The Disadvantages of Online Transaction Processing

By Josh Fredman

Online transaction processing refers to more than just financial transactions. Telemarketers use OLTP for their phone surveys, call centers use it to access customer data and companies use it to manage customers' online accounts. Businesses also use it to facilitate e-commerce, their internal communications and numerous applications. If your company doesn't use don't use OLTP, it may lose sales opportunities and operational efficiencies. However, OLTP also comes with important disadvantages and limitations.

Unscheduled Downtime

Your business can suffer considerable losses when the OLTP system goes down, even temporarily. This can happen due to network outages, data corruption or hardware failure. Companies can protect their operation by building redundancy into the business platform,but that may not prove cost-effective for smaller businesses. To mitigate these concerns, hire competent IT personnel who are available 24/7 to respond to critical issues. You also must maintain good lines of communication with your institutional partners, so that you can get support when you need it and pass information along to others who may be affected.

Concurrency Challenges

OLTP systems allow multiple users to access and modify the same data at the same time. For obvious reasons, you can't allow one user to change data while another person is modifying it. You must devise an efficient way to ensure people aren't working at cross purposes while retaining a system that is responsive for everyone. This may require costly systems designs and maintenance. OLTP concurrency best practices have evolved in step with the growth of the Internet and OLTP itself, so the solutions are available in the form of OLTP software packages, but if you can't implement them yourself, you must hire a professional to do it.

Atomicity

In OLTP, "atomicity" refers to a transaction in which either all the database steps succeed or the entire transaction fails. If any one step goes wrong, and the transaction continues anyway, you'll probably end up with data errors or corruption. That could be devastating for your company. All OLTP transactions should be atomic, with an emphasis on data recovery when something goes wrong. However, there may be bottom-line consequences when the technology doesn't work correctly. Inefficiently implemented database atomicity also may cause system slowdowns.

Financial Transaction Processing Costs

For many businesses, "OLTP" narrowly refers to transactions with financial institutions -- mainly credit and debit card payments over the Internet or through physical card readers. Financial institutions do impose costs on merchants for these transactions. Your business will be charged monthly fees, minimum fees, and gateway payments. Transaction fees hit you twice, first as a percentage of the value of the entire transaction, and then as a supplemental absolute fee that's usually a fraction of a dollar. According to figures collected by Community Merchants USA and reported in Forbes, plastic transactions -- debit, credit and gift cards -- accounted for two-thirds of all point-of-sale transactions in 2013. Few businesses can afford to ignore these payment methods. You either must eat the costs, include the cost in your margins or charge customers a fee for paying electronically.