What Is Data Integrity?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Data integrity refers to the ability to maintain and validate data throughout its lifecycle. Learn more about data integrity and why it's important.

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Data integrity encompasses the accuracy, reliability, and consistency of data over time. It involves maintaining the quality and reliability of data by implementing safeguards against unauthorized modifications, errors, or data loss. 

Data integrity is crucial because it ensures the trustworthiness and reliability of data, enabling informed decision-making, efficient operations, and accurate analysis. It helps organizations maintain compliance with regulations, prevent data corruption or tampering, and preserve the overall integrity and credibility of their systems and processes. 

Data integrity is important within an organization for several reasons, including: 

  • Reliability in decision-making: Accurate data provides a basis for reliable decision-making. If data integrity is compromised, this might lead to flawed analyses and conclusions, leading to potentially harmful decisions and actions. 

  • Compliance and auditing: In many industries, particularly health care and finance, ensuring data integrity is not just good practice, but it's often required by law or regulations. These organizations often have strict requirements related to what information they can collect and share from consumers and how they protect this information.

How do you maintain data integrity?

You can maintain data integrity in several ways: 

Input validation

Input validation strategies can help prevent invalid or malicious data from being entered into a system. This includes things such as checking for human errors, removing duplicate data, and verifying data once entered. Having complete data entry training can help to prevent input errors.

Data governance policies

Establishing clear policies on data collection, storage, and processing is critical for maintaining data integrity. This might include rules about who can access and modify data, as well as the necessary procedures for doing so.

Data backups and recovery

Regular data backups ensure that, even in the case of data loss, you can restore an intact version of the data.

Types of data integrity

Two of the most common types of data integrity are physical integrity and logical integrity.

Physical data integrity refers to the ability to obtain accurate company data. This includes access to data, completeness of data, and prevention of factors that may lead to errors within data. Maintaining physical data integrity may include preventing equipment damage and creating safeguards against power outages, storage erosion, and hackers.

Logical data integrity refers to the ability to keep data consistent and accurate over time. This includes:

  • Entity integrity: Identifying data correctly, including preventing duplicates or null values

  • Domain integrity: Guaranteeing accuracy of data, including defining acceptable values

  • Referential integrity: Storing data correctly and protecting against errors

  • User-defined integrity: Constraining data created by users within requirements

Related terms

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