Cloud Computing, Data Analytics

4 Mins Read

TOAST in PostgreSQL for Large Data Management


In relational databases, PostgreSQL stands out as a powerful open-source option with a wide range of features. One such feature critical in efficiently managing large volumes of data is TOAST (The Oversized-Attribute Storage Technique). In this blog, we will delve into the intricacies of TOAST in PostgreSQL, understanding what it is, how it works, and how it can optimize the storage of large data values.

TOAST in PostgreSQL

TOAST stands for “The Oversized-Attribute Storage Technique.” It’s a mechanism in PostgreSQL designed to handle large data values more efficiently and space-savingly.

TOAST primarily deals with values too large to fit into a single database page, typically 8KB in PostgreSQL. Such large data values include text, binary, and other data types. Rather than storing these values in their entirety, TOAST optimizes the storage by compressing and breaking them into smaller chunks.

Pioneers in Cloud Consulting & Migration Services

  • Reduced infrastructural costs
  • Accelerated application deployment
Get Started

Data Types Supported by TOAST

TOAST is primarily designed to manage large data values in PostgreSQL. It applies to the following data types:

  • Text Data Types: Including TEXT, CHAR, VARCHAR, etc.
  • Binary Data Types: Such as BYTEA.
  • Large Object Data Types (LOB): Including BLOB and CLOB.
  • Composite Data Types: A table with columns containing large data values.

How TOAST Works?

TOAST operates transparently to the users and application developers. When you insert or update a large data value into a table, PostgreSQL automatically checks if the data exceeds a certain size threshold. If it does, TOAST comes into play, and the following steps occur:

  • Chunking: The large data value is divided into smaller chunks, usually 2KB. These chunks are then individually compressed.
  • Storage: The compressed chunks are stored in a separate table called a TOAST table. The main table holds references to these chunks.
  • De-duplication: TOAST also includes a mechanism to eliminate duplicate data chunks, ensuring the storage is as efficient as possible.
  • Transparent Retrieval: When you query data from the table, PostgreSQL retrieves the compressed chunks, decompresses them, and reconstructs the original large data value. This process is entirely transparent to the user.

Common Use Cases for TOAST

TOAST is particularly useful in the following scenarios:

  1. Text and Large Object (LOB) Columns: When you have text fields or large binary objects (e.g., images or documents) that can’t fit within a single database page. Text and Large Object (LOB) Columns in PostgreSQL are data types used to store large and potentially binary data values, such as text documents, images, audio files, or any other data that exceeds the typical page size in the database (which is usually 8KB in PostgreSQL). These data types allow PostgreSQL to handle and manage large data efficiently, and they often work in conjunction with the TOAST (The Oversized-Attribute Storage Technique) mechanism, as discussed earlier.
  2. Large Object (LOB) Data Types:

PostgreSQL provides Large Object (LOB) data types for managing binary data, such as images, audio, video, or any binary content. There are two primary LOB data types:

  • BYTEA: This data type is used for storing binary data as a stream of bytes. It’s ideal for managing raw binary content, such as images or files.
  • BLOB (Binary Large Object): PostgreSQL also supports a BLOB data type that can store large binary objects. It’s similar to BYTEA but is commonly used in systems that must be compatible with other database systems.
  1. Archiving: TOAST is helpful when dealing with historical or archived data that may include large text documents.
  2. Compression: TOAST’s built-in compression can reduce storage requirements significantly, making it a valuable tool for cost-effective data management.
  3. Data Warehousing: TOAST can be a game-changer in data warehousing environments where storage optimization is critical.

Configuring and Managing TOAST

While TOAST operates automatically, there are a few settings and configurations that can be adjusted according to your specific needs:

  • ToastTupleTarget and ToastTupleChunkSize: These parameters control when TOAST should be triggered. You can adjust the threshold values to meet your storage requirements.
  • Archiving: Consider archiving large TOAST tables separately for more efficient data management.
  • Monitoring: Regularly monitor the size of TOAST tables, especially in databases with heavy insert/update operations involving large values.


