The Grouparoo Blog

What is Data Synchronization?

Tagged in Data 
By Guest Contributor on 2021-10-22

We live in a truly exciting time. Everywhere we look, our data is there, readily accessible on a computer or in an app on our smartphone.

However, to make this ecosystem possible, your data needs to be consistent no matter where you get it. This is the role of data synchronization, and it’s the hidden technology that powers our modern world.

For businesses, data synchronization is the key driver that ensures they always have the most accurate data to power business decisions and marketing campaigns. While it’s a complex process, it’s worth knowing.

With that in mind, this article will discuss data synchronization and how you can harness it for your organization.

What is Data Synchronization?

Data synchronization is a method of ensuring that data is consistent across all locations. For instance, if a customer’s data is changed via a mobile app, the modification must also reflect in Marketo and Zendesk. To make this possible, synchronization should be an automatic, ongoing process to ensure that data is updated and accurate at all times.

An excellent way to visualize this is with a set of clocks. Synchronization ensures that two people looking at two different clocks should still arrive at the exact same time. If the clocks are out of sync, it would be difficult to tell the “true” time. In the same way, a business would find it hard to see what the real data is without proper synchronization.

Synchronization sounds simple in principle, but it’s a complex undertaking in practice. Improper data synchronization patterns and methods can lead to conflicting data values, and downstream data inaccuracies. Extensive databases and multiple concurrent users only further complicate the process.

Data synchronization is often confused with data integration. Although the two are similar, they’re distinct processes. Integration refers to combining multiple data sources to form new information or insights to fuel business decisions. On the other hand, synchronization focuses more on the consistency of the data at every point in the organization.

Why Should I Care about Data Synchronization?

Data synchronization is crucial in today’s interconnected world, where data isn’t neatly contained in a single location anymore. The introduction of data warehouses has helped to centralize data into one place, but then there are critical questions of how do you sync data between the data warehouse and other locations.

It’s not uncommon for a company to have dozens of apps, various websites, countless internal software tools, and branches located on opposite parts of the globe. Adding cloud and “as a service” platforms to the mix further complicates matters.

Remember, each of these points produces and works with data. With such myriad sources, there’s the real problem of synchronizing their data to represent an accurate picture of your business. Having a data stack that reliably syncs data from your sources to your destinations enables powerful operational analytics and business intelligence.

As a simple example, let’s say customers can submit a help ticket in Zendesk for your product. With a well-synchronized data stack, your support team can have the customer’s purchase history and contact information right there, synced with the ticket.. As a result, your customer receives more personalized support, leading to increased satisfaction and conversion.

Organizations that don’t sync data also create the problem of data silos. This is a situation where each department uses different tools of their own, and each of these tools becomes its own data silo. With such a fragmented data environment, it becomes near impossible to get a consistent picture across all departments. Furthermore, with such poor data quality, different teams can’t effectively coordinate, eventually leading to poorly informed business decisions.

The lack of data synchronization also creates an excessive amount of redundant data. This makes the job of sifting through the noise even harder, and owners won’t know which parts of it are correct or useful.

Poor or non-existent database synchronization methods will directly impact customer experience. For example, ticketing agents can’t see a passenger’s entire flight history, making simple cross-checking operations time-consuming. This can cause long wait times and several phone calls, giving the impression that your company is inefficient and disjointed.

But let’s look at the flip side. If your data synchronization methods are very efficient, it means you always have the right data readily available. This impacts every aspect of your business.

As a result of a proper data sync, management teams can make critical business decisions with a sound, factual basis. Operations will be much smoother with better data in the tools that they’re using like CRMs, email marketing tools, and others. Plus, customers will always experience the best service possible because the correct data is always there.

In other words, investing in proper data synchronization techniques will significantly impact your bottom line.

How Does Data Synchronization Work?

Now that we’ve explored why data synchronization matters, let’s look at how to sync data with different strategies and methods.

There are two basic approaches: file synchronization and version control.

