller storage hence a small index structure making the performance more effective. On the cons, surrogate keys are not very useful, especially when searching for data as they have no meaning and knowledge an important aspect that is considered in the interaction of elements in the database.
Link, S., Luković, I., & Mogin, P. (2010). Performance evaluation of natural and surrogate key database architectures . School of Engineering and Computer Science, Victoria University of Wellington.