In the last few years, a change has crept up on our society. The average person is largely unaware of it, but it is transforming the way every aspect of our civilization works. I’m talking about the Big Data tsunami. Our capabilities to collect data have grown exponentially thanks to the growth of the Internet of Things. According to IBM, we’ve collected 90% of the data we’re storing today in the last two years. That is mind-blowing to think about, and it has huge implications for small businesses when it comes to Big Data solutions.
Don’t let the name fool you: Big Data isn’t only for big companies. It’s also vitally important for small and medium-sized businesses. Everyone should be paying attention to Big Data trends and implementing data management solutions within their company. Small businesses can use the data they are collecting to:
- Maximize their efficiency.
- Ensure customer satisfaction.
- Improve their marketing strategy.
- Grow their business.
If you’ve found this article, chances are that you are at least aware of Big Data. People in the tech world throw the term around often these days, but what exactly does it mean? I’m going to go over the basics of Big Data, what it entails, and how you can use it to benefit your small business.
We should start with a definition, but that’s harder than you’d think. Big Data doesn’t have one exact definition, and it is difficult to encapsulate in one sentence or even one paragraph. There is no one correct definition. It’s both to do with how much data we are collecting, its value, and how we use it. Big data was initially defined by Doug Laney, of META Group (now Gartner) using the three Vs. Back in 2001 he used the three Vs to define the scope of Big Data. Other companies have added more Vs and various other letters, but if you go back to the basics, there are three.
The 3 Vs
- Velocity: The speed, at which we are collecting data is the first V. Back when Doug Laney defined the term ‘big data’, we were already collecting large amounts of data at a rapid pace, but the speed in which we collect data today is mind-blowing. Billions of connected devices collect data continuously, and the number of devices increases every day.
- Variety: Everyone is now collecting data on everything imaginable. Sensors collect, store, and analyze data on factors that you would never have imagined. That means we’re collecting an obscene amount of data on an insane variety of things. Which leads us to our next stop.
- Volume: Because we are collecting data at an absurd pace on everything possible, we are collecting and storing a ridiculous amount of data. Remember, we’re collecting 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.
This all means that we have more data than we know what to do with, and as the NSA found out, a lot of information goes to waste when we don’t have the capability to analyze the masses of data in meaningful ways.
As you can see, the quantity of data isn’t all that defines Big Data. In addition to these three Vs, Big Data also refers to the uses and applications of the data, not just the properties of the data itself. The point is, Big Data is not only the sets of collected data, it’s a complex set of factors, tools, and uses for the data.
How much data is Big Data?
Now that we’ve defined Big Data (or tried to), we need to talk about what’s in the name: Big. Just because people refer to the masses of data we’re collecting globally as Big Data doesn’t mean it only has applications for large corporations. As I mentioned, when a business is collecting more data than they have the capability to analyze, valuable information not only goes to waste, but costs money to store. This a problem common to both large and small businesses. If your business is collecting any data, you’re a part of the Big Data phenomenon.
Big Data is all about how you use the data you collect. Large companies were the first to use Big Data solutions to manage the enormous amount of data they were collecting. But as the Internet of Things and our capabilities to collect data on every little thing grew exponentially, even small companies are now collecting so much data that they need strategies to manage it. Big Data solutions are just as viable and necessary for a startup as a multi-billion dollar company.
How can small businesses use Big Data?
Having Big Data solutions are an absolute necessity, not a luxury. In today’s world, you are collecting data, and lots of it. I’ve talked about how Big Data solutions are necessary to get the most value out of the data you’re collecting, but we need to talk about what that value is exactly. What is the point of collecting all this data, and how is it valuable to small businesses?
What are the benefits of Big Data solutions for small businesses?
If you hope to grow your small business into a large one, you’ll need the insights that data analysis allows.
Breaks down complex business problems into understandable data. This only works if your Big Data solutions have an effective UI that presents the data in compelling visuals. Clean, visually appealing dynamic infographics can help business owners understand confusing data and figure out practical applications.
Provide better customer service. When you have the data that tells you what is selling best, and what the customers want the most, you can cater to their needs and wants.
Improve marketing strategies to grow your business. Having easily-interpretable data on your client’s needs and buying habits not only helps you provide better service to your existing customers, it can help you figure out how to attract new ones.
Get an edge on the competition. Right now, getting into Big Data will give you an advantage over competitors. In the future, it will likely be a matter-of-course, but it’s just new enough that many of your competitors won’t have implemented Big Data solutions yet. It’s a matter of getting a head start on your competitors, or getting left behind.
What are the downsides of Big Data?
While Big Data solutions are a must for small-businesses, there are some downfalls to watch out for and avoid. According to the New York Times, Big Data, while useful, is no magic bullet.
Inaccurate data. Any analysis on a large scale will have weaknesses, but as far as small businesses discerning trends from their stored data, it can be extremely useful to track customer demographics, buying trends, popularity of products, etc.
Cost. Implementing Big Data solutions without breaking the budget can be a challenge for small businesses. If businesses go all-in on poorly planned solutions for the sake of jumping on a trend, chances are they’ll end up wasting money. Small businesses need Big Data solutions that are well thought-out and tailored for their needs. When it comes to Big Data, one size does not fit all.
Incorrect interpretation. Humans still have to analyze Big Data, and that’s where it can fail. Humans whose job is to analyze the trends can screw up (this year’s presidential election being an example). The data you’re collecting can be perfectly valid, but humans naturally use their own biases when interpreting it. This can lead to bad predictions.
There are going to be flaws with any data analysis, particularly when using it to predict future trends. As we learned this year, the world is an unpredictable place that can’t be neatly summed up with data sets. We can however try, especially when it comes to your business. Just because there are risks and downsides doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore Big Data. It just means you need to find the right solutions. So let’s get into how you can get involved.
How can I get involved with Big Data?
- Identify the need or problem. Isolate the problems your business is encountering when it comes to data management. What is your area of need? You probably already have an idea of what the problem might be, but until you focus in on the cause, you can’t start finding a solution.
- Decide on a solution. Once you have identified the problems and their causes, you can start to think about how to solve those problems. Come up with an idea for a solution to the weak spots in your data management. One solution does not fit all, and blindly trying to force an irrelevant solution on your business will only waste time and effort and keep you at square one.
- Get someone to help. Once you have an idea of the type of solution you need, you should consult with an experienced team of Big Data professionals, who know how to create and implement custom Big Data solutions. They can help you develop a Big Data solution tailored to your company’s needs.
Here at Bridgera, we offer customized Big Data solutions to businesses of all sizes, and we’d love to talk to you about how you can manage your data and use it for your company’s benefit. Leave a comment about how your business has implemented Big Data solutions or get in touch with us to get started today.
About the Author:
Sophia Davies is on the marketing team at Bridgera LLC. She is responsible for media communications and enjoys helping people understand the importance of IoT and Big Data.