7 Questions For Finding the Right ETL Tool For You

Emma Kessinger

February 06th , 2020

ETL — which stands for extract, transform, and load — is one of the most common ways for businesses to get data from the web into their own data warehouse. For those without the right technical skills, however, ETL requires a powerful platform to be run properly.

Once you decide that it’s time to invest in ETL, the next big challenge is choosing which ETL tool will work best for you and your business. While it may seem like ETL tools are all designed to do the same thing, not every tool is created equal.

Asking the Right Questions

It can be difficult to know exactly what to look for when it comes to choosing an ETL tool. Here are a few questions to get the decision-making process rolling:

1. What sources can it extract from?

While ETL is nearly ubiquitous method for data transfer, not every ETL platform is capable of extracting every type of data from every type of source. 

Some platforms may only offer data extraction from a handful of sources or even charge differently based on how many different sources you wish to extract from. Before you invest in a certain ETL tool, do an inventory of each source you’ll use the tool to get data from. Having that list of integrations will make it easier to sort through different tools and potentially negotiate a better price. 

2. Is the interface user-friendly? 

ETL is a highly technical process that, without tools, would require a skillful programmer to work through. While ETL tools make it far more accessible, some place a greater emphasis on accessibility than others. 

Deciding on the right user interface will likely come down to who at your company will be most using the platform. The more proficient in data extraction and transformation a user is, the more like it is that they won’t want or need a heavily-streamlined design. 

3. Does it require training to use? 

ETL is a complicated process made simple through the right tools, but different tools simplify ETL in different ways. While some tools may be ready to use by anyone as soon as you sign on, others might trade that usability for greater user freedom. As with questions of interface, your preference of usability will likely come down to who will be primarily using the platform.  Many traditional ETL tools require a programmer to build out each specific ETL.

4. Is it affordable? 

The biggest question businesses face when adopting a new platform or tool: will this work into the budget? ETL tools are almost universally worthwhile investments given their ability to handle large amounts of data quickly and efficiently, but different tools come at different price points.

Many ETL tools are priced according to the services being provided, meaning you’ll likely pay a different rate based on what you’re how you’re going to be using the tool. Other tools, however, come at a flat rate and offer a full suite of services for one price. 

5. What kind of support is available? 

If you run into a problem with your tool of choice or need to perform an action you’re not sure how to do, how much support will you have? Even the most user-friendly platforms can have issues, and unless you’re already an expert in ETL, you’re likely going to want some guidance. 

Some platforms offer a certain number of hours you can reach out to help services, while others provide hotlines you can use as much as you need to. If you’re particularly worried about issues using a platform, choose a service that has particularly high levels of support like screen-sharing capabilities.

6. How much volume can it handle?

A figure that will likely come up in any price negotiations you might have, your data volume is a critical figure for choosing the right tool. Different platforms will operate and charge differently based on the amount of data you’ll need to process — so make sure to have a figure ready before you do your searching.

7. Will it work with your storage site?

ETL stores data in data warehouses, a certain format designed to keep large amounts of data secure but easily accessible. While you might already have a maintained data warehouse, many people will need to set one up before using a new ETL tool. 

If you already have a data warehouse, make sure that any ETL tool you use can hook up to it without a hitch. For those without data warehouses, talk to different ETL tool providers about what steps that might require in order to work properly with their tool.

Adopting ETL as your data transfer protocol of choice can be a big leap, but the right ETL tool can make it a breeze. These questions may not cover all of your bases, but they’re a good starting point for finding the tool that fits your business best. 

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