FAQ & Resource Center
Find out the latest news and articles about new technologies in the database space and also find out answers to frequently asked questions about Northwest Database Services and our services.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is “Clean” Data?
High quality data have six fundamental attributes: accuracy, consistency, completeness, integrity, appropriateness and timeliness.
Accuracy: Data are correct and precisely reflect the entities they depict, are within prescribed value ranges, and are uniformly formatted.
Consistency: Data are consistent across all their related operations.
Completeness: All the relevant data must be readily available for use when required. (i.e., what good are addresses without ZIP Codes when it’s time to mail?)
Integrity: Data must be credible for them to be used for analytical or decision-making purposes.
Appropriateness: The degree to which the data themselves are relevant to the needs of an organization.
Timeliness: Data are up to date and available to the end-user when needed. Unavailable or obsolete data are of no value.
Why is Data Scrubbing Important to my business?
Unlike rare cheese or a fine wine, data don’t improve with age. Over time customer addresses and emails change, new data becomes available; other data deteriorate. Data represent a model that your business has created over time to depict real world entities or occurrences. That data will never be 100% accurate because as soon as they’ve been gathered, the data upon which your model is based have already changed. Your data must begin to reflect that change as well.
Will my day-to-day business processed be interrupted while my data are being scrubbed?
No. We will only work with a copy of your file(s) and then return your newly scrubbed data, ready to review and then be loaded into your system. If we have your system/database’s import specifications, we can send you a file your database will love. One advantage is that the data transformation takes place on our system so you can keep operations going as before until it’s time to exchange your current data for a newly transformed version.
How do I know what work I need done?
NW Database clients come from a variety of business sizes, types and needs. Before we decide what must be done to clean your data, we typically run your file through a few diagnostics to both see its current condition as well as determine what it will need perform the tasks you have in store for them. Once we are familiar with your data and your goals, we can decide together what will be the best course of action to take.
What does it cost?
We often get calls that ask: “We have about 25,000 records in a file. What will it cost to clean them?” This is a little like asking a mechanic what it will take to fix your car, but the only thing you can tell him about the car is that it’s blue. We can give you a quote over the phone, but only for operations that are automated and usually billed per 1,000 records, e.g., CASS, NCOA. While we use automated processes whenever possible, remember that without some preliminary data massage, your results will be greatly reduced.
If you send us a copy of your file, we will take a peek and run it through a couple of tests, and then we can put a strategy in place, together. We’ll know what we will have to do, and you will know what the cost will be.
What kinds of file formats do you accept and in what format(s) would they be returned?
Clients usually submit their data in one of these standard formats: Excel, MS Access, Outlook, dBase III, ASCII delimited (delimited with commas or tabs), ASCII Fixed Field. We can accept many other formats as well, but there might be a fee depending on how exotic the file format in which the data is stored.
Unless file conversion is part of the job, your file will be returned to you in the same format and, wherever possible, with the same record layout as well. If you need the data to comply with any specific requirements your [new] database may have, we will make sure it does.
What are Postal Presorts and how do they work?
Postal presorting is arranging and bundling, bagging or traying your mailing pieces for the USPS bulk mailing center. Because you are doing a lot of work for the Post Office, you can get great rates on your postage, which, in turn, brings down your mailing costs significantly. (Non-profit organizations get even greater discounts.)
There are over 200 different postal presort schemes depending on factors such as the size of your mailing, the size and weight of the mailing piece, the content of the mailing piece and the speed at which you want it to be delivered. Normally, it takes sophisticated and expensive software to prepare and execute a bulk mailing and output the paperwork. We can help you with this whether you are a small business or a large mailing house. Send us your list and we will return it updated along with a ready-to-mail presorted file, bag/tray labels and all other required paperwork. Easy peasy!
What makes NW Database different from other data cleaning companies?
NW Database Services has been offering data services such as data scrubbing, CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) coding, NCOA (National Change of Address) services, postal presorts, de-duping, and so forth for thirty-five years. We try to do a little more, go a little further than most of the others. We look at every list – and treat it – as unique.
We can merge files for you, so if you have your data spread across different files and disparate formats, we can merge them into one easy to manage table ready to bring into another platform or a new database. Because of our proprietary software, we can find more duplicate records (even if they have been entered differently from one another) than just about anybody. We can append additional data to your records or create aggregations for your use in reports and projections.
Can I get things like Emails, Phone Numbers, Demographics, etc. to enhance my data?
There are times when our clients would like to validate the emails in their file or maybe append new ones to their data. Perhaps you would like to test or maybe add new phone numbers, demographics or latitudes/longitudes to your data. If data entry has been problematic, we can do it for you. There are many other things we can append to your data to list here, so why not give us a call and see if we can find it or them for you?
Can you find and mark duplicate records? What if they don’t match exactly?
Finding exact matches between duplicate records is easy. But what if they have been entered differently; say, one with punctuation, another without; one with a formal name the other with a nickname, and so forth. Our proprietary software finds duplicate records with these anomalies and more.
We can mark duplicates for you, extract them to another file or delete them altogether. If they have relational counterparts in other tables (common in relational databases) we can alter the child record ID numbers (matched to the duplicate records) to all point back to the record you decide to keep. So, where once it appeared as though three customers – with similar names and addresses – each having bought two items, it will now be correctly represented as one customer who actually made six purchases. If you think you have duplicate records hiding in your system, let’s investigate it and come up with a solution to cull these out.
If I’m going to use my list for email, why should I worry about, or even include addresses
Traditionally, direct mail has been an expensive way to market so when email broadcasting came into its own, businesses not only started to email their customers but also, in many cases, only kept their contacts’ name, email and company. Very trim and simple to manage. But, as with all things, there is a cost. Data are usually matched with a better or more complete data source to update, correct or append new data to them. What can you match on without being sure that least some parts of your data are substantially correct?
The answer, of course, is none. The USPS, in order to improve its processing ability over the years, came up with the National Addresses Database (NAD) – a database of all deliverable addresses in the US – as well as effectual algorithms to match, verify and format addresses. As a result, most data verification and append operations use address information as the lingua franca for their
updating operations. So if, for example, you only have a list of names with companies email addresses, you might not have keys you need to maintain or improve your data.
Why Choose NW Database Services?
Northwest Database Services is a full-spectrum data service who has been performing data migration, data scrubbing, data cleaning, and de-duping data services for databases and mailing lists, for over 34 years.
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Woodland, WA 98674