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A Guide to Data Profiling: Types, Advantages, and Techniques

  • Bhumika Dutta
  • Apr 26, 2022
A Guide to Data Profiling: Types, Advantages, and Techniques title banner

The most effective company decisions and strategies are built on solid data. If you're working on a business project and don't have a data set that reveals your present performance and where you're falling short, data profiling can help you fill in the gaps.


The amount of data – and the sources of that data – continues to grow in our more connected society. Data profiling is a visual examination that uses a set of business rules and analytical tools to uncover, understand, and potentially reveal data anomalies. As a crucial component of monitoring and maintaining the health of these newer, larger data sets, this knowledge is then used to improve data quality.


The demand for data profiling will only increase. Corporate data warehouses must deal with increasingly diversified and intimidatingly enormous sets of data from a variety of sources, including blogs, social media, and emerging big data technologies such as Hadoop. The Internet of Things introduces a plethora of data-generating gadgets to the industrial sector, while companies can access data from biometrics and human-generated sources such as email and electronic medical records.



What is Data Profiling?


Data profiling is the practice of reviewing and analyzing data in order to develop useful summaries. 


The procedure produces a high-level summary that can be used to identify data quality concerns, hazards, and overall trends. Data Profiling, in particular, sifts through information to establish its quality and legitimacy. Data profiling can be used for a variety of purposes, but it's most typically used to assess the quality of data that is part of a bigger project. 


Typically, it is used in conjunction with an ETL procedure. Data Profiling and ETL can be used together to cleanse, enhance, and load quality data into a destination location if done appropriately.


Data profiling can help you avoid the costly mistakes that are all too typical in databases. Incorrect or missing values, values outside the range, unexpected patterns in data, and so on are examples of these problems.


Data profiling, in particular, sifts through information to identify its legitimacy and quality. Analytical algorithms analyze data in minute detail by detecting dataset properties such as mean, minimum, maximum, percentile, and frequency. 


The program then conducts analysis to reveal metadata such as frequency distributions, key relationships, foreign-key candidates, and functional dependencies. Finally, it applies all of this data to show how those aspects correspond with your company's standards and objectives.


Data profiling can help you avoid costly mistakes in your client database. Null values (missing or unknown values), values that shouldn't be included, values with unusually high or low frequency, values that don't fit expected patterns, and values that are outside the normal range are all examples of these errors.


Also Read | How BI Tools Help Data Scientists


Types of Data Profiling:


Data profiling can be divided into three categories:


  1. Structure Discovery:


Validating that data is consistent and formatted correctly, as well as performing mathematical checks on the data are all part of the structure discovery process (e.g. sum, minimum or maximum). Structure discovery is used to determine how well data is structured, such as what proportion of phone numbers are incorrectly formatted.


Structure discovery also looks into the data's basic statistics. You can obtain insight into the veracity of the data by employing statistics such as minimum and maximum values, means, medians, modes, and standard deviations.



  1. Content Discovery:


Content discovery is the process of looking at individual data records in order to find problems. Content discovery determines which single rows in a table have difficulties, as well as which systemic issues exist in the data (for example, phone numbers with no area code). 


Many data management procedures begin with a tally of all the inconsistencies and ambiguities in your data sets. The standardization process in content discovery is critical in resolving these minor issues. Finding and updating your data to fit street addresses into the proper format, for example, is an important aspect of this stage. Non-standard data can generate significant problems, such as being unable to contact clients by mail because the data set contains poorly formatted addresses. These issues can be addressed early in the data management process.


Also Read | Data Analysis in Product Development: Relevance & Techniques



  1. Relationship discovery:


Finding out how different pieces of the data are connected. Key linkages between database tables, for example, or spreadsheet references between cells or tables. Reusing data requires an understanding of relationships; related data sources should be combined into one or imported in a way that preserves significant linkages.


The breadth of relationship discovery extends beyond data values to include the links between records and tables. References within a table, such as a cell value populated by computing other cell values, or references across tables and data sets, such as foreign and main keys, are examples.


These connections must be tracked and cataloged in order to guarantee data integrity if the data set is imported or duplicated to another database, for example. Alternatively, if data is sampled, calculated values should be saved in case the cross-section does not include their arguments.


Also Read | What is Data Integration? Best Data Integration Tools


Where is Data Profiling Used?


Data profiling is commonly used in the following processes:


  1. Data Migration:


Moving a large amount of data between heterogeneous systems, such as files, databases, and so on, is known as data migration. However, before using a data migration tool to transfer data, it is necessary to profile the data to discover and resolve conflicts in order to ensure consistency between the old and new systems.


Data profiling technologies can help reduce the chance of errors, duplications, and erroneous data throughout the migration process.


Also Read | Best Data Mining Techniques


  1. Data Cleansing:


Data cleansing is a crucial phase in the data preparation process since it aids in error correction and deduplication, as well as ensuring the data's validity and relevance. Data cleansing, on the other hand, is only useful for data sets that are known to be corrupt. Poor quality data frequently goes unrecognized and neglected in the system until it is discovered through data profiling.


