Earlier this year (or in 2012), you may have seen articles that talked about the explosion of "Big Data"—the industry buzzword for extremely large pools of data that are difficult to manage with traditional tools. (Some pundits use Big Data collectively to refer to the staggeringly large amount of digital data man has created—and continues to create.) There's been talk about how fast it is growing, what a challenge it presents for storage and perhaps most importantly for businesses, how companies can efficiently structure and access it when it is so amorphous. The question is, does any of this apply to you?
Although large corporations are the ones being the most impacted by the growth and dispersion of data, Big Data is a topic that should interest the owners of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as well. Have you noticed that over the years, more and more of the information you archive for reference purposes is becoming fractured in a variety of places, and you are having a hard time managing it effectively? Have you ever created a proposal or prepared for a meeting and thought, "If only I could find that article I read last week, but I don't remember where I stored it and I don't have time to look"?
Big Data is growing like gangbusters—according to IBM, humans now create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. IBM also reports that 90% of the data existing today has been generated in the past two years. A lot of that is what scientists call "unstructured data," which is information that is not organized into in a formal, easily searchable, structured database.
Social media is a perfect example. In 2012, Facebook announced that it was processing 500 pettabytes of new data each day (along with 2.7 billion Likes, plus other user activities). Yet, try to search Facebook for a post you wrote a year ago and, unless you are an infrequent correspondent or can remember specific details about it, the task won't be easy. The information is still there, but it takes some effort for you to access it, even with Facebook's search tools in place. This, in a nutshell is one of the great challenges—and opportunities—of Big Data.
Here's the good news. With each passing week, more companies develop tools that businesses can use to effectively structure, store and access their data, from powerful backup programs and devices to business intelligence (BI) platforms that can mine your data for information you didn't even know you had and use it to help you make sound decisions. It's also become very affordable to use services, like hosted Microsoft Exchange (Outlook), that help you store and manage your email, contacts and other related information. (A surprising amount of data is now being stored in email archives and not written to local servers.)
However, even with these tools, it's important to have an operational roadmap for data management, including how and where you will store your data, how to get existing paper-based data into a digital format and how to decide what data is important enough to keep. Expert IT consultants can help you explore your data stores, make decisions about how to archive and access the information, and help you evaluate BI and other solutions that structure and manipulate your data to your firm's benefit.
From gaining actionable insights to reducing the incidence of fraud, efficient data management and usage results in a better bottom line for the majority of SMBs. If you would like to know more, give me a call.