Chen Cuello
MAY 3, 2023
5 min read
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The easiest way to grasp the ETL meaning is to think of it as a set of processes for data management. Data experts regularly utilize this method to extract data from multiple data sources, transform it into the desired format, and load it into the targeted database.

In this article, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about ETL—its meaning, benefits, types, main ETL features, how to make the most of them, and differences with other similar data management processes.

Stay tuned!


Defining ETL

If you’re new to data management, you might be asking yourself, “What is ETL?” ETL (Extract-Transform-Load) is essential for proper data centralization. 

It’s much easier to understand the ETL meaning like a method for bringing chunks of data from multiple sources into a centralized database or a single source. The main goal of this process is to transform and transfer data from one place to another and make it accessible and understandable to the user.

The ETL Process Explained

ETL technology differs from other data management processes and follows a strict set of steps—extraction, transformation, and loading. Here’s a brief explanation of the three subsequent stages.


As the name suggests, the first step of the ETL process involves taking data from multiple connectors and sources, i.e., extraction. It means that before you move the data to the targeted source, you’ll have to use data integration tools to extract it from the initial source. The most common data sources are SQL servers, Non-SQL servers, flat files, web pages, e-mails, CRM and ERP systems, and more.


The transformation involves a data processing methodology that must ensure the proper data change in the desired format. This step is a complex process that includes certain phases, such as filtering and cleansing, performing calculations, conducting audits, removal, encryption, and data re-formatting. The goal is to get transformed data structured and recognized by the targeted source to which you transfer the data.


The last step of the ETL process is the loading or moving of the data to the targeted data source or warehouse. The loading process includes initial loadings and incremental (periodical) data loads into the targeted data warehouse. Moreover, the ETL application of this process is usually during off-work hours.


Traditional ETL vs. Cloud ETL

There are two answers to your question, “What does ETL mean?” You’ll find the first one in the traditional ETL, requiring specifically trained IT staff to construct the data pipelines and rely on a time-consuming extraction, transformation, and loading process. On the other hand, you have the modern cloud ETL which utilizes the benefits of internet-based services.

Traditional ETL

You can use the traditional ETL for related data but not for unstructured data sets. The ETL meaning of the traditional method consists of IT experts utilizing the ETL method on-premises by building and managing consistent data pipelines and matching the data with the parameters of the targeted source. 

Traditional ETL is expensive and time-consuming because it’s manual, and the experts must match the targeted source data schema with the extracted and transformed data.

Cloud ETL

The cloud-based ETL goes through the same steps as the traditional one. However, companies process all the steps through the shared space of the Internet or cloud services. That’s why cloud ETL eliminates all the manual steps and manages multiple sources while reducing costs and time.


Although it’s about a single letter, there’s a difference between ETL (extract-transform-load) and ELT (extract-load-transform). The most crucial dissimilarity is the sequence of the data management process. 

Namely, the ETL process transforms the data after it extracts it and before it loads it unto the target source. On the other hand, the ELT process extracts and loads the data onto the target source, after which it transforms it. Basically, ETL processes the data on a separate server, while ELT processes the data in the initial data warehouse.

ETL Pipeline vs. Data Pipeline

Although an ETL pipeline and a data pipeline have some connecting points, they are not the same. The ETL pipelines are process schemes (code structures) enabling data extraction, transformation, and loading. 

On the other hand, data pipelines are data processing components that follow strict steps, making the output of one of the elements the input of the next element. In fact, a data pipeline is a broader concept that includes an ETL pipeline as a subset.

What Are the Different Types of ETL Pipelines?

The two main ETL pipeline types are batch-processing and real-time ETL data pipelines. Here’s an explanation of their key features, similarities, and other defining characteristics.

Batch Processing Pipelines

Simply put, ETL batch-processing pipelines are an ETL technology that processes data in batches for a predetermined period. The ETL extraction steps become possible through data processing using a query language—SQL, and batches or bulks of APIs for SaaS systems. 

You can design them easily and trigger them manually. The advantage of batch processing over real-time pipelines is the higher data quality and easier testing.

Real-time Processing Pipelines

The real-time processing pipeline is also called the “streamlined pipeline” because it usually covers a single record (or source), is faster than batch processing, and allows real-time interaction with devices, people, and software. 

Although it’s more complex for design and testing, the real-time processing pipelines are effective for just-in-time data and avoiding error spreading to the whole batch.

Benefits of ETL

We can’t understand what is an ETL process if we don’t acknowledge the benefits of the whole procedure. For instance, ETL can give you insight into the history of your business, support high-quality data for decision-making, automate processes, and much more!

Gain Comprehensive Historical Insight Into Your Business

The ETL process can provide you with historical insight into your business. By extracting, transforming, and loading data, you’ll learn a lot about how you’ve organized and automated workloads and activities in the past. You’ll also learn about the financial incentives and their impact on your business, how you’ve managed human resources, administration, etc.—practically, all the information available in the data!

Streamline Cloud Data Migration With ETL

The cloud-based ETL data migration will allow you to use multiple tools. These tools will enable a seamless data migration process with minimally spent time, money, and effort. 

You’ll have an open chance to take on a massive project and seamlessly process the extraction, transformation, and loading phases. There are companies specialized precisely for this—like Rivery—that’ll help you migrate any database to the cloud.

Consolidate and Simplify Your Business View With ETL

Consolidation and simplification of the business process and the whole organizational structure and culture are among the main benefits of ETL technology. When you extract, transform, and load the data, you’ll get a clearer picture of how you manage and utilize your data for crucial business decisions. 

