As the business world increasingly becomes dependent on technology, the way in which companies handle and store their data becomes even more important. Therefore, finding a safe and secure place to store company data is becoming a necessity in the digital age. One robust cloud data warehouse that has been helping many companies safely store their data is known as Amazon Redshift

Not only does Amazon Redshift securely store data, but the platform also provides organizations with insights into nearly every aspect of their company, from sales to marketing to logistics to customer service to website performance and more. While Amazon claims that Amazon Redshift is the world's fastest cloud data warehouse and two times faster than the most popular alternatives, is Amazon Redshift really worth all the hype?

Read on to get the full scope of Amazon Redshift and to discover whether this cloud data warehouse is a good fit for the needs of your company. 

Table of Contents 

  • What is Amazon Redshift?
  • The Pros and Cons of Amazon Redshift 
  • Alternatives to Amazon Redshift 
  • How Integrate.io Can Help

What is Amazon Redshift?

Amazon Redshift is a managed, petabyte-scale cloud data warehouse service that makes up part of the larger cloud platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS). In simple terms, it's a platform that lets you store and analyze all of your data in the cloud for deeper business insights. 

Long gone are the days when businesses had to make manual sales forecasts and other predictions. A data warehouse service like Redshift does all the hard work for you, so you can concentrate on other aspects of your organization. With Redshift, you can analyze data with the latest predictive analytics, so you can make smarter decisions that drive business growth. You can customize analytics tools based on the needs of your business and generate deep insights about sales, customer service, operations, and other important tasks. You can also use Redshift for large-scale data migrations. 

For more information on Integrate.io's native Redshift connector, visit our Integration page.

How Does Amazon Redshift Work?

Redshift connects to SQL-based clients and business intelligence tools via a column-orientated database. Utilizing PostgreSQL 8, the database provides users with real-time data insights for decision-making and predictive analysis. Redshift automates many of the processes associated with business intelligence and generates reports with deep data insights. You can use these reports to solve the following problems in your organization:

  • Reduce bottlenecks in your production processes.
  • Improve customer service.
  • Track worker performance.
  • Enhance productivity.
  • Save time and money. 

Redshift data warehouses contain nodes in a cluster, and each cluster runs its own Redshift engine with at least one database. This makes it easy to scale the technology to suit your business needs.

Who Uses Amazon Redshift?

According to Amazon, they have more than 15,000 users. Some of the world's biggest brands use Redshift to power data insights, including McDonald's, Philips, and Pfizer. "Because of the performance and scale Redshift provides, we have increased our manufacturing efficiency and reduced the time needed to gather and prepare data for regulatory submissions by a factor of five," says Jim Silva, Director and business partner at Pfizer.

Related Reading: Top 17 Business Intelligence Tools Of 2021

The Pros and Cons of Amazon Redshift 

After developing a deeper understanding of what Amazon Redshift entails, it’s time to examine this data warehouse a bit further. Read on to discover both the pros and cons of Amazon Redshift below.

What are the Pros of Using Redshift?

Security

We're really impressed with Redshift's security credentials. It seems that we hear more horror stories about data being stolen from the cloud, but Amazon has a whole suite of security features that provide you with peace of mind. These include:

  • Sign-in credentials — Control who accesses your AWS account privileges. 
  • Access management — Create AWS Identity and Access Management accounts to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing cloud data. 
  • VPC — Protect access to clusters with Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) technology. 
  • Cluster security groups — Define cluster security groups for even more security.  
  • Encryption — Encrypt your most important data so hackers can't read it.

Other security features include SSL connections and data in transit. Why is all of this so important? The average cost for a data breach is $3.92 million — around 12 percent higher than five years ago. If hackers access cloud data, you could lose the trust of your customers and jeopardize your reputation. Redshift makes sure your worries regarding security are minimal. 

Speed

Redshift's biggest selling point is its speed. As mentioned before, Amazon claims that Redshift is the fastest cloud data warehouse in the world, with data sizes up to a petabyte (and more). Amazon achieves these speeds by using columnar data storage and massively parallel processing design, or MPP. Basically, it means you can access cloud data really quickly. 

The industry generally considers that Redshift is, currently, the world's fastest data warehouse. Research shows that it's twice as fast as BigQuery. Moreover, it's 48 times faster than Redshift a couple of years ago. Yes, it's getting faster. But, when it comes to data, speed isn't everything. 

