Sql – Physical vs. logical (hard vs. soft) delete of database record


What is the advantage of doing a logical/soft delete of a record (i.e. setting a flag stating that the record is deleted) as opposed to actually or physically deleting the record?

Is this common practice?

Is this secure?

Best Solution

Advantages are that you keep the history (good for auditing) and you don't have to worry about cascading a delete through various other tables in the database that reference the row you are deleting. Disadvantage is that you have to code any reporting/display methods to take the flag into account.

As far as if it is a common practice - I would say yes, but as with anything whether you use it depends on your business needs.

EDIT: Thought of another disadvantange - If you have unique indexes on the table, deleted records will still take up the "one" record, so you have to code around that possibility too (for example, a User table that has a unique index on username; A deleted record would still block the deleted users username for new records. Working around this you could tack on a GUID to the deleted username column, but it's a very hacky workaround that I wouldn't recommend. Probably in that circumstance it would be better to just have a rule that once a username is used, it can never be replaced.)

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