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What Is Big Data?

It is easy to get caught up in the #bigdata hype and, after reading the headlines or vendor marketing materials, conclude that you absolutely need big data working for you in some way.

Or, you just might have heard the term big data and brushed it off as something that's just not applicable to your business. Whatever your position on big data, there is an increasing interest in the subject from SMBs as big data and its applications become more accessible.

I talk to a lot of business owners and when I raise the subject, they almost always tell me that they are starting to see the competitive advantages that big data has to offer. Sometimes they tell me that they are considering investing in big data to help them develop “big data insights.”

Whether you should invest in big data technologies or not is irrelevant. The fact that the majority of business owners I speak to are thinking about how they can leverage big data makes it worth exploring.

Before we go any further, let us try to define what big data actually is.

There are several definitions floating around, but in a nutshell, big data refers to such vast amounts of data that it would take too much time and cost too much money to load into Excel.

Think of it this way: 90% of the data that exists today was created within the last two years and 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day.

Those are crazy large numbers and it is difficult to analyze all of that data. To make things worse, data is not even black and white anymore. Big data can include anything: photos, videos and tweets. All of social media is data when you think about it.

Now that we think we have a handle on the basics of what big data is, it is important to note that big data touches all of us and not just large corporations; it will “become a key basis of competition, underpinning waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus.”

Because of that fact, all business owners should at least think about big data in the context of their day-to-day operations and develop prospective strategies to capitalize on big data if they can see a way to do this.

If you have not already, you could probably build yourself a data set to work from, just from the data your business has laying around, and armed with this you can make well-informed decisions that can benefit your business.

Remember this though, it's still sort of ok if you are not yet leveraging big data in your business. There is a lot of confusion out there about how best to leverage big data, and the ever increasing volumes of data that we have to deal with on a daily basis is enough to give you a headache if you think about it for too long.

Believe me when I tell you that you are not alone in feeling this way about big data. Most organizations are still struggling to answer even the basic big data questions (such as whether it can be useful to them), let alone leverage big data effectively as a tool.

You still have time to figure out how you can leverage big data in your business. And unless you are a very large organization with the resources to early-adopt around big data, the chances are that your competitors have not yet gotten a handle on it. Yet..

That is all about to change and cloud computing (ahem, I mean orbital computing) is the driver behind this sudden shift in the way smaller business leverage big data, since public clouds capable of crunching big data workloads are becoming relatively inexpensive to rent by the day.

If cloud computing ever needed a killer app, then big data just might be it. Small businesses that can figure out how to leverage public cloud servers in order to access, process and analyze massive amounts of data are going to become much more common. Market analysts of all stripes are lining up to declare that the way small businesses use big data will determine “the winners and losers in the next wave of innovation.”

One trend I keep seeing chatter around is the BDA, or the big data app to #bigdata insiders.

According to Raj De Datta, BDA’s are web-based applications that interpret and use big data to bring results to their clients (e.g., the networking and recruiting website, LinkedIn). Raj reckons that they are a natural extension of the SaaS cloud model.

Storing and handling a lot of data can be extremely difficult, especially for small businesses, so if you do need a hand getting a handle on big data, come and talk to Iron Orbit.

Of course, we here at Iron Orbit don't do cloud computing, so we will have to build you an orbital hosted big data satellite instead, which is much better when you think about it.