A surrogate key is a unique identifier for a table, often a simple counter created by developers or database administrators. In my classes, I strongly recommend tagging what the “real” primary key is in the table – in other words, the one that a business professional would consider the unique identifier. We tag by using the concept of an alternate key.

For example, if Employee Identifier is the surrogate key of the Employee table, then an alternate key could be Employee Social Security Number. Order Line may have Order Line Identifier as its surrogate key, and both Product Code and Order Number as its alternate key.

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