‘Big data’ was a hot topic in the IT industry for years before anyone really knew what the words actually meant. Everybody knows what data is, but we also live in a world where in technology terms something big will become small, very quickly. So how did this mysterious entity come about and how is it revolutionising the way businesses operate in the 21st century?
Big data is the term used to describe the huge amount of data that is now available. So large that it can’t be processed using traditional database and software techniques, big data is not only changing the way we work, it’s changing the way we live and think. And it can help companies to improve operations and make faster, more educated and more intelligent decisions.
Originally introduced in the early 2000s by Gartner analyst Doug Laney, big data was defined by the three Vs of volume, variety, velocity. Since then the definition has changed and now incorporates three additional characteristics – variability, veracity and complexity.
The three Vs refer to the amount of data, the various types of data and the speed or velocity at which data is processed. The more recent Vs – and the single C – account for the wider ranges within data itself, the need for valuation of data and the multiple sources from which data now comes. What do this mean and how can big data benefit your business?
Basically, big data is the same as any other data and so can help you understand your business, customer or industry better. With more accurate and detailed analysis, you should be able to improve operational efficiencies, reduce risk and deliver savings where they really matter – on your bottom line.
When Google predicted recent flu outbreaks across the United States faster and more accurately than the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the role that big data can play was clear to see. Using their stored searches, Google highlighted how organisations must make decisions based on big data analysis to flourish in an ever-evolving market.
But if there is so much data to work through, how can you get to the information you need quickly and efficiently so you can really make it count?
With this new ability to gather data from virtually any source and then use it to our own ends, the real evolution of big data is that we can now do something with it. When working with big data, there are limitless opportunities available to businesses and organisations but the key elements should always be the same – data, analytics and tools.
It’s vital that high performance analytics are used to gather either all the information they can (to be worked through as and when required), or only relevant information that has been defined prior to analysis. Once the data has been analysed, final and perhaps even the most important stage is the use of tools to integrate these findings into how businesses operate on a daily basis.
With this in place, it becomes easier and smoother to integrate data, amend processes and drive positive changes based on your results. Obviously, it’s crucial to constantly evolve over time as all of the elements are subject to change. Whether you were first in the queue or the last one to the big data party, it will keep on introducing you to new and improved ways of working, living and thinking that you probably wouldn’t have thought of before.