6 Sources for Finding Reference Data

A structured approach is important if you want to be able to store and access important reference data. Whether it be for long-term project scalability, cybersecurity, or just the efficiency of your project’s intended goal, learning how to properly architect your code is going to save you time in the long run. While you can get away with taking shortcuts and still come up with a “working” product, when working on larger products like Data Resource Management you probably won’t be able to pull it off for long. If you are looking for architectural solutions to large data management problems, here are some of the highlights.

1. Centralized Data

Generally, you are going to want to keep all of your data in one “centralized” space and form the rest of your reference data management structure around it. This is largely for practical reasons, and while data can be centralized in addition to other examples on this list, data centralization is distinct from non-centralized, also called “distributed,” data. Distributed data systems are more complex and costly to maintain than centralized data systems, so centralization is definitely a good starting point for a well-optimized project of any kind.

2. Public Data

There is some data that can be accessed by anyone who knows how to ask for it, and that’s public data. Public data is data that you can find regardless of how involved you are in a particular data architecture. You could, for example, look up how heavy one gallon of water is right now and you will have accessed some form of public reference data. A Stock Keeping Unit is another example of something that is often a public reference data variable, since they can be easily found on bar codes and they are used by businesses to keep track of stock.

3. Semi-Private Data

You might want some functions or users to work with data that others can’t, and if this is the case you should make that data “semi-private” or “protected.” Large-scale semi-private data management is usually fairly cut-and-dry once you have established a clear set of criteria, as is often the case in back-end database programming. Reference data sets that involve semi-private data include specialized internal standards made by businesses used to facilitate access to public data and even just a bank account that is in the name of multiple people.

4. Private Data

Private data should ideally never be changed by anyone or anything that doesn’t have direct access to the data structure that is managing it. You can have “get” functions in computer programs to allow for read-only access to variables, if you want those, but it should not otherwise be accessible at all unless it is being practically utilized within the data system. Someone’s social security number might be considered something that is ideally private reference data, since it relates a specific person to a government and you definitely don’t want the wrong person finding it.

5. Reference Data Map

If reference data is data that references other data sources, a data reference map is reference data that refers to reference data. if this sounds confusing, consider a country’s census. You could say that the population reference data of a country is based on the reference data “map” of a population census that can be further broken down into things like the number of people in a region, gender distribution, and nationality. This same kind of system can be used in other data structures, and it requires a higher level of organization compared to lower-level data sources if you want a precise data output.

6. Imported Data

All of the noted examples thus far have assumed you already have the data you need somewhere in an easily accessible database and you simply need to utilize it somehow. You might very well have to import data from somewhere else to get the job done, so it is worth the effort to familiarize yourself with file formats like XML, CSV, or ACCDB if you need to apply them to new applications on a regular basis.

Reference data is a necessary part of any database, whether you are working with a business’ master data or managing a back-end registry. No matter where you come up with your data references, keeping track of the source data is paramount if you want them to mean anything. Running a business will always involve bookkeeping, but once you have a good system going the rest should fall into place.

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