In the age of big data, businesses have more potential to harness powerful analytics than ever before. But gathering, organizing and sorting that data into usable information continues to be a challenge. In the simplest terms, there's too much information and too little context. Commercial solutions purport to have the capacity to return structured, usable data that businesses need.

Amazon Redshift says it does this faster and more efficiently than any other product on the market. It stands apart because of its methodology to sort data which results in faster queries. As much as Redshift may offer benefits over the competitors, the best return on investment comes when it is properly used given the size and scale of your business.

Amazon Redshift - Brief Overview 

Amazon Redshift functions a bit differently from traditional data warehouses. Other applications, that store data as rows, can lead to lengthy queries as the data is arranged and sorted. Redshift on the other hand, is a column-oriented database management system. As the information is in columns, it can be analyzed far more quickly. Amazon touts the speed of the application, saying it is 2x to 10x faster than competing products.

AWS Redshift allows for you to store your data in a "lake," before it goes to the data "warehouse." A data "lake" is raw, unsorted data, while warehoused data has some structure. According to at least one user testimonial on Amazon's website, the ability to integrate with a data lake has allowed them to "integrate new data sourses within hours instead of days or weeks."

Benefits of Amazon Redshift 

AWS Redshift is known for its speed and budgetary value. In other words, it gives companies the power and speed they want at a comparatively modest cost. AWS Redshift is also customizable. You can add nodes to increase power for particularly large information sets, in order to get the analytics you need without having to slow down your query response time.

The product also provides security protocols to protect sensitive data. This is essential not only for companies' internal information, but the obligation they have to protect the data about others that they collect and use. Redshift uses SSL encryption for data in transit. Client- and server-side data is also encrypted, so you can effectively manage who can see what of the information that you have.

AWS Redshift Compared to Other Solutions 

As impressive as AWS Redshift may be, it is only one data warehouse solution on the market. It is in direct competition with other products including Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Snowflake, Google Big Query, SAP Business Warehouse and numerous others. Businesses have several options therefore to streamline and optimize their data processing.

Both individual users and expert analysts have compared these solutions in order to make the choice of a solution easier. According to user reviews on G2, here is a sampling of how these other products rate against AWS Redshift:

  • Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse: Azure may be more expensive than Redshift, but also provide better support than the Amazon competitor.
  • Snowflake: This was deemed flexible and more usable than Redshift.
  • Google Big Query: Google's solution was called "intuitive," and overall easier to administer than Redshift.
  • SAP Business Warehouse: This SAP solution was also deemed more expensive than Redshift.

But perhaps like with any solution, the details are important. Although the G2 reviewers deemed Azure to be pricier than Redshift, a performance analysis run by Gigaom in 2018 had high praise for Azure. It found the product ran a 30 terabyte data set 1.67 times faster than Redshift and concluded it was 25 percent less expensive for that particular task.

Drawbacks of AWS Redshift 

At least one Redshift user has indicated the product may be too easy to scale. It's easy to upgrade to improve disk space or power through a few modifcations to the AWS Console. That makes it invaluable for those times when you have a particularly large volume of data you want to process quickly.

But for most companies, these large data volumes come and go. They are not truly indicative of an average volume size over any period of time. That means you can simply have a data warehouse system that is too robust. That may sound great, but it can also become pricey over time.

Redshift does permit you to scale back down your processing speed and power, but it can lead to a feeling of unease in the IT department in case there's another spike in volume that the system is not immediately prepared to handle.

How to Choose the Right Solution

Like with any commercial application, it is essential to start with a clear understanding of your business needs. Some questions to ask might include:

  1. Do we anticipate needing to scale up our data processing?
  2. Do we experience spikes in data volume, and therefore need a customizable solution?
  3. What are budgetary constraints?
  4. Do we need accessible support from the solution provider?
  5. Do we need an intuitive and user-friendly solution?

By developing a guideline of your data processing needs, you can better match the solution that gives you the right amount of power.