Top ETL Tools

ETL tools allow you to compile and organize your data across multiple sources. Find out how to use ETL tools and some of the top ETL options.

ETL stands for extract, transform and load. ETL tools play an important role in managing data for businesses. The majority of businesses rely on digital tools to track information, such as transaction history, spending records, tax payments, utility costs and other vital data. This information is typically stored across multiple programs as well as locations. Larger businesses have many branches which independently record information and then present it to a central branch to process.

Because the information is stored across different programs, it can be difficult to compile all of the data into a usable format. ETL tools are designed to work with a wide number of databases, extracting all the data, transforming it into a centralized document and loading the new data into an easy-to-read format. While the process sounds simple, ETL tools are sophisticated programs with many different steps. The cost of ETL tools vary depending on how much data you need to transfer, ranging anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.


The first part of the ETL process is extraction. Extraction is the most straightforward process, taking all of the data from different sources and turning it into a single file. The data is often extracted from a sole source, such as a data warehouse that collects cloud-based files or your local network. Both structured and unstructured data is collected during the extraction process. While this process can be performed manually, it takes significantly longer for data engineers to extract the data, and there are more likely to be errors without specialized ETL software.


The bulk of what ETL tools do occurs during the transformation phase. During the transformative process, a number of subroutines are performed to prepare all the gathered data. The first step is cleansing, which scans all the documents for any inconsistencies or missing values lost during the extraction process. The original documents are scanned to resolve any errors. Next is standardization, which applies a general formatting process to the gathered data, preparing it to be translated into a single document.

As part of the formatting, the new document is scanned for any duplicate or redundant data. This sometimes occurs when multiple programs track similar tasks. Before the document is finalized, the data is verified, which looks for any errors or unusable data. Finally, the data is sorted based on whatever parameters you set. For example, you can set all your financial data to display in chronological order, allowing you to track all the transactions from the week.


The final part of ETL tools is loading the transformed document to a new destination. There are two types of loads available, full and incremental. With full loading, all of the transformed data is sent into your network or cloud-storage. Incremental loading scans your existing files and excludes any information you already have on hand. 

Which option you choose largely depends on what type of data you are transmitting. For example, if you are comparing previous profit reports, you want to do a full data load so you have the most accurate and extensive reports. If you are only generating profit shares, you only need whatever new data is available through incremental loading. 

Benefits of ETL Tools

The biggest benefit of ETL tools is managing all of your data without having to manually transfer data across multiple sources. Translating data is often a long and tedious process, and there is a greater chance of errors if you are transferring the data from hand. It creates a centralized data file, which you can use to generate business reports and share relevant information with the relevant departments. Once you become more comfortable with the software, you can customize the transformation process, allowing you to organize your data in different ways. 

ETL tools also solves one of the problems with business software, compatibility. There are many programs with specialized tasks, such as scanning receipts, generating sales reports and marking overseas expenses. However, not all programs are compatible with one another, making it hard to centralize your data and get an accurate idea of how much you spend. ETL tools simplify the process, giving you all the relevant information you need without requiring hours of data extraction and recording by hand.

AWS Glue

AWS Glue is a popular ETL program because it is provided through Amazon. It is compatible with any programs that use an SQL database, or any information stored on Amazon’s cloud-based S3 storage system. AWS Glue includes additional sorting options, allowing you to organize website hyperlinks and process logs, making it an excellent choice if your business primarily offers online services.

AWS Glue also allows you to schedule your ETL tasks in advance. The triggers can either be time specific or based on a certain data threshold. Amazon also offers free online courses to gain certification in AWS Glue. Pricing is free for the first million objects stored. Afterwards, you are charged a monthly fee based on the amount of data you process. Amazon includes a useful calculator to help you determine your average price. 

Azure Data Factory

Azure Data Factory is available through Microsoft. It is one of the easier programs to use, even if you have no previous experience with ETL tools. It is compatible with most databases, including Oracle, MySQL, SyBase and DB2. Free online training is available from Microsoft, with both tutorials and a certification program available. Technical support is available 24/7, with a guaranteed response time of one hour for either phone or email support. Pricing is based on a pay as you go model. Microsoft provides an estimate calculator so you have a general idea of how much it will cost.


Talend is a popular ETL tool because it easily integrates with the majority of data warehouses. It is also one of the most customizable ETL tools. While it is considered one of the best ETL tools, it also requires previous coding knowledge to get the most out of the program. If you want a simpler ETL tool, Talend might be too advanced. Talend offers a limited free demo. Once your demo expires, you must request a quote directly from the company.