Change Data Capture
Written by Ana Canteli on 13 March 2023
Change Data Capture (CDC) is a database technique to identify and record changes to the data stored in a table or set of tables. With this technique, any change to the data in a table is recorded in a change control table. It provides a complete view of the changes made to the data in applications or computer systems. It is well-suited for enterprise applications and distributed database systems. Change data capture can be used to synchronize data between different systems or databases, perform historical analysis or generate reports, among other activities.
Change data capture can be used in an organization in several ways:
- Database synchronization: If an application changes data in one database, change data capture can ensure that those changes are reflected in all other databases in real-time.
- Change auditing: Change data capture can be used to keep a detailed record of changes made to data, which is helpful for auditing and compliance purposes. For example, it can be used to ensure compliance with personal data protection requirements.
- Data replication refers to creating and maintaining identical copies of data in different locations to ensure data availability, reliability, and accessibility. This process involves copying data from one source (such as a database, file server, or storage system) to one or more destinations; so that the data is identical in all locations. It is also used in many applications to ensure data availability during a location failure or network outage, and it is also used to improve system performance.
- Historical analysis: change data capture can also be used to perform a historical analysis of data. For example, it can be used to analyze a company's performance or identify trends and patterns in data over time.
Pros and cons of change data capture
There are several operational advantages to changing data capture. The most prominent of these are the following:
- Real-time data update: change data capture ensures that data is kept current. It is essential for business applications that rely on data generated in real time for making important decisions.
- Data synchronization: change data capture allows data to be synchronized between different systems or databases. It ensures that all systems have access to the same up-to-date and available information simultaneously.
- Change auditing: Thanks to the records obtained through the CDP, any legal and regulatory compliance deviations can be investigated, and errors can be detected and more easily addressed and remedied.
- Data replication: change data capture can also be used to replicate data across different locations, which is helpful for business applications that require real-time, up-to-date data due to technical or economic issues in other areas.
- Historical analysis: Capturing changed data in audits provides essential benefits, such as the ability to track changes, detect fraud, comply with regulations, and improve organizational processes.
- Efficiency improvement: change data capture can help improve business efficiency by identifying process problems, monitoring key performance indicators, reducing costs, and improving decision-making.
At the organizational level, change data capture can bring several benefits:
- Informed decision-making: By having up-to-date and accurate data in real time, the organization can make decisions quickly and of higher quality, improving its competitiveness.
- Improved efficiency: change data capture can enhance the efficiency of operations by ensuring that data is kept up to date in real-time and synchronized between different systems, reducing errors and the time required to perform tasks.
- Improved data quality: change data capture can improve data quality by detecting and correcting errors and omissions. It is crucial to ensure the reliability of data for decision-making.
- Audit and compliance: change data capture allows for a detailed record of changes made to the data, which can help the organization meet audit and compliance requirements.
- Trend and pattern analysis: change data capture allows for historical data analysis, which can help the organization identify trends and patterns in the data over time. This can be useful for planning and decision-making.
- Improved collaboration: Capturing change data can improve collaboration between different departments and systems within the organization by synchronizing data and ensuring everyone has access to the data in the same version.
Change data capture can have drawbacks, although these may vary depending on the context and implementation. The following are some potential problems with change data capture:
- Cost: changing data capture may require implementing different systems and tools, which can increase the cost of implementing and maintaining the solution. In some cases, it may be challenging to implement change data capture on legacy systems or systems not designed to support change data capture, which would increase the scope of the investment.
- Complexity: change data capture can require sophisticated configuration and complex maintenance, making it difficult for users to implement and use. It can be a disadvantage if the organization does not have staff with sufficient technical expertise.
- It may involve changes in procedures and corporate culture: which may generate controversy or take time and effort to adapt to the new way of working.
- Can generate a large volume of data: If all kinds of data changes are captured and stored, this can cause a large volume of data, affecting the system's performance and efficiency.
- Synchronization problems: Capturing changed data can present synchronization problems, especially in distributed environments or environments with multiple systems and databases. If not properly implemented, data can become out of date or out of sync, negatively affecting operations' efficiency and relevance.
