What Big Data Means to Small Business

By Pam Baker | Posted May 15, 2012

It's hard for a small business to decide what to do with Big Data, if anything, because all the hype is so vague. Typically the description of what Big Data is goes something like this: "it is data with velocity, variety and volume." Well, that's illuminating, isn't it? "It really means data that is too big to manage by traditional means," explains Dustin Snell, CTO of Network Automation.

And that massive data may reside inside your company or out. "The job is to identify value from this growing reservoir of data," explains DataSift's CMO, Tim Barker. "Data that companies used to throw away can now be economically stored and analyzed."

But what does that mean to your small business, you ask? It could mean booming sales or it could mean nothing at all. How you wield the Big Data sword determines which way it cuts.

Big Data is Not Your Problem; It's Your Opportunity

Big Data is actually a problem for big business, not so much for a small one.


"Big Data, as a technology description, refers to the problem or issue created when data becomes too large or too varied for conventional database systems to analyze it," says Scott Kinka, CTO for Evolve IP. "It is a problem that in many cases is unique to larger businesses. Big Data is not measured in Terabytes. It's measured in petabytes and exabytes."

Big Data and Small Business

Small businesses can take advantage of the technology that's being created to deal with Big Data.

See? Extra exabytes of information lying around isn't a problem small businesses actually have. However, big businesses created opportunities for small businesses in the solutions they developed to solve their problems -- not yours.

"In practice, Big Data has come to refer to the tools that are emerging to wrangle this information," explains Kinka. "And while SMBs don't necessarily have a Big Data problem, they can take advantage of the technology that's being created to deal with it. Data mash-ups, Visualization, and cloud-based Business Intelligence (BI) solutions are making it more accessible than ever for small businesses to do something with the data in their business -- not just on a one-to-one basis, but across multiple, disparate data types."

Where Big Data Lives

So, where do you find all this big data that you don't have? Just about anywhere.

"There are much more readily available pieces of big data now than ever," says Gary Bishop, CEO of Network Automation. "Like census data and public records, for example."

"You can query systems online, get the data back, analyze it, move it to any system you please, and use it -- all of it automated so no one has to struggle with it," he added.

There is also plenty of data you can better use internally such as email. Yes, email.

Think of all the email you get, all the email your staff gets and how much of that has accumulated over time -- with yet more to come. "There are a lot of hidden gems in company email; from prospects to ideas in employee conversations with clients and customers -- and every bit of it is mineable data," says Snell.

"The same is true with all the data associated with your website," he added. "You can get a single, clear view of your customer or prospects from email conversations to relational data (data from tables), machine generated data, and more."



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