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The Case for the Surrogate Key

Written by Bill Graziano on 09 August 2002

There is a simple, inexpensive, uniform element of database design that you are likely avoiding in favor of a complex, costly, and inconsistent one. This element is the surrogate or substitute primary key. It seems that designers avoid these independent keys like the plague. Instead, all but the most basic business entities are given keys made up of some series of attributes, borrowed keys, and sequence numbers . It was only after experiencing many problems at the hand of intelligent keys that I, too, became a believer in the flexibility and stability afforded by the substitute key. This is a pretty good article on when you can use a surrogate key. And I thought we didn't get enough discussion on this from Rob's article.