The ICT Lounge
 
Section 7.7:
Types of Processing
 
Data can be processed by a computer in three main ways. These are:
Key Concepts of this section:
#
Understand the differences between the three main types of computer processing.
#
Be able to discuss what each type of processing is typically used for and give examples.
1
Batch Processing
2
Online Processing
3
Real-time Processing

Data Processing
Key Words:
Processing, Sorting, Searching, Querying, Converting
What is data processing?
#
Data processing is when raw data is fed into a computer and then analysed and changed into useful information. This useful information can be output and used.

Computers 'process' data
#
Examples of data processing include the following:
  • Sorting data (ascending / descending)
  • Searching / Querying data
  • Converting data into another form (e.g. numbers into graphs)
  • etc.....

Types of Processing
Key Words:
Batch, Online, Real-time,
#
As stated above, there are three different types of computer processing:
  • Batch Processing
  • Online Processing
  • Real-time Processing.

Batch Processing
#

This is where a number of similar jobs or tasks are collected together (batched) and processed by a computer all at once rather than individually.

Examples:
Household bills are Batch Processed
Employee pay-slips are Batch Processed
 
Multiple choice exams are Batch Processed
when marked
For example -
producing electricity bills for consumers requires similar calculations. These calculations can be batched together and carried out all at once.

#
The collected jobs are loaded into the computer by a human but from there the computer takes over and finishes the processing without human intervention.
#
Batch processing can take a long time to perform. This is due to the large number of jobs that are being processed.

Batch processing is not suitable for tasks that need to be processed right away.

#
Batch processing is used in the following areas:
  • Producing bills (e.g. electricity, water, gas etc)
  • Payroll
  • Stock Control
  • Producing monthly credit card statements
  • Processing bank cheques.
  • Marking multiple choice examination papers
 
Advantages / Disadvantages of Batch Processing
Advantages
Disadvantages
Jobs can be processed without a human present. Batched jobs can take a long time to process.
Long jobs can be left processing overnight when everyone has gone home. 'Batching' the input data to feed into the system can take a long time.

NOTE!
Examples of batch processing are discussed in greater detail in unit
7.11 - Applications in Finance
 
Online Processing
#

This type of processing is where a user communicates directly with the computer system.

Examples:
Online processing automatically updates
 
Online processing allows systems to make sure
that concerts are not overbooked
#
When the user makes a change to the data stored in the computer, the system will automatically update and re-process. This ensures that the system always contains up-to-date information.

For example -
Music Concert booking systems need to use online processing. This is because the system needs to constantly recalculate how many seats are left as people reserve their tickets.

If the system did not instantly update then people could be paying for seats that are actually no longer available.

#
Online processing is used in the following areas:
  • Booking systems / Ticket reservations (airlines, cinema, theatre, concerts)
  • ATM's (recalculates how much money is left in the account)
  • Purchasing goods on the Internet (e.g. Amazon recalculates how many items are left in stock)
Advantages / Disadvantages of Online Processing
Advantages
Disadvantages
Processing is carried out automatically with no need for human supervision. Needs virus/hacker security (especially for online booking systems).
 
Real-time Processing
#
Real-time processing is similar to Online processing in the sense that the computer system automatically updates it's data as changes are made.

Examples:
Aircraft warning systems are updated immediately in 'real-time'
#
The difference is that real-time processing often uses sensors rather than human input in order to obtain it's data. Real-time processing is used with control systems.

#
This type of processing is carried out in real-time (immediately). This means that the computer responds to inputs without any delays.

 
After processing is complete, the system will send instructions to 'control devices' telling them what to do.

#
Real-time processing is used in the following areas:
  • Warning systems on aircraft
  • Guiding missiles to their target (updates coordinates etc)
  • Automatic greenhouses
  • Burglar alarms
  • Alarm systems in hazardous zones (e.g. monitoring of radiation levels in power stations)
  • Flood warning systems.
 
Advantages / Disadvantages of Real-Time Processing
Advantages
Disadvantages
Can carry out jobs that humans are unable to (e.g. monitoring radiation).
Very expensive to buy.
System failure can cost lives
(e.g. faulty airplane warning system)
NOTE!
Real-time processing is used in computer control and we covered this in greater detail in unit 7.4 - Control Applications.