Big Data and Business Intelligence Resources for SMBs - Page 2

By Pam Baker
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How to Choose a Big Data Solution

What should you look for in big-data-for-the-small-guy software?

"When you consider a big data solution for your small business, look for these three elements: ease of use, a mobile-forward strategy, and a cloud-based architecture," advises Quinton Alsbury, co-founder and president of product Innovation at Roambi, maker of a mobile-first, cloud-based business analytics and reporting tool.

"As a small business you probably don't have a full-time data scientist on the payroll, so choosing a tool that can be used by the entire organization is essential," says Alsbury.

But there is one other thing that's different about big data as opposed to traditional data or BI analytics: speed. It provides really, really fast data input and analysis. So naturally, you must look for this key capability.

Rich Reimer, vice president of marketing and product development for Splice Machine, a transactional SQL-on-Hadoop database designed for real-time big data applications, offers two questions and answers that can help small business owners choose a product:

1. Can the big data system update data in real-time? "We have never met a company, regardless of its size, that did not want reports and analytics to be more real-time," says Reimer. "This means that data should be updated in real-time or near real-time: within seconds to a few minutes."

2. Can the product support real-time applications? "Small businesses don't have armies of analysts to sift through the data, and then contact other humans to take action. Where possible, SMBs should use off-the-shelf algorithms or simple rules to automate common actions," says Reimer. "Keep it simple—focus on the 20 percent of the actions that drive 80 percent of the value in your business."

And, if you happen to be using SQL already, Reimer says you have an extra advantage if your big data tool-of-choice supports SQL too. "Small businesses can't afford to hire Java programmers to write custom MapReduce programs to get data out of their big data systems," he says.

Start with the Basic Big Data Tools First

If you honestly are at a loss as to where to start with big data, you might want to try some basic tools first—some of which are free—before buying a big data product or service. That way you will have a much better idea of the types of questions you need answered by data. 

Just keep in mind that these tools have their limitations, and that you will likely need to dive in deeper into big data very soon. Translation: do not get comfortable at the basic level and think you can stay there forever. Learn and grow. And then grow some more.

Here's a list of great tools to help you start understanding and using big data. These are not presented in any particular order, and you'll probably want to try several to get a better gist of the possibilities big data presents. This is also not a comprehensive list. There are other products on the market and more joining everyday.

Google Analytics

Google offers many educational resources for Google Analytics ranging from introductory to advanced. You might want to start with those to develop your analysis skills in general and for using Google Analytics in particular. Otherwise, go to the Setup Checklist and the Getting Started Guide, and you'll be analyzing your data in no time.  If you need a little extra help, go to the help center where you'll find helpful articles on all things Google Analytics, including implementation, analysis best practices, and troubleshooting.

MicroStrategy Free Analytics Desktop Tool

This is a free stand-alone desktop tool (meaning you don't have to already own or buy something to get this freebie). It lets you pull your data right into the tool, analyze it and turn it into easy to understand visualizations.

You're not obligated to buy anything from MicroStrategy to use this tool, but if you decide to scale up to the larger platform, this tool requires no integration effort to fit into the bigger platform—you just move all your work over to the larger product. But you can also just use this as a learning tool, and then buy a different tool from somewhere else. Watch a video demonstration or download it here

Tableau Desktop Tool

This popular tool comes with a free trial offer, albeit a short one. "It's so easy to use that any Excel user can learn it," claims the website. And it is indeed easy to use. See a video demonstration or download the free trial software here.  

Enjoy the mind-blowing big data experience these products offer. Your business will never be the same.

Pam Baker has written for numerous leading publications including, Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, the NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers.

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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This article was originally published on April 02, 2014
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