A Beginner's Guide to Data Modeling: From Structures to Schemas

Data Analysis

May 10, 2024 | By Ananya Chakraborty

A Beginner's Guide to Data Modeling: From Structures to Schemas

For a data analyst, mastering the art of data structuring and organizing is comparable to a chef perfecting their recipe - it's an essential ingredient in the recipe for success.

This guide will break down complex concepts like data modeling, denormalization, normalization, fact and dimension table, and star and snowflake schemas. By the end of this blog post, we will have a solid foundation of these concepts and their practical applications and use cases.

Let's dive right in!

Data Modeling: The Blueprint of Data

One of the most essential concepts in the history of data analytics: Data modeling is similar to creating a roadmap for data. It's a way to plan and visualize what data to collect and how to store, organize, and utilize it. Data modeling helps ensure that the data is managed to support our needs, whether it is running reports, making decisions, or understanding trends.

Importance of Data Modeling

Here are some reasons why data modeling is essential:

  • Understanding the Domain: Facilitates understanding of the business domain

  • Communication: Enhances communication between developers and stakeholders.

  • Consistency: Ensures consistency in data structures.

  • Efficiency: Boosts system efficiency by optimizing the storage and retrieval of data

  • Reduced Errors: Helps developers in early error detection in the data models.

Now that we have established the importance of data modeling, we will discuss star and snowflake schemas today which are an integral part of Dimensional Modeling used in data warehousing. It's designed to be easy to understand and perform well for reporting and analysis.

Databases and Normalization

Before we delve into the Star and Snowflake schemas, an important data modeling concept, let's take a step back and understand databases. A database is a structured set of data, making it easier to manage and retrieve large amounts of information. However, storing all data in one place can lead to data duplication and inconsistency.

Denormalized Database Structure and Its Issues

A denormalized database structure is like a big family reunion where everyone is in the same room. All data is stored in one place, making it easier to access and read. However, this can lead to:

  • Data Redundancy: The same piece of data is stored on multiple sites.

  • Data Anomalies: Changes in one place can lead to inconsistencies.

  • Storage Issues: Needs more storage space due to redundant data.

Normalized Database Structure and Its Benefits

A normalized database structure, on the other hand, is like a well-organized office. Each piece of data has its own place, reducing redundancy and improving consistency. The benefits include:

  • Data Integrity: There's a single source of truth for each piece of data.

  • Efficiency: Less storage space is needed, which leads to improved performance.

  • Flexibility: It's easier to change the structure and rules without affecting existing data.

For example, consider a music streaming service like Spotify. In a normalized database, data about songs, artists, albums, and users would be stored in separate tables. When a user plays a song, the system needs to join multiple tables to retrieve all the necessary information. In a denormalized database, some of this information could be combined into a single table, making data retrieval faster but potentially leading to data redundancy.

Normalization vs Denormalization

Fact and Dimension Table

In data modeling, Fact and Dimension tables are two key components. The Fact table contains the measurable, quantitative data we want to analyze. In contrast, Dimension tables provide descriptive attributes related to the Fact data, offering additional information to enhance our analysis.