Let’s consider a simple example using the TEXT data type. Suppose you have a table with a TEXT column and insert a long text document into it. In that case, TOAST will automatically break down the text, compress it, and store it efficiently in the TOAST table, while the main table references these compressed chunks. When you query the data, PostgreSQL transparently reconstructs the original text.

In conclusion, TOAST in PostgreSQL is a powerful feature that efficiently manages large data values. Understanding its inner workings, use cases, and configuration options can help you optimize your database’s storage and performance, making it a valuable tool for data management in PostgreSQL.

Imagine you are developing a content management system (CMS) for a blogging platform, and you have a table called blog_posts with the following structure:

In this table, the content column is of type TEXT and stores the blog post content. Some of these blog posts can be lengthy, containing thousands of words.

Without TOAST, storing these lengthy blog posts directly in the content column can lead to inefficiencies in terms of storage and retrieval. Here’s how TOAST can be beneficial:

This command enables TOAST compression for the content column.

TOAST will automatically break down the long text into chunks, compress them, and store them efficiently in the TOAST table.

When you query the data, PostgreSQL transparently reconstructs the original text. The compression and storage are handled behind the scenes, providing a seamless experience for retrieving the blog post content.


TOAST is a hidden gem in PostgreSQL, enabling efficient storage and retrieval of large data values. Understanding how TOAST works and its use cases can empower you to make informed decisions when designing your database schema and managing large volumes of data.

By utilizing TOAST effectively, you can improve the performance and storage efficiency of your PostgreSQL database, making it a valuable tool in your data management toolkit. Whether dealing with text documents, binary data, or other large values, TOAST in PostgreSQL has covered you.

Drop a query if you have any questions regarding TOAST and we will get back to you quickly.

Making IT Networks Enterprise-ready – Cloud Management Services

  • Accelerated cloud migration
  • End-to-end view of the cloud environment
Get Started

About CloudThat

CloudThat is a leading provider of Cloud Training and Consulting services with a global presence in India, the USA, Asia, Europe, and Africa. Specializing in AWS, Microsoft Azure, GCP, VMware, Databricks, and more, the company serves mid-market and enterprise clients, offering comprehensive expertise in Cloud Migration, Data Platforms, DevOps, IoT, AI/ML, and more.

CloudThat is recognized as a top-tier partner with AWS and Microsoft, including the prestigious ‘Think Big’ partner award from AWS and the Microsoft Superstars FY 2023 award in Asia & India. Having trained 650k+ professionals in 500+ cloud certifications and completed 300+ consulting projects globally, CloudThat is an official AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, AWS Training Partner, AWS Migration Partner, AWS Data and Analytics Partner, AWS DevOps Competency Partner, Amazon QuickSight Service Delivery Partner, Amazon EKS Service Delivery Partner, Microsoft Gold Partner, AWS Microsoft Workload Partners, Amazon EC2 Service Delivery Partner, and many more.

To get started, go through our Consultancy page and Managed Services PackageCloudThat’s offerings.


1. Why does PostgreSQL use TOAST?

ANS: – PostgreSQL uses TOAST to optimize the storage and retrieval of large data types. Storing large values in a table would lead to significant performance issues and storage overhead without TOAST.

2. Which data types are eligible for TOAST compression?

ANS: – TOAST is primarily used for variable-length data types, such as text, bytea, and varchar. Large data values of these types are automatically compressed and stored out-of-line using TOAST.


Sunil H G is a highly skilled and motivated Research Associate at CloudThat. He is an expert in working with popular data analysis and visualization libraries such as Pandas, Numpy, Matplotlib, and Seaborn. He has a strong background in data science and can effectively communicate complex data insights to both technical and non-technical audiences. Sunil's dedication to continuous learning, problem-solving skills, and passion for data-driven solutions make him a valuable asset to any team.



    Click to Comment

Get The Most Out Of Us

Our support doesn't end here. We have monthly newsletters, study guides, practice questions, and more to assist you in upgrading your cloud career. Subscribe to get them all!