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Re: Table design for basic user management

From: Jasen Betts <jasen(at)xnet(dot)co(dot)nz>
To: pgsql-novice(at)postgresql(dot)org
Subject: Re: Table design for basic user management
Date: 2009-11-07 12:21:02
Message-ID: hd3one$48j$ (view raw, whole thread or download thread mbox)
Lists: pgsql-novice
On 2009-11-06, Thomas Løcke <thomas(dot)granvej6(at)gmail(dot)com> wrote:

> --0015174c3520dbeb790477aff96b
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
> Hey all,
> I'm in the process of building a web-application, where some basic user
> management is necessary. This is not the first time I've done this, but
> those I've made earlier have all been for internal use (LAN access only,
> very limited amount of users). This is going to be a public application, so
> naturally I'm a bit more concerned about performance, security and
> scalability. The application will open up with ~10.000 users, each doing 1-2
> logins per day (0800-1700 weekdays only).
> A login basically consists of a few simple steps:
> *A username/password lookup.
> *Decide users permissions based on her 'group' settings.
> *Log stuff like last login and visits.

20000/11h  about 1 every 2 seconds

should not be a problem.

> For some parts of the application, further information is necessary. This
> will be fetched from one or more 'user_data' tables only when necessary.
> I haven't decided on the hash algorithm for passwords yet, which explains
> the rather large varchar column for the 'user' table.

use text instead of varchar unless you need to enforce a size limit
on the field. postgresql has a md5 hashing function built in. which is
good unless you need something more secure.

> Outside of the initial 10.000 users, we expect a limited amount of new users
> registering, probably no more than 5 per weekday.

> I've come up with an initial design for this database:

lines 4-19 do the same as:

    username character varying(50) NOT NULL UNIQUE,
    password character varying(256) NOT NULL

I would be inclined to use text instead of varchar, and possibly call
the last column password_hash

I would default lastvisit to now() also,
that makes updating slightly simpler.

 UPDATE log SET lastvisit=DEFAULT;
timestamp with timezone is better suited to real world times unless
your server is running localtime=UTC (OTOH you say noone will be using
your server during the DST changes so it may not matter) there is not
performance penalty, timestamp with timezone is internally stored as
UTC time.  

I'd also consider merging this data with the user table.

    registered timestamp  DEFAULT now() NOT NULL,
    lastvisit  timestamp  NOT NULL,
    visits integer DEFAULT 0 NOT NULL

then you can log-in with a single query,

update user set lastvisit=default where username='fred' and
password=md5('salt'||'password') returning id;

most of the traffc will be on the index to the member table so you
could also merge the userdata table too with taking a large performance hit.

> As far as I can see, PostgreSQL handles indexes automatically on primary and
> unique columns. Is this assumption correct?


> Also, will I gain anything from using functions to read/write data, or is it
> mostly a matter of convenience and simplified SQL?

not performance. 

> The application will be done in PHP using PDO_PGSQL.

I cant's comment my PHP is worse than your PG DDL. when I do I just
use vendor specific postgres functions:
(, but if you're familiar
with PDO i see no reason why not.   

> We're running PostgreSQL 8.38, and plan on sticking with that for a
> while yet. 

no such version. ITYM 8.3.8 

> As you might have guessed from this post, and from my design, I'm no
> database expert. The task of solving this has fallen on me, not because I'm
> good at it, but because I'm the best of the worst here at our offices. Any
> and all advice is very much appreciated. Currently I'm glued to the
> PostgreSQL manual, trying to suck up as much knowledge as possible. But
> there's a lot of words in there, and sometimes a few pointers from
> experienced users is just what the doctor ordered.  :o)

what you have looks basically good. I think text would be more apropriate 
everywhere you are using varchar, also timestamp with timezone instead of 
without especially if it's available between 2 and 3 am on sundays.

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