For Big Data, SMBs Work the Cloud to Their Advantage

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted July 05, 2012

Small businesses aren't as intimidated by Big Data as conventional wisdom would have the IT industry believe, according to a new SAP-sponsored survey conducted by Harris Interactive.

The research outfit found that among the 154 C-level executives polled for the survey, 76 percent viewed Big Data as an opportunity. A minority, 24 percent, considered it a challenge.

As backwards as the results may seem at first glance, it actually makes a lot of sense to David Jonker, director of database and analytics for Sybase, an SAP company. He says that "on reflection, there's a reason why SMBs shouldn't shy away from Big Data."

Why? "SMBs are a little bit more nimble about making it happen out of the gate," says Jonker.


He's referring to the relatively little red tape that SMBs have to cut through to adopt Big Data solutions. As a result, they can more quickly use tools that help unearth and exploit business opportunities that buried under mountains of data.

Head in the Clouds

Without expansive IT departments to slow down -- or outright derail -- the decision-making process, smaller organizations are quicker to pull the trigger on Big Data solutions, particularly cloud-based ones, explains Jonker. For many small businesses, the default mindset is, "let's experiment in the cloud," he says.

Large corporations, on the other hand, don't typically enjoy that flexibility. Corporate or regulatory governance concerns often "stop companies from having another company handle their data on the cloud," observes Jonker.

It doesn't hurt that a fast-growing ecosystem of SMB-friendly cloud services is starting to emerge. Although small businesses are often portrayed as IT deficient and perpetually cash-strapped, dramatic shifts in how enterprise-grade compute power is accessed, consumed and paid for help to somewhat level the playing field.

Fortunately for small businesses, they are no strangers to the cloud.

Cloud technology was employed in some capacity by 64 percent of those companies surveyed by Harris Interactive. Of those, 38 percent restricted their cloud use to storing and managing Big Data. Private clouds or off-premises data centers were the Big Data storage option of choice for 27 percent while 11 percent parked their Big Data on public clouds.

Defining Big Data

Other interesting insights surfaced from the survey. In particular, there seems to be some disagreement on what the term means. (Small Business Computing is partial to this classic definition of Big Data.)

Twenty-eight percent classified Big Data as the "massive growth in transaction data." New technology that handles the "volume, variety and velocity challenges of Big Data" got 24 percent of the vote.

Regulatory compliance requirements that govern data storage and archiving sounded right for 19 percent of respondents, while 18 percent pointed to data sources like machine-generated, social media and mobile devices.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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