What Sets Distributed and Centralized Databases Apart?

Businesses are struggling to keep up with the advancing tide of data that they’re collecting. In fact, 47% of businesses cite data growth and management as one of their top challenges for 2022. As more data is produced, businesses have to turn to new infrastructure to store and manage everything.

While there are several methods of managing data, the two most common formats that your business will run into are distributed and centralized databases. In this article, we’ll turn to these two systems, break down exactly what they are, and which would work best for your business.

Let’s get right into it.

What is a Centralized Database?

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In a centralized database, all information is stored in a single location. For a long time, that meant within a server in your data center or even an individual PC.

Connecting to a centralized database normally comes through a network connection, like WAN or LAN. As the simplest form of database, both to construct and maintain, the vast majority of businesses will have had or will currently use a centralized database structure.

Due to their simplicity, centralized databases are often very cheap to maintain. Their singularity also poses as their biggest weakness, putting all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak.

What is a Distributed Database?

A distributed database is a storage method where data files are not limited to only one system. Data could be spread over multiple computers on a singular network. Alternatively, your business could store its data across different sites or structures.

The important thing to note is that while different databases will be stored on different systems, that does not mean that your employees will have to log into those parallel platforms to access this data. On the contrary, distributed databases attempt to spread out data while still allowing for full access from users globally.

There are two main types of distributed databases:

  • Heterogeneous Distributed Database – If distinct software, scheme, and sites are used within your database, then you likely have a heterogeneous one. Due to the variety of what your two systems could use to run, the vast difference can make running them as a single database incredibly difficult. There may be transaction issues or errors in your query process.
  • Homogeneous Distributed Database – This is where all of your participants in the network will store information in the same way. Across the operating system, they use all the way down to the specific data structures that are in place. Everything is equal. Due to this, this form of database is incredibly easy to manage as one.

As technology advances, the former type of distributed database is becoming more common. There are now several online providers of distributed databases that have helped advance this area. If we take a look at a comparison of two leading specialized database providers, Clickhouse vs. Druid, we can see that they both offer a number of features that allow businesses to easily manage and connect to distributed databases.

Which Is Better For My Business?

Both centralized and distributed databases are still in active use because they both come with a unique set of benefits. It’s hard to say which is better than the other, as that entirely depends on what your business values and how you operate.

To help you navigate this question, here are some common differences that you can explore further:

  • Cost – Distributed databases are much more complex than centralized ones. Due to this, there is a cost associated with the extra effort it takes to maintain these systems. Most of the time, distributed databases work over multiple nodes, which helps increase access and streamline performance. Yet, this comes at a higher cost than centralized data storage facilities.
  • Convenience – If a centralized database goes down, there is almost nothing that your business can do until it’s back up and running. Without access to the data that you need to run your business, you’ll be left in the dark and unable to continue working. With distributed databases, there is very rarely this issue. Due to being hosted over many nodes, perhaps even on an international scale, there is a much lower chance of everything going down. If you want convenience and accessibility above all else, distributed is the right system for you.
  • Performance – In having absolutely everything in one location, centralized databases are almost always much slower than distributed ones. That’s because all of your users are trying to access and query one single location, causing friction within the system. If priority and rapid data processing are your main priority, then distributed would be the way to go.
  • Security – There are pros and cons for both systems when it comes to digital security. Centralized databases are easy to control. As they’re within a local space, it’s unlikely that they’ll suffer theft. However, due to their singularity, if an accident occurs that causes the database to fail, you could lose access to your entire business. If you haven’t already created backups, then this could put all of the company data that you’ve collected at risk.

Due to the popularity of distributed systems, they are now a fairly common out-of-the-box system you can find online.  With that in mind, you’re able to move toward the more secure option without having to put in a lot of additional effort. Weigh up the various pros and cons, and then one of these systems will clearly present itself as the better option for you.

Final Thoughts

Both centralized and distributed databases have had their place in the history of data science. While most early systems were centralized, the world is increasingly moving toward the latter. One of the leading reasons for this is the need for global interconnectivity. While 30 years ago, it wouldn’t be shocking to see an entire workforce commute to one building to work, this simply isn’t the case anymore.

More people than ever are working from home, meaning that your business needs to turn to accessible data architecture. Beyond that, with globalization, it’s now not uncommon to see an enterprise with offices all over the world. Segmenting data on a local, centralized basis is no longer realistic. As data continues to form an integral part of business, we have to continue to advance our practices to keep in line with it. At present, that means moving to more comprehensive data infrastructures to adapt to the modern world.

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