Big Data 101

Big data.

What exactly is it?

Big data has been hitting the headlines in 2014 more so than any other year. For some people that’s no surprise, and they have a grasp on what big data really is. For others, the two words “big” and “data” don’t conjure up of a meaning of any kind, but instead they stir confusion and many times, misunderstanding.

There’s a reason big data keeps hitting the headlines — it’s making a tremendous impact on our society. And as it expands to the cloud via Amazon Elastic MapReduce and others, its implementation will only increase. Because of that, it’s important that an understanding of what it is, why it’s important and how it can be used, be fostered among tech professionals, businesses professionals and the general public to ensure it’s continued success well into the future.

To the non tech person, as with any tech term or product, the official lingo to describe big data sounds like a big jumble of random, unintelligible words. Users like to throw around words like nodes, data sets, NoSQL, Hadoop, Hive, MapReduce, query and a host of others. To most people, however, these words don’t mean anything.

Put simply, big data is the overarching term for the process of gathering, storing and analyzing extremely large amounts of data (instead of megabyte and gigabyte, we’re talking petabyte (the “byte” after terabyte) and potentially exabyte).

Why kind of data is it? It can span the spectrum of internet browsing information, social media posts and mobile app usage to sales data, income reports and millions of movements tracked during a basketball game. Any and all data make up big data. Really, it’s whatever data a company or enterprise decides to gather.

Using software like Hadoop, Hive, Pig, Presto or others the data is gathered in many different ways and stored on large servers on the company premises, or it’s stored in the cloud, an increasingly popular option, through a big data in the cloud provider. Then data is taken and analyzed. Best of all, much of the gathering and analytics is now done in real-time. It’s completely changing the business world.

Once you know what big data is, it becomes easier to understand why it’s so important. The changes that it can bring about are truly astounding.

Big data is important because with modern technology like the internet, social media and mobile apps on smart phones and tablets, there is more information available and more information being created than ever before. However, without big data technology there would be no way to gather, store or analyze all this information and what could be used would be slow and inefficient. Big data is taking this jumble of information and turning it into a gold mine — a place where companies can go to find solutions to some of their most difficult questions.

Big data not only handles large amounts of information, but it handles it quickly and efficiently. It’s drastically reducing the downtime companies encountered in the past. Changes can be implemented quickly and monitored in real-time. Emergencies can be handled in a matter of minutes instead of days or weeks.

With big data, companies are finding new avenues to market and sell their products and services.

For the consumer, big data means better products, lower costs and quicker service.

Big data makes every business or enterprise that adopts it better. That being said, big data won’t solve every problem. Certainly a company still needs exceptional leadership, dedicated employees and valuable products to succeed. However, when you take a successful business, or a startup that’s on the right path, and combine it with big data, you’re going to see tremendous results.

Begin using big data now. The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be. It’s not just a hype word or some novel technology anymore. Today it’s a necessity.

That being said, don’t be naive! You need to understand what big data is, what it can do and how it works before you implement it. It has to have a purpose or you’re just wasting your company’s time and money. Look at how it can help your business, because it certainly can, and then go and implement it.

Make sure to understand the options available. Do you want a big data system (known as infrastructure in the industry) on-site or do you want to go through cloud computing? There are pros and cons to each, but increasingly companies are finding decreased risk, greater flexibility and lower costs with big data in the cloud. How much storage will you need and what growth do you expect in the future? What kind of capital do you have available to invest currently?

Asking the right questions will go a long way to ensure successful adoption of big data technology.

Finally, make big data a company priority. Invest in leadership that supports it. Invest in employees who grasp it and are enthusiastic about it. Get the technology and stay on top.

There’s no substitute for the dynamic change that big data will bring to your business.

Category: Enterprise Data Management
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