Big data is a term for data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing application software is inadequate to deal with them. Challenges include capture, storage, analysis, data curation, search, sharing, transfer, visualization, querying, updating and information privacy. The term “big data” often refers simply to the use of predictive analytics, user behavior analytics, or certain other advanced data analytics methods that extract value from data, and seldom to a particular size of data set. “There is little doubt that the quantities of data now available are indeed large, but that’s not the most relevant characteristic of this new data ecosystem.” Analysis of data sets can find new correlations to “spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on.” Scientists, business executives, practitioners of medicine, advertising and governments alike regularly meet difficulties with large data-sets in areas including Internet search, finance, urban informatics, and business informatics. Scientists encounter limitations in e-Science work, including meteorology, genomics, connectomics, complex physics simulations, biology and environmental research.
Data sets grow rapidly – in part because they are increasingly gathered by cheap and numerous information-sensing mobile devices, aerial (remote sensing), software logs, cameras, microphones, radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers and wireless sensor networks. The world’s technological per-capita capacity to store information has roughly doubled every 40 months since the 1980s; as of 2012, every day 2.5 exabytes (2.5×1018) of data are generated. One question for large enterprises is determining who should own big-data initiatives that affect the entire organization.
Relational database management systems and desktop statistics- and visualization-packages often have difficulty handling big data. The work may require “massively parallel software running on tens, hundreds, or even thousands of servers”. What counts as “big data” varies depending on the capabilities of the users and their tools, and expanding capabilities make big data a moving target. “For some organizations, facing hundreds of gigabytes of data for the first time may trigger a need to reconsider data management options. For others, it may take tens or hundreds of terabytes before data size becomes a significant consideration.”
The importance of big data doesn’t revolve around how much data you have, but what you do with it. You can take data from any source and analyze it to find answers that enable 1) cost reductions, 2) time reductions, 3) new product development and optimized offerings, and 4) smart decision making. When you combine big data with high-powered analytics, you can accomplish business-related tasks such as:
With large amounts of information streaming in from countless sources, banks are faced with finding new and innovative ways to manage big data. While it’s important to understand customers and boost their satisfaction, it’s equally important to minimize risk and fraud while maintaining regulatory compliance. Big data brings big insights, but it also requires financial institutions to stay one step ahead of the game with advanced analytics.
Educators armed with data-driven insight can make a significant impact on school systems, students and curriculums. By analyzing big data, they can identify at-risk students, make sure students are making adequate progress, and can implement a better system for evaluation and support of teachers and principals.
When government agencies are able to harness and apply analytics to their big data, they gain significant ground when it comes to managing utilities, running agencies, dealing with traffic congestion or preventing crime. But while there are many advantages to big data, governments must also address issues of transparency and privacy.
Patient records. Treatment plans. Prescription information. When it comes to health care, everything needs to be done quickly, accurately – and, in some cases, with enough transparency to satisfy stringent industry regulations. When big data is managed effectively, health care providers can uncover hidden insights that improve patient care.
Armed with insight that big data can provide, manufacturers can boost quality and output while minimizing waste – processes that are key in today’s highly competitive market. More and more manufacturers are working in an analytics-based culture, which means they can solve problems faster and make more agile business decisions.
Customer relationship building is critical to the retail industry – and the best way to manage that is to manage big data. Retailers need to know the best way to market to customers, the most effective way to handle transactions, and the most strategic way to bring back lapsed business. Big data remains at the heart of all those things.
This category includes data that reaches your IT systems from a web of connected devices. You can analyze this data as it arrives and make decisions on what data to keep, what not to keep and what requires further analysis.
Social media data
The data on social interactions is an increasingly attractive set of information, particularly for marketing, sales and support functions. It’s often in unstructured or semistructured forms, so it poses a unique challenge when it comes to consumption and analysis.
Publicly available sources
Massive amounts of data are available through open data sources like the US government’s data.gov, the CIA World Factbook or the European Union Open Data Portal.
How to store and manage it
Whereas storage would have been a problem several years ago, there are now low-cost options for storing data if that’s the best strategy for your business.
How much of it to analyze
Some organizations don’t exclude any data from their analyses, which is possible with today’s high-performance technologies such as grid computing or in-memory analytics. Another approach is to determine upfront which data is relevant before analyzing it.
How to use any insights you uncover
The more knowledge you have, the more confident you’ll be in making business decisions. It’s smart to have a strategy in place once you have an abundance of information at hand.