3 Pitfalls of ETL with SSIS and an Alternative

By 2025, it is estimated that the amount of data generated each day will reach 463 exabytes globally. With data management needs growing at rapid speed, it’s no wonder that organizations are making crucial decisions about the best way to wrangle all this information.


ETL is a data process that many companies use to transform raw data into something valuable. So what does ETL stand for and what tools support its execution? ETL is an initialismacronym for extract, transfer, load and, with the help of tools like SSIS (SQL Server Integration Service), it gets data moving downstream. The end result is meaningful data grouped from a number of different sources into one conformed format. While ETL with SSIS has many pros such as in-depth documentation, high customization and ease of configuration, there are a number of downsides that also exist with this solution.

The Pitfalls of SSIS

Is SSIS the right solution for your organization? Here are three pitfalls to consider.

SSIS requires complex coding and a high level of developer expertise.

ETL with SSIS isn’t a plug-and-play solution. It requires complex coding and expert-level experience. For; many companies without large development and coding staff it is just not practical.  If you are on a tight timeline and budget SSIS is going to be problematic. Not only is the startup cost high, but as things change the maintenance cost will likewise be high.

Solution: Choose an ELT tool, like K3 ETL, that visualizes and normalizes data with ease; no coding required. Business analysts have a meaningful seat a the ETL table.

The learning curve is steep.

ETL with SSIS is a powerful tool, but it’s confusing for new users.  SSIS is driven from C# or VB.  This requires experienced developers.  Whatever level of expertise your development team finds itself at, expect a steep learning curve that might cause project slowdowns.

Solution: Get data going fast and effortlessly with an intuitive, ready-to-go ETL tool.

Long-term sustainability is lacking.

SSIS is fragile.  Like any other development framework, SSIS is only as good as the code that is used.  As a high code solution fixing one thing has a tendency to break others.  The biggest challenge is that even when the code is perfect, things change.  The data source will change.  The data format will change.  The business will change.  In SSIS this requires an entire refactoring and testing of the SSIS solution causing it to be terribly inflexible, and reducing data velocity.

Solution: Don’t depend on one developer’s source code because it will inevitably break and cause a harmful ripple effect. Like we mentioned in the blog, Challenges with SQL ETL, you risk wasting time and, money and being left high and dry if the developer exits the company.

Remember, all that complex code leaves a lot of room for error, so consider other alternatives. Curious how K3 ETL seamlessly preps data from a variety of sources into a one, conformed format? Our team of experts can help.

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