What Even Is Big Data?

You keep hearing everyone talk about it, but what is Big Data and how is it being used?
Believe it or not, Big Data isn’t just a business “buzzword”. Big Data is actually quite important for both small and large businesses, and we’re seeing it become more and more prevalent around the world.
So what is it?
Big Data is a term used to describe very large data sets that are compiled to analyze results and assist in business growth. With the help of Big Data, a business can monitor progress, make more educated decisions and improve customer relations.
Without the means to analyze online business data in its large and unstructured form, everything we do in business is completely random. Big Data helps us understand why we should do something and in what way each of our business pursuits is successful (or not!). No wonder everyone is talking about it.
Where does all this data come from?
Most data comes from internal sources such as emails, transaction data (invoices, payment orders, delivery records), and customer service logs and surveys. Big Data can also be gathered from external sources, such as social media – yes, even Facebook contributes to Big Data.
Much of the data that comes from these sources is basically useless until it’s combined with traditional data sources such as revenue records, sales location data and insights made from management. When these sources all come together, a business has a credible way of looking at overall trends within the company.
How big is Big Data?
So when does ‘data’ cross the threshold and become ‘big’? There isn’t a set amount as the concept of Big Data is still in its infancy, but Big Data usually consists of over a petabyte (1,024 terabytes) or even an exabyte (1,024 terabytes) of compiled data. Big Data is also the term used when there is so much data that standard analysis tools just won’t do the job.
Big Data continues to grow.
As businesses advance and the internet becomes even larger, Big Data will become more useful to businesses. Business Insider recently released an article outlining the exponential growth of digital data. They stated that data is doubling every single year, and it’s estimated that by the year 2020 global digital knowledge will reach 44 zettabytes (1,024 exabytes). In the article they also pointed out that only 0.5% of the world’s data is currently being analyzed and used. With advances in technology it’s likely that this percentage will increase as data is more effectively utilized.
How is Big Data used?
Big Data can be used differently for all kinds of businesses. We’ve listed some examples below:

  • Target has used Big Data to know when its customers are going to have a baby. Target then sends the appropriate coupons to the mother-to-be.
  • Wal-Mart is also known for using Big Data to predict exactly what kinds of products are going to sell.
  • Insurance agencies use Big Data to analyze what rates they should offer, based on likeliness of an accident and how well their clients drive.
  • Politicians are using Big Data to better understand the demographics they are targeting. In the 2012 Presidential Election, Nate Silver used Big Data to correctly predict every single state’s vote in the electoral college. He was 100% accurate!.
  • Cities are using Big Data to create smarter and safer living environments for citizens. Thanks to so much data, cities can know trends that will help conserve energy and even fight crime.
  • Big Data is also seen in healthcare. With access to so much legitimate data, scientists can see what is causing diseases and what needs to be done to find cures. One healthcare organization called 23andMe uses Big Data to help its users find which diseases they may be susceptible to.
  • Doctors also use data to help monitor babies. By analyzing and recording babies’ heartbeats and breathing patterns, doctors can see which precautions they should take in order to save a precious life.

What’s next for Big Data?
As we mentioned before, Big Data will only grow from here. Big Data will be used to make the Internet of Things a reality, something we’re already seeing take place before our eyes. Make sure not to even blink…Big Data is growing at such a rapid pace that you’ll be left behind if you do!

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