Chartio Review 2015
Chartio is a cloud based data visualization platform targeted almost exclusively at the business user. Everything about this product has been engineered to make the task of visualizing data easy. The company is focused pretty much exclusively on revenues from licenses, and so the product has to be easy to use. Competing products often require that customers spend considerable amounts (typically more than half total cost) on training and consulting, and Chartio is on a mission to make this a zero cost.
The target market is small to medium size businesses, although some larger companies use the platform too. Don’t expect any sophisticated statistical analysis, or anything beyond charts, tables and graphs – this is not the platform’s domain.
Getting to data is fairly straight forward, and users can elect to store data in a cloud data warehouse if they wish – Amazon RedShift for example. Joins over diverse data sources are supported, and the results of queries are stored as Chartio datastores, for reuse when needed.
The ease-of-use provided by Chartio is the result of clever interfaces and manipulation behind the scenes. The whole thing is very well thought out, and although not a low cost alternative, it will give business users direct access to their data and the visualizations that provide insights into that data.
As you might expect the Chartio user interface is drag and drop and well laid out. Data attributes are classified as measures (numbers) or dimensions (categorical data). This convenient mechanisms means that we can drop sales into the measure box and region into the dimensions box, and a chart of sales by region is then just a formality. Calculated fields can also be used, and the resulting chart changes as fields, calculations, filters and so on, change. Sorting by measure is an obvious need – customers by total order value for example.
Filters can be applied to measures (orderValue > 100 say), and by dimension (firstName like John). Filters applied to dates are particularly sophisticated, with relative dates, between dates, actual dates etc. Bucketing of measures means that items can be grouped (ie. customer distance from store in units of 10 miles).
It’s all straight forward and this extends to the way data is merged. Two or more data sources can have either an outer (A or B exist) or inner join (A and B exist) or left join, union or cross join – so it’s quite sophisticated.
A large number of chart types are included – area, bar, bar line, box plot, bubble map, bubble plot, funnel, line, map, pie, scatterplot and tables. These can be downloaded in a variety of formats including CSV, PDF, png, and SVG.
Dashboards are collections of charts and can be refreshed on a regular schedule. These can be scheduled for email distribution and managed for access.
The Data Pipeline allows users to perform transformations on query results before charting. This includes column sorting, pivoting, and adding calculated columns. Each step is a well defined operation, and data can be previewed at any point in the pipeline.
Since connecting to data sources can be a source of problems Chartio provides a list of tasks that need to be executed, and whether they have been successful. this allows quick identification of an problems that might arise. Resource utilization can also be managed with specification on time allowed for query execution. There is a full set of utilities for schema management and automatic identification of foreign keys. Users can drop down into SQL if they need to, within the Chartio environment.
Specific utilities exist for many data sources including Amazon RDS, Amazon RedShift, Google Analytics, Google BigQuery, Google Cloud SQL, Heroku, MongoDB, MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, Rackspace Cloud, Salesforce, Segment, Snowflake, SQL Server, SQL Server (Azure), Twilio.
Dashboards can be embedded into existing web applications, and is useful for providing personalized analytics for customers. Integrating embedded dashboards into application involves two open, simple technologies: JSON web tokens (JWT) and HTML iframes.
Teams can be set up for each department within an organization—for example, Sales, Marketing, Support – allowing users to easily assign permissions for specific dashboards and data sources to those users as a group. For more granularity, users can separate each department into permissions groups like Marketing Viewers and Marketing Admins, etc.
Chartio works very hard to make the task of visual analytics easy. Users are helped at each step of the process by informative dialogues and drag and drop manipulation. The sophistication of Chartio is all behind the scenes, allowing users to see their data in whichever format is most useful.
Since Chartio is targeted at medium and small businesses, it will be adequate for most needs. More sophisticated analysis (statistics, predictive analytics etc) will require other products. Pricing is on the high side, and so users need to be sure they can realize significant value from Chartio.