Are you about to kick-off a project to access business data? If so, it’s time to explore the diverse array of technical solutions that can enable your business to seamlessly access data. Indeed, the choice you make hinges on multiple factors. Specifically, these factors include data set size, diverse data sources, in-house IT capabilities, and project budget constraints. While many initiatives can be tackled internally, some require advanced cloud integration tools or skilled third-party vendors to ensure success. In regard to data transfer, we’ve traveled far since Samuel Morse’s groundbreaking telegraph transmission. In this article, I’ll lay out the top 7 tech solutions designed to unlock your business data.
1. Basic File Transfer To Access Data.
Traditionally, Information Technology (IT) departments transfer data using data files. In many cases, this is still done today by both IT and business users. Also, businesses transfer this data using various communications protocols such as FTP, SFTP, and AS2. As data file transferred, businesses started using various data mapping techniques such as Electronic File Transfer (EDI) to add meaning and format to the data. Today, there are standardized and custom data formats that businesses use. Lastly once the business receives the file, they can view the data and process the data. Today, businesses can also use managed data transfer solutions to fully automate the process as well as incorporate file transfer within other data integration solutions discussed below.
2. Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) To Integrate Data.
Positively, most IT departments have used some form of ETL to access raw data by loading it into a target database. This is because most IT shops have the technical capability to support relational databases and have the capability to do ETL.
As its name implies, ETL is a three-step process. First, it Extracts data from a data source. Then in a staging area, a software program / script will Transform (map) the data into the prescribed data format. Lastly, the software will Load the data into the target database. In many cases, IT will classify this target database as a data warehouse.
3. Extract, Load, Transform (ELT) For Big Data.
This data access method has come into vogue lately with the advent of “big data”, data lakes, and data integration cloud services. Indeed, ELT is a viable option when datasets are large and timeliness of data is important. Here the target system is not just a relational database, but a sophisticated system that is both loading and transforming data so users can access.
4. Data Replication To Sync Data.
In some cases, you may just need the same data synchronized with different databases across an organization. Here you can use a data replication software tool.
5. Data Streaming For Continuous Data Access.
This is a real-time method to deliver data. In particular, businesses may use this method when they have a real-time need to integrate data. In this case, the data integration project would need to use a sophisticated software platform such as a cloud service to deliver the data. Also, if data just needs to be presented on a screen, Extensible Markup Language (XML) could be used.
6. Application Programming Interface (API) Integration.
In most cases, any software application integration (application-to-application) would use an application programming interface (API). Specifically, this is where one system prescribes the application’s data calls, data formats, and communications methods. In addition, large, enterprise systems have public APIs, but businesses can create custom, private APIs to integrate data between systems.
7. Data Virtualization For On-Demand, Real-Time Data Access.
Lastly, data virtualization is a real-time data access method. In this case, you would use a sophisticated system, usually cloud-based, to create, on-demand an unified view of the data coming in real-time from different systems.
“If the presence of electricity can be made visible in any part of the circuit, I see no reason why intelligence may not be transmitted instantaneously by electricity.”
Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph – 1791 – 1872
Don’t Forget Data Governance and Data Security.
I do not want to rain on your parade, but when you integrate data and provide data access you have now taken on some new responsibilities. First, you are going to take on data governance which includes managing all aspects of the data interface and dataset. Second, you will need to manage data security access. See below for more information.
- Data Governance. As your business or target application requires a specific data format, you need to manage your data. Specifically, data governance includes defining and classifying the data format. Also, it includes managing usage policies, security, data storage, and availability of data
- Data Security. As your business is storing data, you own that data to at least some degree. Further, the level that your data needs to be secured will depend on the sensitivity of the data. Indeed, the owner of the data is who ultimately decides the sensitivity of the data based on applicable laws and internal business policies. See my article, Data Sensitivity: What You Need to Know For Your Business, for more details.
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