In the era of big data, the web, cloud computing and the great explosion in the volume and diversity of data, organizations cannot afford to store numerous copies and reproductions of the data they need for their business.

That’s why, by 2020 over a third (35 percent) of enterprises will have implemented some form of data virtualization, according to Gartner, as an efficient and cost-saving production option for data integration.

But what does the term data virtualization actually mean? And why should you care?

Below, we outline five of the key benefits associated with data virtualization. And we then go on to explain in more detail how enabling a company to have an overview of all its data from a single point helps them to remain GDPR-compliant.

An integrated single view of all data

We live in a world that’s increasingly dominated by data. The recent Data Age 2025 study, carried out by IDC (and sponsored by Seagate), predicts that by the year 2025 the amount of information generated will amount to a total of 163 zettabytes. This means that the overall volume of data will increase 10 times worldwide over the next seven years.

Data virtualization gives a business a single, holistic view of all of its data, by connecting and integrating information stored across multiple sources, to make it available to users or to an application in a single view.

It’s cheaper than traditional data integration tools

Traditional data integration tools generally require physically replicating, moving and storing data multiple times, which is both time-consuming and expensive. Data virtualization gathers all of an organization’s data from multiple sources – management applications, cloud environments, big data, third-party data providers, social networks and other sources – and channels them into a single format.

It gives businesses real-time access to all of their data

As well as being considerably cheaper, data virtualization is a much faster way of managing your data, as you don’t have to wait days for your results, as it provides fast and accurate results in real-time.

Previously, poor performance was often due to network latency, with delays due to the transfer of large amounts of data. Data virtualization connects directly to the source of your data which is how it can provide actionable business insights in instantly.

It complements traditional data warehousing methods

Data virtualization works alongside and complements traditional data warehousing methods, with the key benefit being that it offers a cost reduction and enables a business to create a fully integrated single view of all data, a far more agile way of accessing and using data, without the need for constant replication.

It’s dynamic, user-friendly and an invaluable aid to decision making

Data virtualization empowers all business users to access and use quality real-time data on their own, as opposed to having to rely on the IT or other technical teams. The whole team is better informed with up-to-date information, regardless of its location. It is all about creating business focused views that can be easily consumed.

GDPR compliance and a speedy ROI

Finally, in addition to the cost and time savings outlined above, implementing data virtualization is to adopt a cost-benefit-based approach to protecting and securing your customer’s data and privacy, something that is particularly newsworthy right now, in our new GDPR era. When you’re not duplicating and storing data in multiple locations, you limit your potential exposure to data leaks, hacks and buggy software.

Overall, a typical data virtualization project tends to pay for itself in less than six months of implementation, allowing a business to achieve between 50 and 80 percent time savings over traditional data integration methods.