Data processing is the process of collecting and transforming data into useful information through the use of a computer.
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.
Stages of the Data Processing Cycle
The Data Processing Cycle is a series of steps carried out to extract useful information from raw data. Although each step must be taken in order, the order is cyclic.
The output and storage stage can lead to the repeat of the data collection stage, resulting in another cycle of data processing. The cycle provides a view on how the data travels and transforms from collection to interpretation, and ultimately, used in effective business decisions.
Listed below are the main stages of the data processing cycle:
1) Collection is the first stage of the cycle, and is very crucial, since the quality of data collected will impact heavily on the output. The collection process needs to ensure that the data gathered are both defined and accurate, so that subsequent decisions based on the findings are valid. This stage provides both the baseline from which to measure, and a target on what to improve.
2) Preparation is the manipulation of data into a form suitable for further analysis and processing. Raw data cannot be processed and must be checked for accuracy. Preparation is about constructing a data set from one or more data sources to be used for further exploration and processing. Analyzing data that has not been carefully screened for problems can produce highly misleading results that are heavily dependent on the quality of data prepared.
3) Input is the task where verified data is coded or converted into machine readable form so that it can be processed through an application. Data entry is done through the use of a keyboard, scanner, or data entry from an existing source. This time-consuming process requires speed and accuracy. Most data need to follow a formal and strict syntax since a great deal of processing power is required to breakdown the complex data at this stage. Due to the costs, many businesses are resorting to outsource this stage.
4) Processingis when the data is subjected to various means and methods of powerful technical manipulations using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence algorithms to generate an output or interpretation about the data. The process may be made up of multiple threads of execution that simultaneously execute instructions, depending on the type of data.
5) Output and interpretation is the stage where processed information is now transmitted and displayed to the user. Output is presented to users in various report formats like graphical reports, audio, video, or document viewers. Output need to be interpreted so that it can provide meaningful information that will guide future decisions of the company.
6) Storage is the last stage in the data processing cycle, where data, and metadata (information about data) are held for future use. The importance of this cycle is that it allows quick access and retrieval of the processed information, allowing it to be passed on to the next stage directly, when needed.
Methods of data processing
- Manual data processing: In this method data is processed manually without the use of a machine, tool or electronic device. Data is processed manually, and all the calculations and logical operations are performed manually on the data.
- Mechanical data processing – Data processing is done by use of a mechanical device or very simple electronic devices like calculator and typewriters. When the need for processing is simple, this method can be adopted.
- Electronic data processing – This is the modern technique to process data. The fastest and best available method with the highest reliability and accuracy. The technology used is latest as this method used computers and employed in most of the agencies. The use of software forms the part of this type of data processing. The data is processed through a 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.
Importance of computer as a tool for data processing
1. Accuracy. Once data have been correctly entered into the computer component of a data processing system, the need for further manipulation by humans is eliminated, and the possibility of error is reduced. Computers, when properly programmed, aren’t able to make computational errors. Of course, computer systems remain vulnerable to the entry by humans of invalid data.
2. Ease of communications. Data, once entered, can be transmitted wherever needed by communications networks. These may be either earth or satellite-based systems. A travel reservations system is an example of a data communications network. Reservation clerks throughout the world may make an enquiry about transportation or lodgings and receive an almost instant response. Another example is an office communications system that provides executives with access to a corporate data base, from their personal microcomputer work stations.
3. Capacity of storage. Computers are able to store vast amounts of information, to organize it, and to retrieve it in ways that are far beyond the capabilities of humans. The amount of data that can be stored on devices such as magnetic discs is constantly increasing. All the while, the cost per character of data stored is decreasing.
4. Speed. The speed, at which computer data processing systems can respond, adds to their value. For example, the travel reservations system mentioned above is not useful if clients have to wait more than a few seconds for a response. The response required might be a fraction of a second.
Thus, an important objective in the design of computer data processing systems is to allow computers to do what they do best and to free humans from routine, error-prone tasks. The most cost-effective computer data processing system is the one that does the job effectively and at the least cost. By using computers in a cost-effective manner, we will be better able to respond to the challenges and opportunities of our post-industrial, information-dependent society
1. Define data processing.
2. What is data processing cycle?
3. Mention and explain 3 stages involved in data processing cycle.
4. Draw data processing cycle
5. Mention 3 methods of data processing
6. State 3 importance of computer as a tool for data processing.