What is Data Integration?

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‘Big Data’ is having more of an impact on how businesses operate with every passing day, and the volumes being described continue to grow far past what human beings can reasonably keep up with. Now, even small businesses can find themselves tangling with millions of rows of data across a sprawling network of spreadsheets and databases that can feel impossible to keep track of. 

Better data organisation through Data Integration becoming the norm will have impacts across a huge range of industries in the coming years. From marketers gathering research on customers from hundreds of advertising platforms, to scientific industries utilising meta-analysis to help combat invasive species, food scarcity, and even climate change, having a means of viewing and analysing a full set of data at once can make all the difference.

In this post, we’ll be exploring what Data Integration is and how it can affect your business, before taking a brief look at some of the companies currently doing great work within various industries, making sure you can get the most out of your data.

How It Works

Data integration is the act of consolidating data from various sources into a single, cohesive set or ‘dashboard’ – the aim of this is to provide simplified access to the entire bulk of data to every user. To put it simply: data could be represented by pieces of a puzzle, and the act of data integration is creating the final picture by grouping them together.

This can be done through a variety of different methods, but for the sake of this article we’ll be focusing on two, one where the data is harmonised before upload (ETL or Extract, Transform, Load), and the other where uploading the data takes priority and the transformation occurs at a later date (ELT or Extract, Load, Transform).

The decision that must be made to choose between the two is whether you consider initial upload time or simplicity of access to be a priority. 

ELT

ELT is the faster option, as uploading the data without having to transform it can save huge amounts of time, but to follow our puzzle analogy it would be like having the pieces sit at different heights, still fitting together but not creating a cohesive image. Significant processing power is required to transform the data on demand (using SQL for example), so selecting ELT would require debate as to whether a faster upload time is worth the potentially longer processes down the line.

ETL

By contrast, the ‘Transform’ portion of ETL can take up large amounts of time depending on how much data is being processed. Alongside aligning data to make it accessible and presentable, transforming data also includes ‘data cleansing’ – correcting or removing corrupted, inaccurate, or irrelevant values, ensuring that our analogous puzzle looks pristine when put together, and reducing the risks of complications.

As processing power becomes easier to access and scale up, the negatives of choosing ELT over ETL are smaller, so if worries around using SQL to access data don’t apply to you, it might well be worth focusing on finding a company that best fits you, rather than the solution itself. 

Marketing leaders are 1.3X as likely as mainstream marketers to say that their data and analytics strategy defines how they integrate data and related technologies.

thinkwithgoogle

Why Bother? 

So what does this have to do with you? If you’re used to your current methods of organising data it can seem counterintuitive to overhaul your data and almost start your analytics fresh, but the benefits to Data Integration are notable, and should be considered.

  • Improves Efficiency – when your data is presented in a single format, it becomes far easier for users to understand and analyse, saving time and reducing the risk for human errors going forwards.
  • Better Collaboration – with remote work continuing for many of us, collaborating on projects with numerous sources of data can prove tricky. Data integration allows everyone to be on the same page looking at the same information, making communication easier and allowing teamwork to flow.
  • Data Refresh – if your data bases have been operating for a long period of time, cobwebs can start to show. By going through Data Integration you quite literally shake up your data, removing corrupted and incorrect data and reorganizing formats that otherwise wouldn’t line up. It has the added benefit of giving you a fresh perspective on the data you’ve collected, allowing you to draw out new ideas and see your progress in a new light.

Making Your Choice

There are a plethora of companies and options available for your Data Integration, you can find a more comprehensive list of available options in our directory.

For now, we wanted to put the spotlight on a few vendors offering Data Integration solutions, to give you a better understanding of what’s out there.

K2view – describing themselves as ‘Operational data fabric for agile digital business.’, K2view creates a singular language for data to adhere to, organising it according to “Digital Entity™ data schemas”. Their tagline of ‘Micro is Big’ mirrors their ‘micro-database’ concept, being able to create fantastically specific blocks of data, making it easier than ever to drill down and find exactly the answers you need.

Starburst.io – Starburst.io takes a very different approach to collating and presenting data, offering a solution that requires no data movement! By removing both the Transform and Load steps and using their lightning-fast SQL-based MPP query engine, their process can save even more time than standard ELT.

Infoworks.io – stating that “over 80% of big data projects fail to deploy to production” as a result of how intensive implementation can be is a huge claim, but Infoworks.io fully automates beyond Data Integration into workflows and operations of pipelines. By automating as much of the process as possible, they are also able to implement much of a project without needing specialised skills, making it a better choice for companies with less technical expertise.

Conclusion

Data Integration is a really simple way of bringing your company up to date, ensuring that you’re only using correct data through the cleansing process and making your operations more efficient. 

Choosing what methods of Data Integration you want to implement can feel like a huge task, so whether you’re looking to find out more, get some advice, or just start a conversation, we’re here to help.

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