Real-time vs Batch Data Processing Solutions

As I was doing research for this article’s topic, I kept going back to the same question of how exactly is data processed. My research led to more questions like, does data integration only work in real-time, or is there more to it? When it comes to processing data, there are two main ways to process information. The first approach is batch-based data integration. The second is real-time integration. Short answer: The way integration processes data is more complex.

Real-time data processing is literally what it sounds, integrating data in real-time. But, the concept of “real-time” is worth zooming in on since processing and moving data obviously isn’t immediate. Real-time data integration is the idea of processing information the moment it’s obtained. In contrast, batch data-based integration involves storing all the data received until a certain amount is collected and then processed as a batch. Overall, it’s important to remember that one is not better than the other but rather based on your business’ needs and strategic goals.

The first blog of our series discussing data integration delivers a well-rounded base for the next concepts being introduced in this blog. It contains an overview of the five different approaches to data integration along with a comprehensive pros and cons list. After all, when it comes to data processing, there are many ways to do it. So, let’s take a look at the most common data processes: real-time and batch-based integration.

What is Batch-Based Data Processing?

In order to explain the concept of batch-based processing, I want to emphasize the following two key components. Batch processing in data integration means:

  1. This data process is scheduled at a specific time. 
  2. Processing a sufficient amount of data. 

This means that when data is processed as a batch, data will be collected and organized into one transaction file. This transaction file (source) is then stored until enough data has been collected, at which point the master file (target, like a central database) is updated via data integration at scheduled periods of time. So, data is not only collected together but also processed together.

Batch-Based Data Processing Examples

Real-life examples make it easier to comprehend this concept. Some segments of your day to day life like the following are organized through a batch-based system:

  • Electric bill: At the end of the month I’m already expecting that my electric bill is going to tell me that I need to stop baking so much and have to start turning off lights when I leave. Oh yes, the good old hydro bill is an example of a batch-based system for data processing! Your electrical consumption data is collected during a set period of time before being processed as a batch in the form of your bill.
  • Credit Card Transaction: Your credit card transactions are a slightly different example of batch-based processing; transactions and payments take time to be posted and aren’t reflected until a later date.


What is Real-Time Data Processing?

Just like there are two key components to highlight the nuances of batch-based processing as an approach to data integration and your data’s movement strategy, there are two tricks for real-time:

  1. Real-time data processing is immediate and constantly up-to-date
  2. Real-time integration is carried out at the time of the event. 

With real-time processing, as soon as the transaction takes place, the master file is updated at the same time, mirroring a constantly updating cycle of information. With real-time processing, immediate data integration is required so that the information is updated ASAP.

Real-Time Data Processing Examples

When you book a flight and you’re able to select your seat as a part of the process of buying your ticket, make sure you thank real-time data movement for ensuring your spot is not double booked.

  • Reservation systems: When you book that five-star, all-inclusive vacation or a table at that little Italian restaurant, the master booking database is updated immediately so that no one else can book your spot.
  • Point of Sale Terminals: As soon as you swipe, tap, or input your pin at a POS terminal, the funds are automatically collected from your account. Similarly, when you receive a refund, the funds will be reflected back into your respective banking account immediately.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Approach

Batch-Based Data Integration

Advantages  Disadvantages 
Considerable amounts of data are processed at a scheduled time via a single process. This promotes efficiency as it avoids having to process data every time it is received. Since the information is processed at a scheduled time, the data takes time to be processed. Delays in updating master databases can sometimes occur
This process can be carried out at any time, including during a time that the computer system is idle. This allows operators to prioritize the timing of batches easily. The information can be outdated. Depending on the circumstances, this would be detrimental in a situation where data really should be updated immediately. AKA when you’re booking seats on a plane like our examples above. It’s important that you select the right data movement strategy for your business!

When should your business consider batch-based data integration?

The use of batch-based processing was the preferred approach for many companies, especially those using older technologies that didn’t have the resources to run real-time processing and wanted to save network bandwidth. Although the use of this approach has been declining, many companies like Amazon are still using a form of batch-based processing to move data.

Batch-based processing is most commonly used by companies that have a high volume of orders. For example, if you have 1,000 orders per day, the system won’t handle it if it is processing each order in real-time. Especially if the system does not have the resources to support the volume of orders.

Using a batch-based system, allows the orders to be processed as a queue rather than all at once which would clog the system. Similarly, if you have high volume of SKUs, it is better to run them as a batch in order to avoid system throttles. Running these SKUs as a batch would allow the system to allocate resources for when it is time to run the SKU. Consequently, preventing the system from getting backed up. Also when these SKUs need to be updated, running a batch-base system will allow these updates to run on the back-end rather than in real-time. Overall, batch-based processing promotes efficiency and ensures that the system does not get clogged with orders or SKU.

Real-Time Data Integration System

Advantages  Disadvantages 
One of the main advantages is that the data is processed immediately. This is beneficial as the information is updated ASAP which is ideal when you are dealing with reservations. It is costly to have personnel that immediately processes incoming data without further data integration and automation to ensure data is where and how it needs to be on the other end of the integration.
Not only does this process promote speed but it also ensures that the information is up-to-date and not delayed.

When should your business consider Real-Time Data Integration System?

On the other end of the stick, real-time data movement focuses on the speed that data is processed and ensures that information is always up-to-date. Speed has become critical to businesses especially if you want to have an edge over your competitors. This data movement approach is often used by businesses that schedule shippings since they need to have up-to-date information on inventory.

For example, if you are running a home decor business, you need to know when you are running low or have completely run out of inventory. This will prevent that your customers order products that are out of stock. This kind of valuable information needs to be up-to-date to prevent order and shipping delays and to promote a positive customer experience. Using real-time processing can give you an edge over your competitors, depending on your business’ specific needs, as your customers are given actual real-time updates on their orders rather than outdated information.

Batch vs. real-time: What’s right for you?

Let’s go back to our original question, is data integration a full stop in real-time or is it more complex? Data integration is NOT always done in real-time. Plus your options for configuring how your data moves as a part of your data integration strategy are a lot more complex.

Choosing how your data is processed involves understanding your business’ needs and determining which approach—batched or real-time—  fits best with your business. Again, this decision depends on your business, strategy, data transaction volume, and the kind of customer experience you want to promote. Ultimately, there are several reasons for considering either data movement systems, the bottom line is…this choice renders on your business strategy and needs.

Want to get more in-depth about Data Integration?

Our Data Integration 101 Guide Is Here