An in-depth review of Fivetran

3d illustration of a data and artificial intelligence pipeline in voxel style.
Image: Mark/Adobe Stock

Fivetran has become a popular tool for efficiently processing and transforming data. The automated data pipeline and ETL solution is used by organizations of varying sizes and industrial backgrounds, including major enterprises like Logitech and Penguin Random House.

Fivetran is a great fit for certain types of users, but there are some pros and cons to be aware of before investing in a Fivetran plan. In this review, we’ll cover those positives and negatives as well as some key features, pricing information and possible Fivetran alternatives.

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What is Fivetran?

The Fivetran logo.
Image: Fivetran

Fivetran is a low-code ETL tool that automates the ETL process and includes dozens of pre-built connectors for popular data sources such as Microsoft Azure, SalesForce and Facebook. Pre-built data models make it easy to transform and export data as well.

SEE: Hiring kit: Data engineer (TechRepublic Premium)

Fivetran is designed to make ETL more accessible and efficient. It automates most of the ETL process so one person can do the job of an entire team of data engineers. Some knowledge of SQL is helpful to use Fivetran, but you don’t need coding expertise for most tasks.

Fivetran key features

The features packed into Fivetran allow you to automate essentially the entire data pipeline. There are dozens of pre-built connectors ready to go for many of today’s most popular data sources. Fivetran’s developers are always adding more connectors too, and users can request a connector or create their own if one is not already available.

Once data is synced through one of Fivetran’s connectors, you can use one of over 40 pre-built data models to automate data transformation and loading. While there are fewer pre-built models than connectors, models are available for a number of the most widely used data sources, such as QuickBooks, Salesforce and Hubspot.

Fivetran datasets can currently be exported to the following 10 destinations:

  • Azure Synapse.
  • BigQuery.
  • Databricks.
  • MySQL.
  • Panoply.
  • Periscope.
  • PostgreSQL.
  • Redshift.
  • Snowflake.
  • SQL Server.

Users can submit a request for a new destination to be added if it is not already available. Fivetran also includes tools for quickly and easily replicating datasets and databases. Built-in security features ensure that data is protected through the entire ETL pipeline.

Pros and cons of Fivetran

How do Fivetran’s key features stack up? Are there any drawbacks to using this low-code ETL tool? Consider these pros and cons before you commit to a Fivetran plan.

Pros of Fivetran

Fivetran is a highly convenient platform for those who want to streamline their data pipelines without spending hours writing SQL statements. The sheer convenience of Fivetran is its biggest benefit: If you’re working with data from popular sources, such as Microsoft Azure or Facebook, all the tools you need are already available and ready to go in Fivetran, with little to no coding necessary for ETL.

The pre-built connectors and models make it easy for anyone to tap into the value of their data, regardless of their SQL knowledge. This can unlock invaluable new opportunities, such as funneling data insights from Fivetran into machine learning or AI algorithms for automating other business processes. Data mining is a vital part of developing machine learning algorithms, and Fivetran’s pre-built ETL tools can drastically simplify the data analysis process.

Fivetran also has security features that ensure all of your data is safe as it moves between sources and clouds. Users get private networking, meaning your data is isolated from other Fivetran users. Identity and access management features are also included, allowing you to manage permissions for different users on your Fivetran plan. This feature is particularly helpful at the Standard and Enterprise levels where unlimited users are available.

SEE: Data governance checklist for your organization (TechRepublic Premium)

Fivetran is compliant with today’s major security and privacy standards, including SOC 2 auditing, HIPAA, ISO 27001, GDPR and CCPA. This makes it easier to ensure that you and your organization are tackling the key challenges of security and regulatory compliance. Having all of your data conveniently accessible through Fivetran may simplify auditing processes.

Cons of Fivetran

If you are using Fivetran, you probably want an ETL solution that does not require coding. Fivetran can serve this purpose, but only to a certain extent, as you are somewhat limited in what you can do with Fivetran if you don’t know how to code your own connectors and models.

If you want to use data from currently supported sources that already have pre-built connectors and models, it will be smooth sailing. Unfortunately, if the data source you want to work with lacks pre-built support from Fivetran, you will need coding knowledge to create custom connectors and models.

SEE: Top data integration tools (TechRepublic)

Users can request that Fivetran add a new connector or pre-built model, but there is no guarantee that Fivetran will do so, particularly if the data source in question is not commonly used by the vendor’s other customers.

Customer service may also be a challenge with Fivetran. Some users have noted that while using Fivetran was a positive experience in many ways, they had issues with billing and communication from the customer service department. This may not be a concern for all users, but customer service is important to keep in mind if you expect you’ll need help getting started or navigating technical issues.

Fivetran pricing

Fivetran’s pricing model is based on the quantity of data you process through the platform; the cost for any user depends entirely on how much data they sync. There is a volume discount though, so the price per row of data will reduce the more rows you sync. Specifically, you are priced by how many rows you insert, update or delete each month.

There are four main pricing tiers available: Starter, Standard Select, Standard and Enterprise. The main difference between these tiers is the additional features included as you go up the chain, such as priority customer support, additional data governance options, faster syncs and unlimited users.

The cost of using Fivetran will increase as the volume of your data syncs increases, regardless of pricing tier. A two-week free trial is also available.

Fivetran alternatives

Fivetran is popular, but it isn’t the only high-grade ETL tool on the market today. There are a few key alternatives you should consider before investing in a Fivetran plan.

If you are already a Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services user, you might want to consider Microsoft’s and Amazon’s ETL programs. Microsoft’s SQL Server Integration Services is a well-optimized and highly effective tool for ETL tasks, although it is not a low-code platform. If you have experience with SQL, SSIS may be a more streamlined and flexible platform compared to Fivetran.

Similarly, Amazon users have a great Fivetran alternative in AWS Glue. This ETL tool has an advantage over Microsoft SSIS due to its automated code generation features, which remove some of the coding barriers to ETL tasks.

Other Fivetran alternatives worth considering include Informatica PowerCenter, Denodo Platform and Safe Software FME.

Fivetran: A hit or miss low-code ETL solution?

Fivetran is a great option for certain users, but there are better alternatives for users with other data-skill levels and project needs. If you and your team members lack extensive coding knowledge and are primarily working with data sources Fivetran already supports, it’s one of the best ETL tools available today.

Users who are pulling data from sources that aren’t currently supported by Fivetran will find the platform lacking. If you or your team have SQL expertise on hand, it may be worth looking into alternative platforms that offer a bit more flexibility compared to Fivetran.

Overall, Fivetran is an approachable and effective ETL tool that offers the core features needed for data analytics and data warehousing in the cloud.

Read next: Best ETL tools and software (TechRepublic)


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