Hardware interrupts usually communicate with a bottom half, tasklet or softirq. Frequently this involved putting work in a queue, which the BH/softirq will take out.
If a hardware irq handler shares data with a softirq, you have two concerns. Firstly, the softirq processing can be interrupted by a hardware interrupt, and secondly, the critical region could be entered by a hardware interrupt on another CPU. This is where spin_lock_irq() is used. It is defined to disable interrupts on that cpu, then grab the lock. spin_unlock_irq() does the reverse.
This works perfectly for UP as well: the spin lock vanishes, and this macro simply becomes local_irq_disable() (include/asm/smp.h), which protects you from the softirq/tasklet/BH being run.
spin_lock_irqsave() (include/linux/spinlock.h) is a variant which saves whether interrupts were on or off in a flags word, which is passed to spin_lock_irqrestore(). This means that the same code can be used inside an hard irq handler (where interrupts are already off) and in softirqs (where the irq disabling is required).