Big Data and What It Means

March 31, 2013

If you are reading this article, then chances are that you live a significant part of your daily life online. Each day, collectively, we trigger millions and trillions of transactions on the Internet.

Whether it's uploading pictures, watching videos or buying products online, each of these activities becomes just another data point in a vast, multi-dimensional web of data sets. 

According to IBM, every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

The humungous volume of data we are creating as consumers is providing organizations across the globe an unprecedented opportunity to collect, mine and analyze this 'big data' to make correlations and draw intelligent conclusions, with the goal of providing more targeted recommendations, shortening sales cycles, improving productivity and bringing more efficiencies into their processes.

The term Big Data has come to represent not just the information being analyzed, but the entire ecosystem that goes into facilitating storing, researching and analyzing this data.

Big Data solutions are equipped to handle much more than the sheer volume of data. These are built to also handle the tremendous velocity and variety of data.

Big Data systems factor in transactions even as these are being generated, i.e. in near real time. Variety addresses the fact that the content generated by consumers can be very complex in nature, including but not limited to comments, pictures, ratings, blog posts and more.

In a research and infographic published by Microsoft Corp. in 2011, nearly three quarters of the businesses surveyed at the time had started planning their Big Data strategy.

Fast forward a couple of years, and a multitude of Big Data solutions are now available and being used by a large number of organizations to derive insights into how their products and services are being consumed and to execute distribution and promotional strategies based on those consumption patterns.

As a consumer, the prospect of each of our activities, preferences and recommendations being tracked online can challenge our inherent sense of anonymity that flows from being just one amongst billions of human beings connected to the Internet.  

However, Big Data is here to stay because by bringing efficiencies into complex systems, it ensures big benefits not just for organizations, but for consumers as well. And we can derive some comfort from the fact that there is a humanizing aspect to Big Data.

Businesses need well-trained teams of smart human beings to understand the quirky factors and calculations that invariably skew data and to make informed decisions based on their understanding of both the real, as well as the virtual world.


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