top of page

Data Lake vs Data Warehouse

Data lakes and data warehouses are two popular approaches for storing and managing large volumes of data. While they share some similarities, they are fundamentally different in their approach to data storage and processing. In this article, we'll explore the key differences between data lakes and data warehouses, as well as their respective advantages and disadvantages.

What is Data Lake?

A data lake is a large, centralized repository of raw, unstructured, semi-structured, and structured data in its native format. The data is typically ingested in real-time from various sources such as applications, sensors, social media, and cloud services. Data lakes are designed to store all types of data, including data that may not have been previously analyzed or processed, and enable data scientists and analysts to perform advanced analytics and machine learning on large datasets.

Read more: Data Lake: Architecture, Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Flexibility in data storage, allows organizations to store and analyze data of any type, size, or structure.

  • Handle large volumes of data and can easily scale to accommodate new data sources and increasing data volumes.

  • A cost-effective way to store and process large volumes of data, especially when compared to traditional data warehousing solutions.

  • Advanced analytics and machine learning use cases, as they enable data scientists and analysts to perform exploratory analysis and modeling.


  • Contain large volumes of data that may be unprocessed, unstructured, and of varying quality, which can lead to issues with data quality and accuracy.

  • Require robust data governance and management practices to ensure that data is properly classified, secured, and compliant with regulatory requirements.

  • Significant data processing and transformation can be complex and time-consuming.

What is Data Warehouse?

A data warehouse is a centralized repository of structured data from various sources within an organization. Data is transformed, cleaned, and loaded into the warehouse in a pre-defined format, optimized for querying and analysis. Data warehouses are designed to support traditional business intelligence and reporting use cases, providing organizations with a consistent and reliable source of information for decision-making.

Read more: Data Warehouse: Architecture, Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Consistent and accurate data enables organizations to make informed decisions based on reliable information.

  • Robust security and access control mechanisms to protect sensitive data and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

  • Fast querying and analysis, making it easy for end-users to generate reports and perform ad-hoc analysis.


  • The rigid schema limits the types of data that can be stored and analyzed.

  • Building and maintaining a data warehouse can be expensive, particularly for smaller organizations.

  • Slow to respond to change data needs, requiring significant effort to make modifications to the schema or data model.

Difference between Data Lake and Data Warehouse


Data Lake

Data Warehouse

Data Type

Stores raw data of all types and structure

Stores processes data that is structured and organized

Data Purpose

Stores data for future or unknown use cases

Stores data for current and specific use cases


It uses extract-Load-Transform (ELT) process which means data is loaded first and then transformed as needed.

It uses extract-Transform-Load (ETL) process which means data is transformed first and then loaded.

Schema position

It applies schema on read (when data is given a structure when it is accesses)

It applies schema on write (when data is given a structure when it is stored)


It is used by data scientists and engineers who need raw data for machine learning or artificial intelligence

It is used by business analysts and professionals who need structured data for analytics and reporting


It is more accessible and easy to update

It is complicated and rigid to make changes.


Data lake can store raw data without any preprocessing which makes them more affordable and scalable. It also offers pay-per0use pricing models which can reduce the cost of storage and analysis

Data warehouse can be expensive especially if there is large volume of data. It requires data to be processed and transformed before loading, which adds to the expense.


It has less governance and oversight, which can increase the risk of data breaches and misuse. It requires more effort and expertise to secure and manage the data effectively.

It is more secure as it has predefined schemas and access controls that ensure data quality and integrity.

Factors to consider when choosing between Data Lake and Data Warehouse

Data lakes and data warehouses are two distinct storage solutions, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. While data warehouses are more secure and easier to use, they are also more costly and less agile. On the other hand, data lakes are flexible and less expensive, but they require expert interpretation and lack the same level of security.

When deciding between the two, businesses must consider their specific needs and goals. Using the two in tandem is often a sensible strategy for businesses. If there's an existing data warehouse in operation, implementing a data lake to store new data sources could be the most valuable option. A data lake can act as both an information bank and an archive repository of the data moved out of a warehouse.

However, some enterprises choose a data lake over a warehouse model due to its increased capacity and agility. But experts caution against this approach as data lakes are the newer of the two solutions, and there is more scope for unprecedented errors compared to data warehouses. Other factors to consider include data latency, data overindulgence, and regulatory issues.

Businesses should carefully evaluate their data storage and management needs before choosing between data lakes and data warehouses. Using the two in tandem can provide the best of both worlds, but caution must be exercised in adopting newer solutions such as data lakes. Ultimately, the decision should be based on the specific needs and goals of the business.


Choosing between a data lake and a data warehouse depends on several factors. If you have structured data and need to perform complex queries, a data warehouse may be the better choice. However, if you have unstructured or semi-structured data and need to perform advanced data processing or machine learning tasks, a data lake might be more appropriate. Ultimately, the decision comes down to your specific business needs and goals, so carefully evaluate the factors outlined in this article to make an informed decision.

bottom of page