Many businesses probably won't benefit from the super-fast speeds that Redshift provides. In fact, many other platforms provide sufficient enough speeds for data analytics. Take cloud-based ETL tools, for example. These solutions take data from all the customer tools in your tech stack and push them into a data warehouse for analysis.

Plus, the research about Redshift's speeds doesn't take into account data processing based on a dollar-per-throughput basis. Other platforms might take a few seconds more to process data than Redshift, but if they cost considerably less, they could provide users with more value. 

"It’s all good and well if we can get blazing performance on Redshift for $28 big ones per month, while BigQuery takes a few seconds more and costs (for example) a mere $0.27," says industry website Dzone.com.

What are the Cons of Using Redshift?

Costs

As you can now tell, Redshift's speeds come at a premium. There are no recurrent hardware costs because everything is in the cloud, but this is the same with most other cloud data warehouses. But it's all the other costs that will soon add up. However, Amazon claims that "Redshift costs less to operate than any other cloud data warehouse." If you can understand these costs, that is. Redshift's pricing page talks about the following:

  • Concurrency scaling pricing.
  • Spectrum pricing.
  • Reserved instance pricing.

Like EC2 and AWS's other offerings, RedShift operates an on-demand pricing structure; with additional costs based on the type and number of nodes in one’s cluster. RA3 is a 3rd generation instance type for the Redshift family. It provides Managed storage, High-speed cache, and High-bandwidth networking in comparison to the older DS (data storage optimized) and DC (compute optimized) versions.

As of writing this, a ra3.4xlarge in a London Data Center will cost $3.793 per hour, ds2.xlarge $1.00 per hour, and dc2.large $0.32 per hour.

It's all a bit confusing. This is what we know for sure: RedShift operates an on-demand pricing structure, so you pay for the amount of data you need. Clusters cost from $0.25 per hour (around $180 per month), which contains one dc2.large node. Data storage costs start from $0.425 per TB per hour for HDD storage or $1.5625 per TB per hour for SSD storage.

Related Reading: How to Build an Effective Business Intelligence Strategy

Alternatives to Amazon Redshift

BigQuery

BigQuery is, perhaps, Redshift's biggest competitor and getting bigger with its recent acquisition of Alooma. BigQuery is a data warehouse that works in conjunction with Google Storage. You can manage data for real-time data analysis using SQL-like queries, which allows you to save time and money in the future.

In February of 2019, Google acquired Alooma, an ETL (extract, transform, and load) solution. This means that past Alooma customers have to either transition to using BigQuery or leave Alooma. This deal forces, in a way, more customers to Google BigQuery. But where does this leave Alooma's current customers who use Amazon Redshift?

Like Redshift, users might find BigQuery pricing complicated. Data warehouse ingestion is free, but you need to pay for data streaming. Data storage starts from $20 per TB per month (or $5 for every TB processed in a query). To compare and contrast the two, read our Redshift vs BigQuery: comprehensive guide.

Should You Choose Amazon Redshift?

On the popular review website G2, Redshift currently holds a rating of 4.2/5 stars. Users commend the platform's speeds and scalability, but one person says it can be easy to make mistakes during the implementation phase: "Once you hit a certain scale, mistakes you make in the initial design of your tables will become a problem. Since there aren't indexes or anything like that, it might be time-consuming to fix mistakes depending on what changes need to be made."

Redshift is the fastest cloud data warehouse in the world, making it a great choice for speedy data insights that power your business. This platform uses the latest technology that makes it easier to generate reports and data about everything from sales to logistics.

Related Reading: Data Engineering: What is a Data Engineer and How Do I Become One?

How Integrate.io Can Help

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If you're looking for the right tools to make moving your company information to a data warehouse like Redshift a bit easier, then Integrate.io is here to help. The Integrate.io platform and its cloud-based ETL make transferring and transforming data between data warehouses and databases a breeze. Ultimately, with a complete toolkit for building ETL data pipelines, Integrate.io is here to help with all your data needs. 

Are you ready to discover more about the many benefits the Integrate.io platform can provide to your company? Contact our team today to schedule a 7-day demo or pilot and see how we can help you reach your goals.