Data Cleansing Guide: What It Is and Why It’s Important
Table of Contents
- By Emmett
- Jun 28, 2022
As the internet grows and integrates into our work, school, and entertainment, every facet of life is being transformed into tangible data. Each transaction, communication, and behavior occurring both online and in the real world can be translated into strings of information; the question is, is it all useful? The truth is, that every piece of information isn’t necessarily valuable. That's why it's occasionally necessary to clean up these data sets through a process called data cleansing.
What is Data Cleansing?
Data cleansing, also known as data scrubbing or data cleaning, is the process of removing elements of a dataset that have been deemed incorrect, duplicated, or irrelevant. This is done to help optimize the data for proper usage; once cleansed, data can be more easily interpreted and practically implemented. It is a common form of data management and can help businesses distill large sets of data down into more useful and actionable information.
The process of performing data cleansing is simple but can be incredibly tedious. To cleanse a set of data thoroughly, you must go through each piece of information available within a given database and identify three main components:
- Which pieces of information have been created in error.
- Which are duplicates of existing data points.
- Which parts of the data are irrelevant.
For the most effective data cleansing, the information you are reviewing should be from a single source or a group of closely related sources. This makes it easier to identify what is actually irrelevant and helps keep the task within a distinct set of parameters. Without definite boundaries, it will be hard to know whether a piece of data is present due to error or inaccuracy. As technology progresses, more advanced solutions to data cleansing are being developed. There are A.I.-assisted programs and automated analytic processes that have been created with the express purpose of cleaning data, but the tech still has room to grow.
These programs can crawl through thousands of data points at a much faster speed than a person but are prone to making small errors. With manual data cleaning, the time required to complete a task can often be far longer but involve a smaller number of mistakes. Identifying outlying or incorrect data can be easy with the right set of requirements, but the rigid input of some lower-level programs will mislabel and remove data that may be useful.
Why is Data Cleansing Important?
Because of the sheer volume of data that the modern company, or even individual, takes in over time, data cleansing offers a way to filter through endless files and documents to find what’s actually useful. For individuals, this means looking through all tax-associated paperwork, bank transactions, insurance information, mortgage documents, and any other the plentiful data we accumulate through the process of day-to-day life.
This form of data management can also keep you safe, as personal information is the primary way hackers can steal your identity. The more erroneous data you have sitting on your computer, the higher chance someone could use that information to open accounts in your name, utilize existing credit cards, or transfer funds out of your bank. If you believe this may have already happened, running an identity threat scan is the best course of action. But if you simply want to ensure it won’t happen in the future, data cleansing can be one of the best preventative measures to take.
How Can Data Cleansing Help Businesses?
Just like individuals, businesses accumulate massive amounts of data that varies in value. Keeping this information organized can help companies provide better service for their customers; with more efficient databases comes the ability to be accurate when retrieving specific details, increasing productivity and client satisfaction.
Data cleansing also reduces business liability, as any leak of sensitive information can have massive repercussions. A data leak can not only affect revenue but each employee and customer business associates. By cleaning up and securing databases, companies can be sure their cybersecurity budget is being used effectively.
Data Cleansing is a Simple, Yet Effective, Form of Data Management
Unless you use specialized programs designed to comb through databases, data cleansing can be a bit labor-intensive. Depending on the size of your databases or the number of sources, it could take anywhere from several hours to several weeks to completely clean a data set. While a dedicated team will often make fewer mistakes than a single cleansing program, there is still the opportunity for human error.
Despite this drawback, data cleansing is one of the best ways to manage and optimize large pockets of information. By performing data cleansing on a regular basis, you can increase productivity and help focus your cybersecurity efforts on the data that matters. This, coupled with strong file protection and multi-factor authentication, can make your individual or business data far harder for hackers to access.