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A lock, as a read lock or write lock, is used when multiple users need to access a database concurrently. This prevents data from being corrupted or invalidated when multiple users try to read while others write to the database. Any single user can only modify those database records (that is, items in the database) to which they have applied a lock that gives them exclusive access to the record until the lock is released. Locking not only provides exclusivity to writes but also prevents (or controls) reading of unfinished modifications (AKA uncommitted data).
A read lock can be used to prevent other users from reading a record (or page) which is being updated, so that others will not act upon soon-to-be-outdated information.
Mechanisms for locking
There are two mechanisms for locking data in a database: pessimistic locking, and optimistic locking. In pessimistic locking a record or page is locked immediately when the lock is requested, while in an optimistic lock the record or page is only locked when the changes made to that record are updated. The latter situation is only appropriate when there is less chance of someone needing to access the record while it is locked; otherwise it cannot be certain that the update will succeed because the attempt to update the record will fail if another user updates the record first. With pessimistic locking it is guaranteed that the record will be updated.