IBM defines data integration as “discovery, cleansing, monitoring, transforming and delivery of data from a variety of sources.” Data integration sounds pretty simple--you take all your data and put it together, right? There’s actually a lot more to those two words.
Below we’ve covered the first thing you should always ask any potential data integration services partner to find out if they’re equipped to address all aspects of data integration. To learn more about how to find the best data integration services partner for you, stay tuned to this blog for an upcoming full-length guide.
Find out how any potential data integration services expert plans to prep for the implementation.
Here’s a simple checklist of steps any partner should include, at minimum, in the planning stages:
- Define goals. This should be approached from a highly analytical, business-first perspective. Data is a new facet to organizational effectiveness, so it’s easy to over-complicate by trying to define new data-specific goals. Focus instead on goals the business has already defined as a priority. Once they understand your data formats and sources, your partner should be able to help you connect the dots between the goals of the business and what the data can do.
- Define scope. Are there any instances you can imagine in the future where you might need to expand the scope of the data sources involved? Are there independent sales teams or partners that you’d like to eventually extend access to? Any potential partner should want to know this early in the process, demonstrating a concern for not only right-sizing the solution to your needs but making it work for you in the future rather than creating dependencies on outside organizations. The best partners place a focus on building internal data literacy to reduce outside dependencies. As the old saying goes, at Onebridge we think it’s important to teach our clients to fish for data insights rather than do all the fishing for them.
- Define data storage strategy. In short, this question could be defined as “in house server vs cloud vs hybrid.” Any potential partner should know the ins and outs of these options, easily articulating the pros and cons of each so you can discover which works best for you. This is definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation, so be wary of any partner that doesn’t offer options.
In fact, we want for you to be able to walk into any data integration meeting with as much prior knowledge as possible, so here are some basic pros and cons between server vs cloud vs hybrid storage:
In House Server
An in house server is kept onsite, so the first thing you need to consider is the upfront investment that you’ll have to make in hardware and maintenance support--not to mention the physical office space needed for the hardware. An in house server that is not backed up offsite is also vulnerable to physical damage like a fire or earthquake. There will likely be no guarantee regarding uptime--if the housing office loses connectivity, any onsite servers will also be unavailable to those outside that office, though those local will still be able to get access, which is an upside.
The most major concern in a strictly in house setup is the need for a comprehensive data security strategy, which is beyond the resources of many teams. On the flip side, with an in house server you have more physical control over your data storage, with no third party access. They can also be more cost-effective for smaller organizations.
As you’d expect, many of the pros and cons of the cloud approach directly mirror those of in house servers. With the cloud, there’s no need for such a large up-front spend on hardware and IT resources, making it a particularly attractive option for companies that are growing quickly and are dependent on their data being constantly ‘up’ and available.
The cloud can also be cost-effective long-term because users have options to pay for only the storage they use, upgrading and downgrading as needed. The cloud offers a more regular and reliable backup to prevent data loss. Cloud services also typically offer built-in data security.
However, if the internet goes down on the cloud provider’s side, your data may be inaccessible. Cloud providers typically offer safeguards against this, however, problems are always possible when data is placed offsite, so it’s a risk to consider. If data must be recovered, recovering from the cloud can be time-consuming.
The exact structure of a hybrid solution should be modeled on the needs of the business, but the core components obviously involve a mix of onsite and cloud storage. This can be an ideal strategy for a business to offset the downsides of a particular approach. Hybrid models offer flexibility and customization, which can also lead to significant cost savings. A good data integration services expert will be able to help you determine whether a hybrid approach is right and necessary for your business and design the perfect, forward-thinking solution for you.
For instance, you could use the cloud temporarily when resources are limited and external demand is high, so your in house server doesn’t have to carry the load. An in house server can offer you high speeds when internal demand is high and external demand is low. From a cost perspective, hybrid approaches are usually highly scalable.
We’ve covered prepping for the implementation of a data integration strategy, but data integration involves a lot more. Check out our full guide outlining what to look for in a data integration services expert. To learn more about data integration services, data strategy, or business intelligence, connect with us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.