What Is an OLTP Database?

May 12, 2021


OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) is a data processing category that deals with numerous transactions performed by many users.

The OLTP system is an online database system that processes day-to-day queries that usually involve inserting, updating, and deleting data.

In this article, you will learn what OLTP is, its features, advantages, disadvantages, and how it differs from OLAP.

What is an OLTP database?

What Is an OLTP Database?

An OLTP database stores and manages data related to everyday operations within a system or a company. However, OLTP is focused on transaction-oriented tasks.

OLTP typically deals with query processing (inserting, updating, deleting data in a database), and maintaining data integrity and effectiveness when dealing with numerous transactions simultaneously.


OLTP and OLAP are two systems that complement each other. While OLTP deals with processing day-to-day transactions, OLAP helps analyze the processed data.

Here are some key differences between OLTP and OLAP:

OLTP databases administer day-to-day transactions of an organization.Used for business analyses, including planning, budgeting, forecasting, data mining, etc.
The emphasis is on fast and effective query processing and ensuring data integrity in multi-access environments.The emphasis is on the response time to executing complex queries on large amounts of historical data aggregated from many rows.
Deals with many standard and straightforward queries (e.g., insert, delete, and update statements).Deals with few queries, but they are complex and involve a lot of data (for example, aggregate queries). Mainly uses the select statement.
End users are clerks, cashiers, DBA, etc.End users are knowledge workers, business analysts, managers, etc.
Data is stored in 3NF (third normal form).Data is denormalized to improve query performance.
Doesn't take up much space.Usually takes up a lot of space.
Data backups are regularly performed.Data backups are rare.
Utilizes an ER model schema.Utilizes a snowflake schema.
Uses traditional DBMS.Uses a unique data warehouse that integrates different sources.
Designed for real-time business operations.Designed for analyzing business measures by category and attributes.
Supports thousands of users.Supports hundreds of users.

Note: 3NF - third normal form - is a database schema design for relational databases. 3NF uses normalizing principles to reduce data duplication, prevent data anomalies, secure data integrity, and simplify data management.

The following diagram shows the connection between OLTP and OLAP:

The connection between OLTP and OLAP.

Note: For a more in-depth comparison, please refer to our article OLTP vs. OLAP.

Characteristics of OLTP

Some essential characteristics of OLTP are:

  • Deals with transactions involving small amounts of data.
  • Has indexed access to data (faster access).
  • Supports a large number of users.
  • Deals with frequent queries and updates.
  • Response times are measured in milliseconds.

OLTP Architecture

The OLTP system is based on a 3-tier architecture. The 3-tier architecture organizes applications into three logical and physical computing tiers:

  • The presentation tier (the UI).
  • The application tier (data processing).
  • The data tier (data storing and managing).

Each of the three tiers is independent and has its own infrastructure, development, and updating intervals, and does not impact other tiers.

The following diagram shows the OLTP architecture:

A diagram representing the 3-tier architecture of OLTP.
  1. Business Strategy. The top management of a company usually develops the business strategy. The business strategy deals with issues affecting the company as a whole.
  2. Business Process. A set of activities and tasks that accomplish a company goal upon completion.
  3. Customers, Transactions, etc. Databases storing information about products, transactions, customers, suppliers, etc.

Note: Read our article on data warehouse architecture to learn more.

OLTP Examples

OLTP database systems are commonly used for various short online transactions. OLTP processes queries and returns the results in near real-time.

Examples of using OLTP include:

  • Online banking
  • Adding items to cart in web shops
  • Booking a ticket
  • Sending a text message
  • Order entry
  • ATM center
  • Surveyors entering poll results
  • Employees viewing and updating customers' details

OLTP Database Advantages and Disadvantages

Below are some key advantages and disadvantages of OLTP databases:

Single PlatformHigh Staff Dependency
Database ConsistencySensitive Information
Security RestrictionsRisk of Data Loss
Expands Customer BaseAllows Concurrent Data Modifications
Timely Transaction ModificationsLimited Number of Queries
Large Database Support
Facilitates Data Manipulation

The advantages and disadvantages are explained in detail in the following sections.


  • Single Platform. OLTP integrates all business analytical needs in a single platform.
  • Database Consistency. OLTP uses a fully normalized schema to ensure database consistency.
  • Security Restrictions. OLTP applies security restrictions on users and objects to protect sensitive data.
  • Expands Customer Base. OLTP attracts new customers by simplifying and speeding up individual processes, making them user-friendly.
  • Timely Transaction Modifications. OLTP is a good foundation for a stable business or organization because timely transaction modifications are convenient to end-users.
  • Large Database Support. OLTP supports large-size databases.
  • Atomicity. Atomicity ensures that all the steps of a transaction are completed. If a step fails or is skipped, the entire transaction fails.
  • Facilitates Data Manipulation. It is easy to manipulate data through data partitioning.


  • High Staff Dependency. Requires IT professionals and business staff to implement and maintain OLTP database systems.
  • Sensitive Information. OLTP databases store all user data and account information, so a high-level security is required to protect the sensitive data.
  • Risk of Data Loss. In OLTP systems, transactions are highly affected when facing a hardware failure. Server failures can lead to the loss of large amounts of data.
  • Allows Concurrent Data Modifications. Multiple users can access and modify the same data concurrently, which can cause issues.
  • Limited Number of Queries. OLTP supports a limited number of queries and updates.


You now know what an OLTP database is and how it differs from OLAP. The article also portrayed the main OLTP concepts as well as OLTP advantages and disadvantages.

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Bosko Marijan
Having worked as an educator and content writer, combined with his lifelong passion for all things high-tech, Bosko strives to simplify intricate concepts and make them user-friendly. That has led him to technical writing at PhoenixNAP, where he continues his mission of spreading knowledge.
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