What is a Data Catalog? Value, Benefits, and Features

What is a data catalog?

An easy way to think of it is like a living collection of your organization’s distributed data assets and data-related intelligence; it’s an archive and a distribution system combined. Data catalogs promote intelligent and secure data sharing by centralizing, labelling, and monitoring your organization’s data assets. This single control plane allows for better collaboration, stronger regulatory compliance, and reduced overhead.

Must-have features for any data catalog

The same way that not all data is created equally, neither are data catalogs. It’s important to understand the key capabilities your organization needs from a data catalog to unlock the potential of data flowing into it.

Why are data catalogs useful?

The IDC reported that the total amount allocated to digital transformation efforts worldwide between 2020 and 2023 will reach $6.8T. As the race to become data-driven continues, organizations are struggling to unlock the potential in data. For most companies, finding and connecting to trustworthy and diverse sources of data is a big task in itself. On top of that, the changing landscape of data governance and privacy makes it difficult to build a scalable and flexible data infrastructure.

  • Data Security: How do I restrict permissions so that access to data is controlled to only certain rows and columns? Can I grant limited or read-only access easily?
  • Data Overhead: Is there another department in this organization that could use the same data? Is there a way for me to find out if we’re already buying it?
  • Data Redundancies: Are there different departments doing similar work on the same data?
  • Data Discrepancies: How can we link all of the data we have to ensure we’re conforming to the same standards across our whole organization?
  • Data Reproducibility: How can I ensure the performance of my models after the data updates? How can we double our ROI on this particular dataset?

More visibility, more security

How can increased data visibility possibly mean better security? Sunlight is a strong disinfectant. By breaking down silos between data users and creating a central data commons, a data catalog gives organizations insight into who is using data, and for what purpose. This ensures stronger data governance and enables data stewards to monitor their data more effectively. By also providing a role-based permission structure and configurable dataset sharing, a data catalog becomes not only a central commons but a distribution hub as well.


At ThinkData Works we believe that the first step of any organization data strategy starts with a data catalog. The Namara Data Catalog enables any organization to discover, govern and monetize the data that powers your business. For more information on our Data Catalog, download the White Paper here.



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