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What To Know About Data Catalogs

The past few years have brought about a tremendous focus on data and what is often referred to as big data. Data is a way for businesses of all sizes to plan for the future, segment their customer bases, improve their marketing and achieve many other objectives.

One area that’s relevant to the concept of data are data catalogs. Data catalogs are a tool that can help businesses and analysts collaborate, search and interact with data in relevant ways.

The following are some of the main things organizations should know about data catalogs.

Centralized Location

According to data catalog company Unifi, today’s organizations and enterprises are using more data than they have at any point in history and it’s often from many different sources. According to Unifi, it’s increasingly challenging for organizations to create a way not just to organize but also search metadata from disparate sources.

A data catalog allows for the cataloging of data where it’s at, regardless of the original source of the data. Basically what a data catalog does is bring all of the data together in one repository, and it doesn’t disrupt the original sources or the database where the data was originally housed.

What Is a Data Catalog?

A data catalog is in simplest terms, like a warehouse for all of the data an organization uses or accesses. There could be millions of data sets that an organization uses, but the data catalog provides a more useful and efficient way for that to be organized.

Then, that makes the ultimate goal of a data catalog self-service. Data catalogs give everyone who needs it access to the data in a simplified way.

Data Catalogs and Artificial Intelligence

There is a link between data catalogs and artificial intelligence. When choosing a data catalog, it’s imperative to look for an option with advanced AI features. Specific AI-related features to look for include automatic data source crawling and identification of sources that can be cataloged.

Also look for automatic assignment of data type, and intelligent suggestions and recommendations.


Having an understanding of context is essential when you collect or use data in an organization. Without context, you can’t derive any sort of value or meaning from your data. Data catalogs inventories everything in a way that can then be used to create conversations, articles and more that provides context.

Who Need a Data Catalog?

You may be wondering if your enterprise needs a data catalog. There are some things to think about. First, what data do you have? Then, where is it located and is the place that it’s currently located secure and private?

The importance of security and privacy are especially important in the face of increasing laws and regulations regarding the collection, storage and use of data. Data catalogs can be a good way to ensure regulatory compliance when it comes to data.

One specific area of concern for global businesses is the implementation of GDPR, and of course the ongoing and constantly-increasing need for consumer privacy.

Other than the need for compliance, there are other things that you might evaluate if you’re considering a data catalog. For example, are you having problems utilizing data in an analytical way? Do you need increased visibility into data to make stronger decisions?

Another scenario where the use of a data catalog could be helpful is when an organization is already working on business intelligence and has robust BI software but isn’t sure how to implement what they derive from BI. For example, maybe an organization has the ability to source their data, but they aren’t able to confirm validity.

If an organization is moving toward AI or is preparing for the integration of AI components, they may also benefit from a data catalog.

Selecting a Data Catalog

Finally, some of the considerations that need to be kept in mind when choosing a data catalog were named above, but there are others.

First, you need to be able to see the bigger picture and choose a data catalog that’s in line with that. Look beyond the present and see enterprise objectives for the future. Also, don’t look at a data catalog as something that will only have one specific purpose. Choose accordingly. If you’re considering a data catalog that’s limited in scope or function, you’re doing your organization a disservice.

Also, not all data catalogs are going to be usable by all people within an organization. For example, some are specifically for people with advanced technical knowledge and ability.