We’ve been hearing a lot about ‘big data’ these days so it made me think if everyone really understands what big data is and what’s the big deal with it. For example, as a CEO how would big data affect you and your business and how can you greatly utilize big data?
So what is big data? Big data, according to Wikipedia, is a term used to define a collection of data that is so large and complex that it eventually becomes difficult to work with using only on-hand database management tools. Data analysts oftentimes encounter difficulties such as capturing, storing, searching, sharing, analyzing, and visualizing large sets of data.
To give you an idea of what big data is, let’s look at Facebook. Facebook has millions of users worldwide which produces gazillions of data each day. Everything you do on Facebook contributes to big data. Like when you change your status, upload photos, chat with your friends, send messages, play games – everything produces data. You’d think that a single person doesn’t produce that much data, then how about a thousand people? What more a million?
So to handle big data, companies often hire services to help keep traffic flowing smoothly. Like for example Megaupload. The very controversial file sharing site used services offered by file hosting companies such as Carpathia Hosting Inc. and Cogent Communications Group Inc. to keep users’ files safe.
But what about other companies? What do they do with big data?
Big data and business
Big data is great for getting a general idea of how consumers are reacting to your product or if your service is is being enjoyed customers. Take for example Pinterest, the pinning social networking and sharing site generates a lot of user data. The site is being used by brands to promote their products and with analytics tools like Pinfluencer, brands would know how many of their items get repinned or how many people are talking about their brand or new line of products. It helps them improve their products while they interact with their consumers.
Since we produce huge amounts of big data everyday, companies need to keep up with that so they need partners that can analyze big data as quickly as possible. Analytic tools usually give you results a few minutes after you send them your data so worrying about keeping things up to speed won’t be a problem and CEOs and CIOs will always be on top of things.
As for the cost of big data projects, an article on Forbes breaks it down into three categories:
- Best of Breed: A company can acquire each technology component from the best vendor in each category and build the big data applications themselves—a costly but highly flexible and powerful option.
- Packaged applications: A company can purchase a pre-integrated big data suite from a single technology vendor – an excellent and cost-effective choice, especially when you plan to focus your big data efforts in one area, such as analyzing online customer behavior.
- Software as a Service: SaaS vendors will collect and store the data, house the infrastructure and do all the heavy-lifting analytics and data management for you, avoiding the significant capital investment required in hardware, software and staff.
As the name implies, Best of Breed is the most expensive category. And don’t think big data projects are cheap. Take a look at the government’s recent $13.4 million cash out for a National Science Foundation data mining project.
But there’s one thing that head of companies should realize about big data and big data analysis is that no matter what the data shows, it won’t make your business magically better. It just helps you analyze the situation so you can make better decisions or choices that would benefit your company. Using tools to analyze won’t solve problems but it can help you think of solutions. No matter how great your data scientists are or how efficient your analytics tool is, if you don’t know how to use the result, then everything won’t matter.