What is Big Data?
Big Data is described by SAS Institute as, "a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis." IBM, a market leader in the storage and utilization of data solutions describes Big Data as "changing the way people within organizations work together. Insights from big data can enable all employees to make better decisions—deepening customer engagement, optimizing operations, preventing threats and fraud, and capitalizing on new sources of revenue.”
For a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), Big Data utilization could offer a competitive advantage, aid in decision making and aid in expansion of the business. The data is often rapidly expanding, varied and could potentially contain unstructured sets of digitized data that are difficult to maintain using traditional databases. Whilst Big Data can add value to a business, it can also present a significant risk the more valuable it becomes. SMEs and Organizations must keep up with latest security trends and updates to avoid breaches of security and unsolicited access to data. In the United Kingdom, the Data Protection Act 1998 gives individuals the right to know what information is held about them, and provides a framework to ensure that personal information is handled properly.
Big Data needs to be collected, formulated and organized to give it any value and be of use. Various data can be analysed such as weather patterns being compared to shopping trends. A report can then be formulated showcasing sale trends and the weather at the time. This could potentially identify which products are popular during what weather season (i.e. sales for ice cream rising in summer months). The information can come from a variety of sources – social media, sensor networks, customer feedback including online and offline data. As the data grows, it becomes difficult to maintain and process using methods such as traditional databases and software. Business have started incorporating Big Data analytics into recruitment requirements when hiring new candidates. As Big Data can help improve operational practices and knowledge of a market, opportunities are being discovered by analysing data to learn more information about consumers and customers to better improve service and market more products.