Extract Business Intelligence From Data at Any Latency With ETL

You can’t understand the question “What is ETL?” without understanding how it supports businesses to extract essential information at an operational level. 

Both the cloud-based and traditional ETL projects will help you analyze structured, semi-structured, or unstructured data on different levels and thus improve the whole decision-making process. It’ll also support you in identifying new business opportunities and possible operational optimizations.

Ensure Reliable, High-Quality Data for Informed Decision-Making With ETL

Additionally, you can learn more about the ETL meaning through its output of reliable and high-quality data. The ETL technology will enable you to structure the data, unify, and distribute it through different channels and in various targeted sources. Furthermore, the ETL process will help you or your employees get real-time and reliable info for efficient decisions. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in ETL

The ETL definition also doesn’t exclude emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). In the past few years, developing experts have been incorporating these technologies into ETL, intending to improve the whole migration process. Implementing these technologies into the ETL process has numerous benefits; we’ve listed some of them below.

Democratize Data With ETL

If you don’t democratize your data, the whole ETL process has been in vain! Technologies like AI and ML are huge catalysts of this process because they support simple, seamless, uninterrupted access to databases and specifically-structured info for the whole organization. Each employee benefits from easy access to data, and these technologies further enrich the data democratization process with reliable and high-quality info.

Streamline ETL Pipelines With Automation

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can also be a solution for ETL data pipeline automatization. For example, ML algorithms can use historical and structured data to make highly-precise output predictions, saving you time, money, and effort. Also, AI can find its ETL application in the automatization of pinpointing particular data bottlenecks and detecting and alerting.

Operationalize AI and Machine Learning Models With ETL

Before implementing the AI and ML models with ETL, you must consider data collection, error management, model management, data consumption, and security. By improving and monitoring ML performance, you can enhance the continual loops of ETL processes.

Replicate Your Database With Change Data Capture (CDC) Using ETL

If you want to optimize and automatize the data auditing processes in your company, CDC is the most applicable technology. This practical technology can support the extraction, transformation, and loading of huge chunks of data from one source (Oracle or SQL) to other sources in seconds.

You can utilize one of the four CDC methods (trigger extraction, lock and read, log-based, and change codes) to replicate your database for real-time analytics and demanding cloud projects.

Achieve Greater Business Agility Through ETL Data Processing

ETL, especially combined with AI, CDC, or ML, can stimulate an analytical approach to data and greater business agility. The ETL process supports organizations onboarding bi-directional data streams in a few minutes instead of hiring and governing expert IT teams. 


Cloud ETL Pricing: Things to Consider

Across the data migration world, you’ll find various cloud ETL pricing methods. Depending on what you need, you can choose between on-demand, volume, spot, and reserved instance pricing. Each pricing method displays particular benefits and disadvantages regarding your business agility, liquidity, and future decision-making. 

Namely, the things you must consider when choosing a cloud ETL service are the following:

  • Simplicity
  • Flexibility 
  • Ease of use
  • Compatibility 
  • Technology lock-in

Professional companies like Rivery provide these services at fair pricing and can optimize all your ETL processes. 

ETL Cases by Industry

To truly grasp the meaning of an ETL process, we must delve into the ETL application by industry. For instance, you can apply the ETL in various sectors, including marketing, manufacturing, finance, healthcare, and public relations. Following are some key business sectors and the ETL improvements for each one.

ETL in Healthcare

The ETL meaning in the health sector’s data management processes is enormous. For example, ETL can optimize the exporting of EHR (Electronic Health Record) data to various sources by putting it in a compatible format with the targeted databases. Furthermore, healthcare organizations can use ETL processes to fix typos and flag incorrect decimals of lab test data, all with the benefits of using different ETL tools and architectures.

ETL in the Public Sector

The ETL meaning for the public sector is also of great importance. Many public service and government agencies utilize ETL to get an insight into their massive data stores. For instance, universities and educational institutions can use ETL to provide a secure messaging system and convert data from multiple institutions into a unified database accessible from each account.

ETL in Manufacturing

It’s not a surprise that ETL finds vast recognition in the manufacturing and production processes. ETL can support companies in establishing “smart” manufacturing and can gather information from ERP and CRM systems before transforming it, analyzing it, and loading it into the final data store.

ETL in Financial Services

Currently, many banks use ETL technology for maintaining liquidity and report management. The system helps them manage all the data from different debtors and creditors into a single portfolio for handling daily operations.

ETL in Marketing

Companies like Rivery can support you in re-using data pipelines for various customers, vendors, and potential clients. The professionals at this company offer multiple integrations for optimizing your marketing management, reaching and converting potential customers into clients, and keeping track of various customer metrics.

Rivery and Cloud ETL for Data Integration

Rivery has fair pricing models with transparent detailing about the charging methods and possible discounts. Moreover, the experts here can provide you with enterprise-grade security systems for uninterrupted data ingestion, transformation, and operation. On top of that, companies like us offer monitoring & alert, as well as other services to ensure high-quality data migration and integration. 

Get more affordable, less time-consuming, and safety-guaranteed ETL services. Rivery outmaneuvers its competitors with a fully-fledged ETL offer consisting of data volume & job-based pricing, free consultation services, unparalleled support, and much more.

Don’t hesitate to contact us and optimize your data management processes. 

Get Started With ETL

Don’t lose time—start with ETL today and transform how you use your data, gain all-level business intelligence, and make real-time analytical decisions. The ETL process can facilitate performance, increase productivity, and much more. And for this purpose, Rivery is always here to help!

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