As buzzwords go, big data is currently one of the most powerful—and one of the most perplexing. It sounds like something only multinational conglomerates can afford. But the concept of analyzing very large amounts of data and looking within it for patterns, trends, and insights is one that nearly any business, large or small, can use to help make better decisions.
The big data you might not know you have
Chances are, you’re already processing big data, even if you aren’t aware of it. If you have a website, you probably use a tracking system like Google Analytics to help you determine who’s coming to your site, what pages they’re looking at, and what its overall traffic patterns are like. This is, in simple terms, big data in action. You’d never manually download your Web server’s log files and pore through them, entry by entry. You need to step back and let a big-data tool—in this case, Google Analytics—help you make sense of it and present the insights in a more visual, easily understood way.
The key word in “big data” is big: The more data you have, the better it works. Want to gain insights into your finances? A few hundred sales records might tell you something, but a few million will turn up more trends and help you gain a deeper understanding of where your money is coming from. Want to get a bird’s-eye view of your customer base? Thousands of customers and prospects fed into a big-data tool will be more valuable than an analysis of, say, your top ten buyers.