You’re probably aware that data analysis is important. But how do you work with large amounts of data from multiple sources? 

    This is where data integration and ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) come in. The relationship between data integration vs. ETL is a strong one. They both handle multiple types of data and encourage business owners to make better data-driven decisions. However, they also differ in a number of ways. This guide will explain what some of these differences are and walk you through the steps to improve your data collection and analytics. 

    Data Integration vs. ETL: What’s the Difference? 

    There is a massive difference between data integration vs. ETL. While you need both to maximize your data, it’s important to know when and how you should use each. 

    Data integration is the process of taking data from many different sources and combining it into a single form or view. For example, you could take different types of data (such as customer surveys, sales figures, and demographics) and integrate it so that you can display it all on one visual graph for your business’ stakeholders. 

    ETL is a subset of data integration. It’s the process that occurs before the data is fully unified. Extract, transform, and load; that’s what it does. 

    When you use ETL, you start by extracting data from every source. You can either fully extract or partially extract the data depending on your needs. Next, you transform the data by converting it to the most efficient format, removing duplicates, and organizing it. Finally, you load the data into a data warehouse where it can be integrated and displayed visually later. 

    You can think of data integration vs. ETL like the relationship between a manufacturer and a distributor. The manufacturer (ETL) packages the product (the data), while the distributor (data integration) makes sure that the product is seen and understood. It’s a symbiotic relationship that enables business owners to do more with their data. 

    How to Use ETL 

    The ETL process is almost always performed by data experts, often by data scientists or dedicated IT departments. There’s also ETL software available for businesses that don’t have data experts on staff. Regardless of which method you use, you have to make a few preparations first: 

    1. Collect quality data from multiple trustworthy sources. If you don’t have a data expert on staff, then you can hire an IT firm to help you come up with a business intelligence strategy to improve the quality of your data. 
    2. Find an ETL tool that is capable of processing and storing your data. Or, you can have an in-house data scientist create a customized ETL tool from scratch. 
    3. Create a secure storage warehouse that includes a data backup plan. Or, select an ETL tool that includes a storage option. This isn’t always possible, as some tools only have a limited amount of available storage space. 
    4. Train your staff on how to use this system and ensure that all future data is cleansed and stored properly using the ETL tool.

    This can be a complicated and time-consuming process, which is why many business owners ask data experts for advice on how to use an ETL system for the first time. However, once you have this system in place and you use it consistently, your data will be well-organized and ready to analyze. The ETL process does approximately 80 percent of the work required to integrate your data, so it’s important to perform these steps correctly. 

    How to Use Data Integration 

    After your data is cleansed and stored, data integration takes care of the other 20 percent of the process. If you’re unsure whether you need data integration vs. ETL, you should know that most businesses use both systems whenever possible. That’s because ETL alone is only the first step toward full data integration. If you want to see the best results from your data analysis, then you need a post-ETL data integration strategy. 

    After the ETL process is complete, your data is then:

    1. Filtered based on what you want to analyze or the patterns you want to see. 
    2. Retrieved from the warehouse and uploaded into an analysis, visualization, or report generation tool. 
    3. Unified into whatever form you choose. This could be a scatter plot, heat map, predictive analytics model, or any other tool that you have available. 
    4. Translated into actionable results. Visual aids can help you see which findings are most important. If you use more advanced predictive analytics or machine learning tools, you can determine possible outcomes based on the decisions you make today.

    ETL helps your business stay organized and maintain your data properly, but full data integration allows you to see your results and take swift action. It changes your data from numbers on a chart into real business decisions. 

    How Do You Fully Integrate Your Data?  

    If you already have an ETL system in place or you plan on using one, the next step is to contact an experienced data analytics and business intelligence firm. These firms will show you how to use the data you collect and will provide multiple tools for in-depth analysis and visualization. Some firms also offer customized platforms that make the data integration process simple for your staff, even those with little or no experience working with data. The best firms offer: 

    • Data warehousing and secure cloud storage 
    • Cloud computing and other advanced data processing methods 
    • Detailed visualization options 
    • Report templates and automatic reporting for certain data sets 
    • Predictive analytics, including those based on machine learning 
    • Advice on how to improve the quality of your data 
    • Complete data governance 
    • Customized user-friendly platforms that are accessible from any device 
    • Reliable data security measures and backups

    Moreover, because these features are all customizable, you can choose the services that you want. With these comprehensive options, you won’t have to choose between ETL vs. full data integration. You can have the best of both.

    To take the next step, contact Tek Leaders today. Our team of data experts can help you set up an ETL and data integration system that is perfect for your business. If you have more questions about ETL vs. data integration, you can reach us by email directly.

      Author: Devender (Dev) Aerrabolu

      Devender (Dev) Reddy Aerrabolu is the CEO of Tek Leaders. His goal is to help SMBs bring value from their data. Dev helped Tek Leaders grow from scratch into a $25 million enterprise by focusing on clients’ data needs.