Big Data: Cutting Through the Hype

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“Big data” is as the name implies – sets of data so huge and complicated traditional storage and analytical tools often times have difficulty processing them.

As big data is being stored at record rates, companies have two major challenges.  First, they need to store and manage the volume of data.  Second, and most important, they need to analyze the vast amounts of data to derive value from it.

To put this explosion in perspective, a paper published during the 2012 IEEE Aerospace Conference estimated the size of digital data in 2011 to be 1.8 Zettabytes, or 1.8 trillion Gigabytes.

By 2020, this figure is anticipated to be 50 times higher.

Along with the challenges of managing such monumental amounts of data, organizations can also reap significant rewards.  When properly collected, stored and analyzed, big data can help solve real business problems and can provide a good return on investment.

Using predictive analytics, organizations can begin to see patterns and anomalies in the data.  Many companies are starting to take the next step to uncover this meaningful information to increase revenues, cut costs, and enhance operations.

Big data analytics offers possibilities to improve performance.  These two examples show how:

  • Better Customer Understanding – Big data replaces the previous methods of basic survey-taking by enabling for conversations and natural language to be analyzed.  Rather than evaluating checked boxes and canned answers, today’s analytics tools capture and process customer responses on a much deeper level.
  • Improved Public Safety – Analyzing big data collected from a variety of sources can also be used to keep people safer.  Changes in crime rates can be evaluated to see if correlations exist with certain events, such as changing demographics, increased construction activity, more public assistance requests and social media chatter.

Filtering through the Hype and Misconceptions

Just like any emerging technological concept, hype surrounds big data.  And it’s important for companies to weed through what the so-called pundits are saying to find the real value for their business.  The potential is certainly there to reap significant rewards.  But, becoming a success story typically means overcoming a challenges along the way too.

To separate the big data hype from reality, organizations must understand the following facts:

  • Big Data Benefits All-Sized Companies – Just because it’s “big” data doesn’t mean it’s only for big companies.  Forgoing a big data project could mean missing out on opportunities to improve performance.  Today’s sophisticated analytics tools allow even the smallest company to look for patterns and relationships in large amounts of data.

In fact, using big data best practices enables smaller companies to better compete.  Their size usually makes them more nimble than larger firms.  And when smaller companies become more data-driven, they are likely well positioned to outpace larger competitors.

  • Big Data Equates More to Growth than Size – Although big data often refers to massive amounts of data, it’s more appropriate to relate the term to how much data volume is growing for a particular company.  Even the smallest of organizations is likely to experience data growth.  If an organization’s data volume doubles, it doesn’t really matter if the amount may be considered small by big company standards.
  • Companies Don’t Need a Data Scientist – To benefit from big data, sophisticated algorithms need to analyze it.  Although these algorithms are written by data scientists, companies don’t need to have these experts on staff.  Packaged software is available to help companies of all sizes become more data-driven.  It allows them to retrieve valuable, actionable information.
  • Analysis of Big Data Doesn’t Require Traditional Reporting of Historical Data – The major benefit companies get from analyzing big data is identifying what’s going on today and what is likely to happen in the future.  Determining patterns and relationships doesn’t necessarily mean analyzing static historical data.

How to Best Leverage Big Data

Once organizations understand the reality of big data, they can begin to develop a plan for benefitting from it.  Here are some suggestions on how best to collect, store and analyze big data to positively impact performance:

  • Don’t Focus on the Technology at the Expense of Business Objectives – It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and latest innovations surrounding big data.  But before implementing a solution, companies must understand the underlying business problem they want big data to solve.

What can the information gleaned from big data analysis help improve?  What current challenge does the business need to overcome?  To get the most from big data initiatives, avoid starting with the chicken (solution) before the egg (problem).

  • Eliminate Employee Information Processing Tasks Whenever Possible – Big data can help streamline jobs for many employees.  Often, performing routine informational tasks takes people away from what’s really important.  Instead of handling routine information processing, the proper big data program can enable employees to focus on contributing to meeting company goals.
  • Consolidate Organizational Data – Big data eliminates the need to keep functional data separate.  No longer does Marketing, Human Resources or Finance need their own data silos.  Instead, big data enables everyone in the organization to access the same data set.

This consolidation of data enables departments to collaborate better.  In addition, big data provides analytical capabilities and valuable insights to a broader group of employees within the organization.

  • Implementing an Effective Cloud Infrastructure – In most cases, big data need a fast connection to the cloud.  Cloud storage provides benefits over traditional storage, including faster transfer times for large amounts of data, better scalability to accommodate changing data volumes, enhanced disaster recovery in the event of an outage, and better security technology and practices.

In addition, cloud storage solutions for big data require no installation or large capital outlays.  Businesses can be up and running very quickly.  By providing economies of scale, most cloud solutions will also lower overall big data storage costs.

CyrusOne enables businesses to successfully run their cloud infrastructure systems using the The Sky for the Cloud™ technology. This enablement platform provides a home for cloud providers and enterprise private clouds in a customized data hall.

Data centers at CyrusOne are designed for optimizing Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and enabling fast interconnection to an ecosystem of channel and cloud partners, content providers, networks, carriers, Internet service providers, and Ethernet buyers and sellers. The solution enables customers to more quickly and affordably pull content from the edge of the Internet to the heart of the data center.

According to industry experts, big data will keep growing at a dramatic pace.  Companies large and small can take advantage of this trend without it becoming a daunting project.  The right tools, data center configuration, and approach to big data will result in better information and competitive advantages.  The results of big data analytics will provide meaningful information that could improve decision-making and overall company performance.

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