As a result, data quality and profiling tools analyze large amounts of data in a systematic manner to find erroneous fields, null values, and other statistical anomalies that could influence data processing.


  1. Data Integration:


By combining data from many sources, data integration gives a comprehensive perspective of the organization. When source data is merged and put into a data warehouse, data hub, or data mart, data profiling guarantees that there are no inaccuracies.


Also Read | Top Data Cleaning Tools for 2022


Techniques for Data Profiling:


Data profiling has approaches that are utilized across these distinct methods to evaluate data, track dependencies, and more, in addition to types. Here are a few of the more popular ones:


  • Column Profiling:


Column profiling is a technique for calculating the number of times a value appears in each column by scanning over them. This data can be used to spot trends and frequently occurring values.


  • Cross-Table Profiling:


The foreign key analysis is used in cross-table profiling to detect relationships between columns in various tables. This gives you a better understanding of your dependencies and identifies data sets that can be linked together for quicker analysis. Cross-table profiling also detects stray data, as well as semantic and syntactic variances between linked data sets.


  • Cross column Profiling:


Key analysis and dependency analysis are the two processes that make up cross-column profiling.


Within columns, the key analysis looks for possible main keys. Within a data set, dependency analysis looks for relationships or structures. These methods, when combined, reveal linkages between cells in the same table.


  • Data Rule Validation:


Data rule validation ensures that data values and tables adhere to defined data formatting and storage standards. Engineers can improve data integrity by using the findings of data validation testing.


Also Read | Applications of Data Mining


Advantages of Data Profiling:


When you use a data profiling application, it continuously analyses, cleans and refreshes data so that you can get vital insights straight from your laptop. Data profiling, in particular, provides:


  1. Predictive Decision Making:


Profiled data can be used to prevent minor errors from becoming major issues. It can also reveal what might happen in new settings. Data profiling aids in the creation of an accurate picture of a company's health in order to better guide decision-making.



  1. Improved data quality and trustworthiness:


After the data has been evaluated, the application can assist in the removal of duplicates or abnormalities. It can be used to discover important information that could influence business decisions, uncover quality issues inside an organization's system, and draw specific inferences about a company's future health.



  1. Organized sorting and Proactive crisis management:


Most databases interact with a varied range of data, which could include blogs, social media, and other big data markets. Organized sorting and proactive crisis management are two examples. Profiling can track data back to its source and ensure that it is properly encrypted for security. 


After that, a data profiler can examine those many databases, source apps, or tables to ensure that the data meets normal statistical metrics and business regulations. Data profiling can assist in identifying and resolving issues fast, often before they develop.


An organization's future strategy and long-term goals can be charted by understanding the relationship between accessible data, missing data, and necessary data. These efforts can be streamlined if you have access to a data profiling application.


Also Read | Predictive Analytics: Techniques and Applications


Challenges in Data Profiling


The sheer volume of data you'll need to profile can make data profiling tough. This is especially true when dealing with an older system. Years of old data with thousands of inaccuracies could be found in a legacy system. Experts advise segmenting your data as part of your data profiling procedure in order to discern the forest for the trees.


If you do your data profiling manually, you'll need an expert to run multiple queries and filter through the results in order to acquire useful insights about your data, which can take up a lot of time and resources. Furthermore, you will most likely only be able to check a fraction of your total data because going through the complete data collection is too time-consuming.


A data profiling tool that can help you easily segment datasets is a favored choice. The majority of data profiling systems also include automation, which reduces human labor and saves time.


Also Read | Data Science Applications in Real Life


Why Should You Profile Your Data?


Nothing puts a project in jeopardy faster than starting with tainted data. Because they are based on an inaccurate or incomplete understanding of the source data, application modernization and data integration projects are prone to the same challenges and problems that all types of IT projects face: they suffer from time and budget overruns, tradeoffs between quality and deadlines, and outright project failures.


This occurs because databases and applications are complicated, data volumes can be large and difficult to decipher, and interpreting source data can be time-consuming and error-prone. The content, quality, and structure of data must be understood before it can be merged or used in a cloud data warehouse, CRM, ERP, or business analytics application.


Data profiling is critical since it can assist a company in increasing profitability and reducing waste. Most firms should make an effort to understand what data is sitting on their servers, cleansing, categorizing and verifying it as needed, much as supermarket stores must undertake frequent inventory counts to know what and how many products are sitting on the shelves.


Also Read | Benefits of Data Science in Digital Marketing



Why Do Businesses Require Data Profiling?


You might come upon a database that has critical information that helps you beat a regional competitor, but in today's market, that's just table stakes. You might discover a factory inefficiency that costs a small amount, and the data suggests a quick repair. You can use data to better your marketing strategy or shift your sales force's focus to different geographies. The possibilities are unlimited, but without data profiling, you won't get the best results as data and data sources rise and the need for data warehouses grows.

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