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Avoiding Logging

By Steve Jones,

As I have been studying more about SQL Server internals this year, one of the myths that keeps being debunked is the idea there are operations in SQL Server that are not logged. That's not true as everything you do in SQL Server is logged to the transaction log in order to ensure that SQL Server remains ACID compliant and cannot end up in an unrecoverable state.

I'm not sure where this myth started, but I suspect that some version of the telephone game is at fault. I constantly see people asking for a way to insert or delete data from SQL Server without affecting the transaction log. One of these wish list requests likely got transformed into an imaginary feature that many people think has to exist in the product. Surely there is the capability to not log things if they are deemed unimportant.

There isn't, and you can't, and I'm not sure that I'd even want this feature. Logging introduces overhead, and it can slow down processing, but it also provides a tremendous amount of safety and security. Computers will crash, power will get turned off, and hardware will fail. Mr. Murphy will ensure that one of these will occur while a large import of some sort is taking place. I don't know how the rest of you feel, but personally I would prefer that when my database is restarted, I can be sure that my data is in a consistent state. Transaction log logging ensures this is the case in SQL Server.

We often make decisions based on the data sets we have, and for the most part we want to be sure that all the data we added, updated, or removed from the system is in a known state. We do not want to accept partial transactions being recorded. We need to be sure that every debit into an account is matched up with a credit out of another account. Too many people seem to think that either their systems will never crash, or that this reliability can be guaranteed without logging.

Accept the overhead of logging, and be glad that it's unavoidable. At some point in your career, I'm sure you'll be grateful.

Steve Jones

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