What is batch processing?



Whether it’s a non-time-sensitive repetitive job, or a large volume of data to process, wouldn’t it be great to just get all those tasks done later? Well, you can.

And so comes another tech term to demystify: batch processing.

So, what is batch processing? Here’s an overview.


What is batch processing?

Batch processing is where your automation tool handles more than one job or repetitive data process at once. This means that instead of processing the data as it arrives, it’s stored for processing at a more opportune time.

For example, collecting the data or tasks throughout the day, to be processed after working hours. Or at a time where resources permit.

With batch processing, there’s little to no user interaction. Rather, it’s left to the automation system to process the accumulated tasks and data that form your batch jobs.

In its simplest terms, batch processing is processing data or tasks in bulk.


History and evolution of batch processing

The concept of batch processing dates back to 1890. It began with Herman Hollerith, the earliest computers, and the use of punch cards.

Punch cards were instructions to be manually fed into computers. Entire batches of cards would be processed at one time, fed into the machine one after the other.

This practice is the origin of batch processing. But it’s very different from the batch processing of today, where the absence of human interaction is a core element.

Batch processing has endured past the earliest of computers. It became a normal way for businesses to compile and organise data and reports in the mid-20th century. This was a time when computers were slow and expensive. Real-time was impossible, and this necessitated batch processing.

These days, computers are much faster, and real-time is possible. But there’s still a place for batch processing.


When would you use it?

What is batch processing good for?

Simply, batch processing is great for repetitive jobs and processing large volumes of data. For instance, updating information at the end of the day, generating reports, printing documents, and other non-interactive tasks.

You might use batch processing for bulk database updates. A popular use is transaction processing. Or you might find batch processing useful for file manipulation. For instance, file conversions and image editing. (I.e., adding watermarks, resizing, etcetera.)

Anything that requires immediate, real-time processing and results, meanwhile, is not a candidate for batch processing.


Pros and cons of batch processing

Pros:

  • Efficiency at lower costs

Batch processing gets the jobs in question done, without the operational costs of labour as with manual data entry. It cuts out the possibility of human error and increases efficiency.

  • No daily disruption

Batch processing can happen after the day is done. This means that the tasks in question don’t take up time or attention from the team during the workday. In other words, it’s an efficient way of getting repetitive, non-time-sensitive tasks done.

  • Easy, hands-off management

Batch processing doesn’t require user interaction. So, the only time a human must step in is when there’s an error. Most batch processing systems have monitors in place to automatically detect these, and send auto alerts. This means that manager attention can stay focused on other, high-value tasks.  

Cons:

  • Debugging complexity

Many batch processing systems can be complex when it comes to debugging.

  • Deployment and training needs

Although they offer long-term ease, the deployment and set up of batch systems can require training for employees.

  • Errors and delays

Batch systems work through their tasks one at a time. If task 1 fails to be completed, then it will never start on task 2. Until the error is addressed, the jobs won’t get done. In other words, one error in processing can spoil the whole batch.


Get it done in one go

So, what is batch processing? As the name suggests, it means processing tasks and data in batches, rather than as and when they crop up.

It can save time and resources throughout the workday and represents another handy way to leverage your automation.

Are you still looking for the right automation tool for your business? Give ThinkAutomation a try with a 30-day free trial.


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