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Hightouch vs. Census: The Key Differences

Learn everything there is to know about Hightouch and Census and discover the key differences around security, data access, audience management, speed, etc.

Luke Kline.

Luke Kline

November 3, 2021

6 minutes

Hightouch vs. Census: The Key Differences.

As the very first company to coin the term “Reverse ETL”, Hightouch is paving the direction for Data Activation and the modern data stack. Every feature we add and every decision we make is focused on simplifying the lives of data engineers and putting data into the hands of business users. We’re paving the direction for Data Activation. As such, we will always aim to set the standard for Reverse ETL and continue to be multiple ahead of Census.

Companies like Imperfect Foods, Lucid, CircleCI, Vendr, Blend, and more continue to choose Hightouch over Census because we offer more integrations, better observability, transparent pricing, and more features for data engineers and business teams. Ultimately, there are several key things to consider when comparing Reverse ETL capabilities like flexibility, bulk API support, observability, audience management, and version control.

We’ve done our best to document the most important factors in this spreadsheet. If you have an objection or see something that is wrong, please reach out to us at so we can make the appropriate change.

Security & Hosting

Security and hosting are an important part of any data tool and basic compliance certifications are a must. You should be able to choose exactly which region your SaaS tool is hosted in. Regional regulations (such as GDPR and the Data Protection Act) require data processing to remain in-region, so it’s paramount that organizations in the EU have a SaaS option hosted in their own region.

Hightouch can be deployed in the EU or the US, without ever storing your data (Census is only available in the US). You also need to ensure that your Reverse ETL provider provides robust SSO support and role-based access controls so you can define exactly what level of access your users should have. Currently, Census only provides SSO support for Okta and no permissions for users. With Hightouch you can access all of your favorite SSO providers and roles (admins, editors, viewers) directly in your workspaces.

Hightouch vs Rudderstack Security & Hosting

Data Access

When evaluating data access, the number of data sources supported should be high on your priority list. Hightouch supports 19 different data sources and Census supports 10. In some scenarios, you might need to move data from a non-database like SFTP or a BI tool like Metabase. Either way, you’ll want to ensure you can pull data using simple SQL and access the existing data models in your dbt Git repository. This is exactly why incremental syncing is so important because every time you run a new sync you need to ensure you are only syncing the recent changes in your data model. Hightouch supports incremental syncing for all sources, whereas Census only supports incremental syncing for warehouse sources.

Hightouch vs Census Data Access

Data Syncing

Data syncs are the backbone of any Reverse ETL and you need to be able to schedule them to run manually, on an interval, with a cron expression, or programmatically. It’s vital that your Reverse ETL provider offers a robust library of destinations so you can send data to any of your downstream tools, whether that be syncing custom objects, customer lists, behavioral events, sending data to file systems, or even supporting your workflow automations. Hightouch has 100+ integrations compared to the 59 that Census offers.

When syncing your data, you’ll inevitably need to test individual records to view API requests and response payloads. With Census, you can test one record, but it’s chosen randomly and you have no access to the API requests or response payloads (this is only available at the initial sync creation). Hightouch lets you test any record in your data model for all new and existing syncs. Hightouch also provides an advanced mapper that supports transformation within your sync configuration. Census only supports injecting a constant string, number, boolean, or datetime.

Hightouch vs Census Data Syncing

Audience Management

Hightouch is leading the conversation for the Unbundled CDP. In order to adopt this new architectural model, you need to provide your non-technical users with powerful tooling to build and manage customer cohorts in a self-service way. When building custom audiences you’ll need to join across both related data models and behavioral event models. Sync templates are also important so your non-technical users can modularize their sync configuration and take advantage of the mappings your data team has already set in place.

Audience builders should also support robust audience organization like custom views and label-based access. In addition to this, you should also be able to materialize your audience back into your warehouse for analytics purposes. Although Census does provide a segmentation builder, it simply enables WHERE clauses on a single data model, and offers almost none of the tooling required to empower your marketing teams to leverage the warehouse as the source of truth.

Hightouch vs Census 4.png

Developer Ecosystem

Your data syncs are just as important as your production code, so you should have access to robust data features whether it’s backing up your syncs with version control through Git or orchestrating them through Airflow. No matter what, you’ll inevitably run into errors. Hightouch’s Live debugger gives you access to API requests/responses and it’s fully searchable by the primary key.

Census only lets you view the last 100 API calls within a given sync and it’s not searchable. Hightouch also integrates with Datadog, so you can create customized alerts and dashboards for your syncs. Depending on your needs, you should be able to choose exactly how you use your Reverse ETL tool and optimize it for your team, whether that is syncing metadata back into the warehouse or sending alerts to your favorite tools.

Hightouch vs Census 5.png

Transparent Pricing

Pricing for Census is based on destination fields, whereas Hightouch is based on destinations. This makes it much easier for you to accurately and transparently predict costs. With Hightouch you can even try out any destination for 14 days at no charge. Best of all, the first integration is completely free.

Speed and Benchmarking

Both Hightouch and Census are comparable in terms of speed. To learn more about how Hightouch and Census compare in terms of speed (and our response to the misleading benchmarks Census has put out), see our article here.


Hightouch has better features for data engineers, marketers, and business teams. As we continue to forge the path for Reverse ETL, we will always be one year ahead of the competition.

If you’re evaluating Reverse ETL platforms, download our Complete Reverse ETL Buyer's Guide to learn everything there is to know about Reverse ETL and what you should consider when evaluating tools.

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