File synchronization is one of the most common techniques used by backup systems like Google Drive and external hard drives. In this approach, when one data source is updated, it also updates all copies in other sources. This also helps prevent duplicate files.

For example, if you edit a Word document on your laptop, and the Word document is in a Google Drive-connected folder, the Google Drive app copies the updated file to the connected Google Drive folder. Conversely, if the user deletes the online copy, the laptop copy gets removed as well.

However, a limitation of file synchronization is that it doesn’t always work when multiple users are making changes to the same file. This is where version control comes into play. In this setup, every change creates a log containing a version number and a timestamp. Then, versions can be compared and reverted if needed, eliminating a situation where different edits mix in a single file. Version control tools such as Github, Gitlab, and others are very popular in the current tech ecosystem.

Beyond these two basic methods, there are also data synchronization techniques for specific uses.

A distributed file-system approach is crucial for the client-server architecture used in most mobile apps. This method ensures that data is synced across multiple devices when connecting to a server. Some techniques also incorporate reconciliation, which allows the device to go offline, record changes, and transmit these changes when it goes back online.

Mirror computing is a “passive” method because synchronization flows in only one direction. Essentially, it makes copies of a data set so that multiple users can process them quickly. This is often used in mirror sites, which contain identical content as the parent site. They are beneficial when many users are trying to view or download from a site simultaneously.

Data Synchronization Tools

Now, let’s look at the actual ways you can synchronize data in your organization. There are three categories of tools at your disposal.

The first is native synchronization, or the method that’s already built-in with your third-party software. For instance, if you’re using a cloud platform such as Salesforce, it can sync the sales data it uses for the workflows and recipes.

While such solutions can be convenient, they have their limitations. For example, using a solution that is built-in with your third-party software may not support syncing across different tools you use. Some only support a one-way transfer bringing data either in or out. In today’s data stack, where there are multiple data sources and destinations, such a tool may not meet your company’s needs.

A better approach is to develop custom data synchronization software in-house. Going this route gives you the freedom to sync data properly. However, these solutions tend to be expensive, complex, and time-consuming to create and maintain. As such, they’re primarily feasible only for large corporations.

A good compromise is to use reliable, third-party synchronization tools and iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) solutions. Since they specialize in syncing data, they can achieve what custom synchronization tools can at minimal cost and effort. What’s more, they can often connect different third-party tools together, making them exceptionally flexible.

Choose Grouparoo

Grouparoo is one of the best examples of a data synchronization platform. It is an open-source framework that allows you to move data from your data warehouse to your cloud platforms.

With Grouparoo, you can feed customer data to your business tools to power better and more effective campaigns. For example, you can sync customer data from your Snowflake data warehouse to Mailchimp, giving you the ability to send personalized e-mail campaigns based on the latest data you have..

Grouparoo is compatible with dozens of data sources, such as Snowflake, MySQL, Google BigQuery, and Postgres, just to name a few. Notable integrations on the destination side include Salesforce, Marketo, HubSpot, Zendesk, Facebook Custom Audiences, and Mixpanel.

Connecting these data sources and destinations is easy with Grouparoo’s pre-built connectors. As an added benefit, it allows you to integrate a new cloud-based tool into your workflow easily.

Yet, Grouparoo’s best trait is its flexibility. It’s open-source, so data engineers can test and run Grouparoo locally, as well as self-host Grouparoo in their own private cloud. Developers can also build additional connectors for sources and destinations if Grouparoo doesn’t support the plugins you need. At the same time, Grouparoo also has a SaaS hosted offering so you don’t have to worry about DevOps concerns. Our team maintains Grouparoo, so you can rely on the best version of the tool and responsive support even if you don’t have in-house developers.

We also have a hosted cloud offering. This guarantees that your data is synchronized, no matter the situation.

Our platform helps any business tap into the power of their data to fuel business growth and innovation without needing to build and maintain their own data pipeline. If you’re interested, contact us today for a free trial of our hosted offering or download the open-source community edition of Grouparoo.

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