6. Electronic Data Processing Modes

posted Jun 25, 2014, 11:04 PM by Maurice Nyamoti   [ updated Feb 11, 2016, 8:38 PM ]

Electronic Data Processing Modes

Computers are programmed to process data in different ways. Just like humans they can process shortest job first-SJF, First Come First Serve-FCFS or they can just Round Robin giving a time span, important/emergency jobs first-real time. Computers can also multitask or multi-programming etc. Examples of processing modes are:

1.   Online Processing

2.   Real-Time processing

3.   Distributed Processing

4.   Time-Sharing

5.   Batch Processing

6.   Multitasking

7.   Interactive Processing

Online Processing

  • In this processing mode, data is processed immediately it is received.
  • Example: When booking a seat on an airline, the seat is booked immediately.  This is to avoid problems of double-booking.  other example of online processing is when playing computer games online

Real-Time Processing

  • In real time processing the computer processes the incoming data as soon as it occurs, up-dates the transaction file and gives an immediate response that would affect the events as they happen.
  • There is no much difference with online processing however with real-time processing, the outcome of the processing is required immediately to influence decision making and not necessarily through online means but can be within a machine.
  • Example: in nuclear power stations, a certain level of temperature is required to be maintained for effective disintegration of atoms. If the temperatures are not controlled, the system  may cause an emergency situation- like in increase or decrease in slight temperature fluctuations, therefore computers are used to control the air conditioning systems at the plant because they are programmed to provide instant answers upon a slight change in temperature has occurred- that is what we call real-time processing
  • Another example: is the use of humidifiers and dehumidifiers in the computer lab, when there is a lot of humidity, computers turn on the dehumidifiers and vice versa

Distributed data processing

  • These points to dividing (distributing) processing tasks to two or more computers that are located on physically separate sites but connected by data transmission media; there may be a central computer that receives input from the remote computers (terminals), processes the data and updates the master file. If required, the output can be communicated back to the remote terminals.
  • Example: When you withdraw money from a bank, your records are transacted and updated in the main server computer which will also update client computers across the bank branches divide.


  • Just as the name suggests, time-sharing refers to many terminals connected to a central computer and given access to the central processing unit apparently at the same time this sounds like ‘round robin’. Each user is allocated a time slice of the CPU in sequence.

  • The amount of time allocated to each user is controlled by a multi-user operating system. If a user’s task is not completed during the allocated time slice, he/she is allocated another time slice later in a round robin manner.

Batch Processing

  • In batch processing, data is accumulated as a group (batch) over a specified period of time e.g. daily, weekly or monthly.
  • The batch is processed at once. E.g. in a payroll processing system, employees details concerning number of hours worked, rate of pay, and other details are collected for a period of time, say one month. These details are then used to process the payment for the duration worked.

other areas where batch processing can be applied include:

  • Processing bank cheques
  • Printing of bank statements
  • Updating of a stock database


  • Multiprocessing refers to the processing of more than one task apparently at the same time. This is possible in computers like mainframes and network servers.
  • A computer may contain more than one independent central processing unit which works together in a coordinated way. At a given time, the processors may execute instructions from two or more programs or from different parts of one program simultaneously.


  • Also referred to as multitasking- refers to a type of processing where more than one program are processed apparently at the same time by a single central processing unit.
  • Unlike multiprocessing, in multitasking, the computer has only one CPU. The computer allocates each program a time slice and decides what order they will be executed.

Interactive Processing

  • There is a continuous dialogue between the user and the computer.
  • As the program executes, it keeps on prompting the use to provide input or respond to prompts displayed on the screen

Advantages of electronic processing

1. Quick processing especially where all required data is available

2. Availability of data and information digitally

3. Distance between entities that are processing data is made non-significant

4. Support for information sharing and collaboration on a wider scale.

Disadvantages of electronic information processing

1. Security of data can be compromised during storage or while in transit on networks if appropriate measures are not taken

2. Lack of legal frameworks in many countries that should support electronic processing activities

3. Lack of ICT skills among many knowledge workers to support electronic data processing.

Topical Questions

1.   What similarity is there between:

i>           Online processing and real-time processing

ii>          Multiprocessing and multi-programming

2.   What differences are there between:

                      i.        Online processing and real-time processing

                     ii.        Multiprocessing and multi-programming

3.   Gatitu Secondary school Board of Governors has asked you to help them find a computer processing mode that they will introduce to enroll form one students each year that will allow them to confirm admissions, pay school fees without necessarily having to travel physically to the school. Which processing mode would you recommend and why

 4.   Of the processing modes, which mode is effective for filling questionnaires online and why?