many cases, we do not need sophisticated error handling. Quite
frequently, all we need to do in case of an error, is roll back all the
changes and throw an exception, so that the client knows that there is
a problem and will handle it. In such situations, a perfectly
reasonable approach is to make use of the XACT_ABORT setting.
By default, in SQL Server this setting is OFF,
which means that in some circumstances SQL Server can continue
processing when a T-SQL statement causes a run-time error. In other
words, for less severe errors, it may be possible to roll back only the
statement that caused the error, and to continue processing other
statements in the transaction.
is turned on, SQL Server stops processing as soon as a T-SQL run-time
error occurs, and the entire transaction is rolled back. When handling
unexpected, unanticipated errors, there is often little choice but to
cease execution and roll back to a point where there system is in a
"known state." Otherwise, you risk seeing partially completed
transactions persisted to your database, and so compromising data
integrity. In dealing with such cases, it makes sense to have XACT_ABORT turned ON.
Note that, in some cases, XACT_ABORT is already set to ON by
default. For example, OLE DB will do that for you. However, it is
usually preferable to explicitly set it, because we do not know in
which context our code will be used later.
Listing 1 illustrates a basic error-handling approach, whereby our modifications take place within an explicit transaction, having set XACT_ABORT to ON. The PRINT commands in the procedure are for demonstration purposes only; we would not need them in production code.
Listing 1. Using the XACT_ABORT setting and an explicit transaction.
Note that, although we want to
roll back all the changes if an error occurs, we do not need to
explicitly determine if there are any errors, and we do not need to
explicitly invoke ROLLBACK in our code; when XACT_ABORT is set to ON, it all happens automatically. Listing 2 tests our altered stored procedure.
Listing 2. Testing the altered stored procedure.
As we have seen, the
stored procedure worked perfectly well. Of course, this is just the
first in a series of tests we should perform on our stored procedure.
Complete testing would include:
making sure that, if both the modification of the Codes table and the INSERT into the CodeDescriptionsChangeLog table succeed, then the transaction commits and both changes persist
verifying that, if an UPDATE of the Codes table fails, then the transaction rolls back. To reproduce a failure, we can use a similar technique; a CHECK constraint that makes sure all UPDATEs against the Codes table fail
invoking the stored procedure without an outstanding transaction, when @@TRANCOUNT is 0. In that case, we shall have to explicitly drop the CHECK constraint which we create in our test.
I encourage you to tweak Listing 2 and try out these other tests. In many cases, this simple approach of setting XACT_ABORT to ON
and using an explicit transaction for modifications gets the job done
without much effort. We should use this simple and robust approach
unless we really need more sophisticated functionality from our error
If we really want to do some more complex error handling on the server, using T-SQL, then we should use TRY...CATCH blocks, which are available in SQL Server 2005 and upwards.