Keeping Data Integrity In Check: Conditional Unique Indexes For Soft Delete

Soft delete is a pretty common feature in most of the applications. It may increase complexity of the queries, nevertheless, not deleting anything might be a right default as the data might prove to be useful in the future: for restoring if a record was removed by mistake, to derive some conclusions based on statistics and plenty of other purposes. It may seem like it's a pretty trivial thing: just adding a column like deleted_at and filtering out records that have this value present. But what happens when you need to do some proper uniqueness validation on both model layer and database level? Let's take a look what kind of problem can easily be overlooked and how it can be solved with a conditional index.

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When validation is not enough: PostgreSQL triggers for data integrity

Is validation in your models or form objects enough to ensure integrity of the data? Well, seems like you can't really persist a record when the data is not valid unless you intentionally try to bypass validation using save: false option when calling save or using update_column. What about uniqueness validation? A classic example would be a unique email per user. To make sure the email is truly unique we could add a unique index in database - not only would it prevent saving non-unique users when bypassing validation, but also it would raise extra error when 2 concurrent requests would attempt to save user with the same email. However, some validations are more complex that ensuring a value is unique and index won't really help much. Fortunately, PostgreSQL is powerful enough to provide a perfect solution to such problem. Time to meet your new friend: PostgreSQL triggers.

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