Data Processing | Meaning, Definition, Steps, Types and Methods

What do you mean by data processing?

Data processing is the conversion of data into usable and desired form. This conversion or “processing” is carried out using a predefined sequence of operations either manually or automatically. Most of the data processing is done by using computers and thus done automatically. The output or “processed” data can be obtained in different forms like image, graph, table, vector file, audio, charts or any other desired format depending on the software or method of data processing used.

Data Processing - Understanding Data

Fundamentals of data processing & how data is processed

Data processing is undertaken by any activity which require collection of data. This data collected needs to  be stored, sorted, processed and analyzed. This complete process can be divided into 6 basic simple stages which are:

  1. Data collection
  2. Storage of data
  3. Sorting of data
  4. processing of data
  5. Data analysis
  6. Data presentation and conclusions

Once the data is collected the need for data entry emerges for storage of data. Storage can be done in physical form by use of papers, in notebooks or in any other physical form. But now since the data collection is large and number of operations needs to be performed for meaningful analysis, the data is stored in digital form. Having the data into digital form enables the user to perform large number of operations in small time and allows conversion into different forms. User can thus select the output which best suits the requirement.

Data Storage

This continuous use and processing of data follows a cycle called as data processing cycle which might provide instantaneous results or take time depending upon the need of processing data. The complexity in the field of data processing is increasing which is creating a need for advanced techniques.

Storage of data is followed by sorting and filtering. This stage is highly effected by the format in which data is stored and further depends on the software used. General daily day and non complex data can be stored as text files, tables or a combination of both in Microsoft Excel or similar software. As the task becomes complex which requires performing specific and specialized operations they require different softwares which are meant to cater the peculiar needs.

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Storing, sorting, filtering and processing of data can be done by single software or a combination of software whichever feasible and required. Data processing thus carried out by software is done as per the predefined set of operations. Most of the modern-day softwares allows users to perform different operations based on the analysis or study to be carried out. Data processing provides the output file in various formats.

Big Data

Different types of output files obtained as “processed” data

Plain text file – These constitute the simplest form or processed data. Most of these files are user readable and easy to comprehend. Very negligible or no further processing is these type of files.

Table/ spreadsheet – This file format is most suitable for numeric data. Having digits in rows and columns allows user to perform various operations like filtering & sorting in ascending/descending order to make it easy to understand and use. Various mathematical operations can be applied when using this file output.

Charts & Graphs – Option to get the output in form of charts and graphs is very useful and now forms a standard features in most of the softwares. This option is very useful when dealing with numerical values reflecting trends and growth/decline. Though there are ample of charts and graphs are available to match diverse requirements there exists situation when there is need to have used defined option. In case no inbuilt chart or graph is available then the option to create own charts i.e. custom charts/graphs comes handy.

Maps/Vector or image file – When dealing with spatial data the option to export the processed data into maps, vector and image files is of great use. Having the information on maps is of particular use for urban planners who work on different types of maps. Image files are obtained when dealing with graphics and does not constitute any human readable input.

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Other formats/ raw files – These are the software specific file formats which can be used and processed by specialized softwares. These output files may not be a complete product and require further processing. Thus there will be need to perform multiple data processing.

Types of data processing

Manual data processing: In this method data is processed manually without use of machine or electronic device. This methods might be accompanied with automatic method for completion of the data processing.

Mechanical data processing – Data processing is done by use of mechanical device or very simple electronic devices like calculator and type writers. When the need for processing is simple this method can be adopted.

Electronic data processing – This is the fastest and best available method with highest reliability and accuracy. Technology used is latest as this method uses computers and employed in most of the agencies. The use of softwares forms the part of this type of data processing.

Sorting & Filtering of data

Types of data processing on basis of process/steps performed

  1. Batch Processing
  2. Real time processing
  3. Online Processing
  4. Multiprocessing
  5. Time sharing

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Data processing methods

Manual Data Processing –  data is processed manually without using any machine or tool to get required results. In manual data processing, all the calculations and logical operations are performed manually on the data.

Mechanical Data Processing – data is processed by using different devices like typewriters, mechanical printers or other mechanical devices.

Electronic Data Processing is the modern technique to process data. The data is processed through computer; Data and set of instructions are given to the computer as input and the computer automatically processes the data according to the given set of instructions. The computer is also known as electronic data processing machine.

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What makes processing of data important

Nowadays more and more data is collected for academic, scientific research, private & personal use, institutional use, commercial use. This collected data needs to be stored, sorted, filtered, analysed and presented for it to be of any use. This process can be simple or complex depending on the scale at which data collection is done and the complexity of the results which are required to be obtained. The time consumed in obtaining the desired result depends on the operations which needs to be performed on the collected data and on the nature of output file required to be obtained. This problem becomes more stark when dealing with very large volume of data such as those collected by multinational companies about their users, sales, manufacturing etc.

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The need of data processing becomes more and more important in such cases. In such cases data mining and data management comes into play without which optimal results cannot be obtained. Each stage starting from data collection to presentation has direct effect on the output and usefulness of the processed data.

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