What is Data Conversion?

Data conversion is converting computer data from one file type to another while retaining the content and structure of the original file. This process is possible when the target file supports the same constructs and features of the source file. This process can be a complicated one, so in almost all cases, software programs handle the conversion process. 

Because data is so specific, each computer program handles data and data modeling in its own unique way. Whenever a single variable changes, computers must convert the data into a different form before a different computer, operating system or program can pick it up for use.

What You Need to Know about Data Conversion

Data conversion sounds complex, but with the right software, it is not. Even casual computer users routinely convert data files. For instance, many have converted a .txt file to a Word doc simply by choosing the right option on Word’s drop-down menu. And nearly everyone has converted a PDF into a Word doc before. However, these are the most basic examples of data conversion.

In other cases, the data conversion process may require help from a unique or highly specialized conversion program. This is common in high-level data conversion use cases and similar scenarios. For instance, consider converting an Excel spreadsheet (.xlsx) to a CSV (.csv) or changing and converting image and audio file formats. Perhaps you need to convert an MP3 file to a WAV file or a RAW file to a JPG or TIFF. These are relatively complex processes that would typically benefit from software specialized for specific purposes.

In rare instances, the data conversion process may also involve a selection of intermediary stages, including exporting and importing procedures. These procedures work to convert tab-delimited or comma-separated text files.

When Data Conversion Gets Even More Complex

It is possible to find programs that recognize several distinct file formats during the data input stage. These programs are usually also capable of storing output data in a variety of formats, greatly simplifying your conversion task.

Where these programs exist, they often convert file formats. If the program doesn't recognize the source format or target format, it may require an additional program that will step in to permit the conversion to an intermediate format. The first program can then reformat the data. For instance, if you want to convert a CSV to JSON, you cannot do it directly. You will need an intermediate format. 

Whenever there are complexities associated with data conversion, there are ways to navigate those complexities. Typical solutions take the form of smart software meant to streamline and simplify the data conversion process and avoid common roadblocks, including lost information and data silos.

Data Compatibility and Structure

When we talk about “structure” in the data conversion world, we’re not talking about the structure of the data itself but that of the file that stores the data. Since data files come in many different formats, compatibility becomes an issue. 

A Word on Compatibility

Data compatibility is a critical consideration of the process. Today’s file formats work with specific software and programs. For example, Microsoft Word works with .doc files, Excel works with .xls, etc. Currently, there is no one file extension that fits all data options.

While this may seem like a straightforward concept, it’s one of the primary causes of data silos. Unless a streamlined data conversion process is in place, data silos are relatively unavoidable for anyone using multiple applications to store, create or analyze data. You become lost in a maze of extension. That means departments in your company often cannot access the information they need from other departments.

This is the primary reason so many people use data conversion software. With the help of these programs, users can overcome a variety of compatibility limitations. They can also ensure that data continues to flow unimpeded. These programs go a long way toward helping users enjoy a simpler, more streamlined relationship with their data.

Common Data Conversion Issues

The entire process can be difficult, and there is a learning curve. With that in mind, it’s not a surprise that some users run into challenges along the way. Some of the most common issues that people experience when trying to use conversion methods are the loss of information, formatting, tabular columns, and images. Your file becomes a jumble of words and images.

Fortunately, integrate.io can help with these issues. As a cloud-based ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) solution, integrate.io helps people access streamlined, highly visual data pipelines. These pipelines can automate data flows — regardless of source or destination. In other words, you will effortlessly convert your files without losing or scrambling content. This is data conversion made easier, faster, smarter, safer, and just better.

At integrate.io, we take data seriously. Our robust transformation tools allow customers to take the traditional data conversion process one step further. Now, it’s possible to transform data while also building compliance and best practices into the process.

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Glossary of Terms

A guide to the nomenclature of data integration technology.