Status Store As Strings vs Ints


No Application exists without some status tracking. E-commerce tracks order payment / shipping status. CRM tracks page publishibility status etc…

There has been an internal debate on Status Representation as Strings vs Ints

  • Payment Status
    • Incomplete vs 0
    • Complete vs 1
  • Shipping Status
    • Collected vs 0
    • Wrapped vs 1
    • Picked vs 2
    • Delivered vs 3
  • Publishability Status
    • Unpublished vs 0
    • Published vs 1

Dilemna can easily be figured in above representations, if not, let me help out :)

Payment Status with 0 value does not convey anything about Incomplete, unless documented or shared by any means.

Above subtle confusion about meaning let us believe that its better to store status as strings as no more context need to be shared / passed when its seen

Incomplete would never mean Complete :P

Debate ended and lets get to work with strings at all places.

But wait, lets hear the reason on using ints too.

  • First, and foremost, supporting point is low memory print on disc / ram with ints
  • Second, not the best point but can outweigh in specific situations, is using MATH with integers like SUM, MULTIPLY (with strings its doable but not useful in real terms)


Performance outweighs everything when you compare data storage / memory footprint at scale.

Every penny saved is penny earned.

Looks like suddenly, ints are winning the battle and strings are feeling cornered.

But documentation and its meaning has its own significance which can’t be neglected.

One approach with ints for documentation could be to create a Legends Table just for meaning sharing.

We can extend it further by imposing foreign_id constraints on status column with documentation Master Table.

It gives us the benefit of preventing not allowed values to be stored.

BINGO !! What could be better than preventing misuse of system :)

Some Challenges still remain like documentation table should be created for all contexts like Payments / Shipping Status etc or one table to rule all.

Note: Documentation table exists only for Documentation, its use should not leak into Application like getting string representations from here.That’s an overhead on Dev Team to cope up :(

Ruby / Rails Context

More than one status transitions are typically implemented using one-of -the state_machine gems

state_machine gem, gives you nice methods like status?, set status and everything is taken care magically

Out-of-the-box integrations with Orms like ActiveRecord, Mongoid etc.

With no in-depth insight, we rely on status names and they get stored as strings unless otherwise stated, value option with status declaration gives us BEST-OF-BOTH-WORLD, nice/meaningful methods and integer representaion in DB

state_machine :status, :initial => :new do
  status :new, value: 1
Written on April 22, 2015