What Is a Data Catalog?

  • By Bree Ann Russ
  • Published: Aug 28, 2023
  • Last Updated: Sep 08, 2023

what is data catalog
A data catalog is a powerful research tool that brings together all the informational resources and stored data that a company has into one easy database that can be searched. A good database catalog can take time to build effectively and should be built over reliable software, but when that's finished, the final resource becomes an incredible asset to the company. Today more employees than ever depend on reliable data to do their jobs. 

Unfortunately, it's often difficult to locate data you can trust. Many companies still have paper documents, and employees are digging through those documents, searching for what they need. That's highly inefficient, which is why having a data catalog in your organization is so important. This digital brain of information your company trusts that can be modified, annotated, reviewed and updated, or removed over time can strengthen your business. 

What Are the Key Features of Data Catalogs?

Now that you know what a data catalog is, it's time to start digging into the features you should look for. A data catalog is only as good as its feature set. When using a data catalog, you want it connected to as much of your stored data as possible. All the different data stores around your company should connect to the same data log for everyone to use. It isn't enough to make all the data accessible; it should also be carefully gated too. 

Some employees should be limited in the data they have access to; otherwise, you risk revealing protected information to employees without clearance for it. That's why a data catalog should have safeguards that filter what information is available to different members of the organization. It's also essential to have a review system and allow others to annotate the data. When members of your company can leave reviews and notes on data, that information can be used by future employees to make them more capable and efficient. 

Benefits Of Data Catalogs

Data catalogs have many benefits, but the most important benefit is that you get access to reliable data throughout your company that only grows better over time. Most datasets are unproven, or they have at least some unreliable data. This is a serious problem when you don't have control over that data set. A company's data catalog can be edited and upgraded over time. If your employees determine that a certain piece of data is low-quality or should be ignored, it can either be removed fully or get reviews that prevent others from using the information. This type of system helps verify that you have the best data available to your employees and leads to improvements to your company's data stores over time. 

Good data catalogs also give you control over who accesses the data at your company. You'll have the ability to limit data access to the employees that don't have the clearance or the need for some of the company data. By providing a more focused group of data to employees, you make it easier for them to search for what they need, and you improve your company's security. 

An excellent data catalog makes searching through data more efficient as well. While standard databases often force people to search using the titles of documents as their guide to what they need, modern tools aren't like that. A modern data catalog enables you to search using more specific queries. You can search based on data included inside a document rather than just by using its file name. 

Combine that with a more intelligent machine-learning system, and you get more effective search results for your employees. Most data catalog systems' natural language processing capabilities today are important for non-technical users searching for relevant data to do their job. These employees can use simple English search commands and get more accurate information or more useful information in less time. 

If your employees are spending extended periods of time searching for the data they need, their jobs could become more efficient with a better data management system. You only need to implement a capable data catalog program and add all your company data into the system so it's available and it can begin improving your company's efficiency levels. 

Types Of Data Catalogs

There are many different types of data catalogs, but they mostly differ based on the industry that you're storing data in rather than how the data is stored. Most modern data catalogs utilize databases, document storage, and advanced algorithms to accept complicated searches and return the best information to users. Whether you're running a law firm, a medical company, or some other type of business, your data catalog will likely look and function the same. 

Implementing A Data Catalog

It's essential that you invest in security measures when implementing a data catalog. Without effective security protocols, you may suffer from a harmful data leak. That's why it's so important to have modern software that's optimized to limit how much data employees have access to. When you do this, you cut down on the amount of data that could be accidentally exposed to the wrong person or that could be given away to the outside world. 

Future Trends in Data Catalogs

The data catalog definition is evolving over time, and what you can do with a data catalog is changing as software improves. Features such as collaboration and app support enable the data catalog to connect and function with a wide variety of productivity tools used by a company. The data can be used with many different types of tools through careful software integrations, and the information can be combined with real-time collaboration between workers, making it even more powerful. Imagine workers editing and customizing data in real-time. Employees can also point each other to different bits of data enabling them to research and accomplish tasks faster. 

AI technology is being added to many of these tools as well. With AI support included, natural language becomes easier to use. People can search using more natural questions, making it simpler to get answers to questions or to find data when you don't know as many details about the type of document that you're searching for. AI can help you get specific results without as many details available to work with. 

These data catalog advancements also come with additional tools to help protect your digital privacy. With increased gating, better filtering, and the increasing use of encryption on everything, it's becoming increasingly difficult to steal data from digital sources such as a data catalog. That doesn't mean that data is never stolen, though. It's important to realize that information can be taken, and your employees must follow specific protocols to help protect company data at all costs. Mandating the use of VPN tools, limiting the information available, and using modern and capable software tools can all help eliminate these risks while enabling your company to make full use of data catalogs. 

Data catalogs are one of the most significant data management and information upgrades to happen to a business in the last 50 years. Hopefully, now you know the data catalog definition and how such a digital data resource can make your employees more efficient and capable than ever. When using a data catalog, your workers will get answers to their questions and data they can use to do their jobs sooner and more reliably. This is exactly why every business should have the technology implemented and go to great lengths to improve the data and the tool storing the information over time.

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