- Security issues: Capturing change data can present security risks, mainly if the data captured contains sensitive or personal information. It is essential to implement adequate security and privacy measures to protect captured data and avoid vulnerabilities in the system.
Who needs to change data capture?
Change data capture can be recommended for any organization that wants to keep its data updated in real-time and synchronized between different systems or locations. It can benefit organizations that handle large volumes of data or need to make critical decisions based on up-to-date data. Among them, those that would help the most would be:
- Companies operating online: Companies operating online, such as online shops, can benefit from change data capture to keep their warehouse and sales reports current.
- Financial services companies: to keep their transaction records current and meet audit and compliance requirements.
- Healthcare companies: to keep patient records current and coordinate care between different departments and providers.
- Logistics and transportation companies: Logistics and transportation companies can benefit from change data capture to keep shipment records up to date and coordinate the delivery of products to different locations.
In addition, change data capture can solve several problems in an organization, such as detecting errors and data problems, improving process efficiency, improving data accuracy and quality, facilitating regulatory compliance, and improving decision-making.
When is change data capture recommended?
It is recommended when it is important to track and control changes in an organization's data. Some scenarios where change data capture may be recommended include:
- Document change control: If an organization handles many important documents requiring frequent changes, change data capture can be helpful for tracking who made what change and when. It can be imperative if multiple users share and edit documents.
- Audits and compliance: If the organization is subject to industry regulations and standards, it may be necessary to implement change data capture to comply with audit requirements and generate detailed reports of changes. It can also assist in obtaining certifications.
- Records management: If the organization handles extensive records, change data capture can help track record creation, modification, and deletion.
- Business process management: If the organization has critical business processes that must be rigorously followed, change data capture can help ensure procedures are followed and all relevant changes are captured.
When is change data capture not advisable?
Although change data capture can be helpful in many situations, there are also cases where it may not be appropriate or even inadvisable to use it. It is essential to carefully assess the organization's needs and the system's characteristics before deciding whether or not to use the change data capture. Some examples of situations where it may be inadvisable to use it are:
- When privacy is a concern: If the data being captured contains personal or sensitive information, it may be inadvisable to use change data capture due to privacy considerations with personal data.
- When information overload is a challenge: If the organization is dealing with large amounts of data and data changes, change data capture can lead to information overload, making analysis and decision-making difficult. In these cases, deciding carefully what data is captured and how is important.
- Situations where the data is static or does not frequently change: capturing change data may be unnecessary in both cases.
- Situations where system complexity is an issue: If the organization has complex systems - legacy technology - that make change data capture challenging to implement or maintain, it may be inadvisable to use it.
Implementing change data capture
Implementing change data capture correctly ensures the data is accurate, reliable, and valuable to the organization. Here are some steps that can be taken to implement change data capture correctly:
- Identify the data to be captured: This includes determining what data types should be captured, how it should be charged, and where it should be stored.
- Define data capture criteria: It is essential to establish clear standards for data capture, what specific events or changes should be captured, and how those changes should be reported.
- Set up data capture tools: To implement the capture of changed data, it is necessary to use specialized software tools, such as version control systems, auditing functionalities, or electronic records management software. These tools must be appropriately configured to capture the data we want.
- Train users: The users of the entity working with the captured data must be trained to understand how the data is being charged, why it is essential, and how they can manipulate it. This is especially important if a new data capture tool or system is implemented.
- Monitor and maintain data capture: It is essential to monitor its effectiveness regularly and ensure that the data is accurate and useful. It is also necessary to keep data capture tools up to date and to adjust capture criteria as required.
Document management and change data capture
A document management software can perform change data capture since one of the main objectives of this type of software is to manage and control information and documents in the organization, which includes the capture, storage, retrieval, and distribution of information.
OpenKM document management software has advanced features for capturing changed data, such as automatic detection of changes to documents and real-time synchronization of changes across different systems or locations. These functions enable users to work with up-to-date information and documents in real-time, which can improve the efficiency and accuracy of business operations.
In addition, OpenKM provides document change tracking and analysis tools, allowing users to review the history of changes made to documents, identify who made the changes, when the changes were made, and what changes were made, which can be helpful for auditing and compliance purposes.