Startup Tuesday: Making Big Data Tools Accessible to Small Businesses
Posted by Megan Webb-Morgan on June 11, 2013 in Business Technology [ 0 Comments ]
Your small business utilizes a variety of data – from your POS system, your CRM software, your website analytics, your social media, your marketing campaigns, and more – and you may feel overwhelmed at the very thought of analyzing that data.
However, you don’t need enterprise-level IT departments and software in order to benefit from the many advantages of Big Data.
Tools for the integration, computing, management, and visualization of Big Data are becoming increasingly accessible to startups and small businesses – and the use of those tools is paying off.
The Benefits of Big Data
According to The Aberdeen Group, “Big Data refers to the problems of capturing, storing, managing, and analyzing massive amounts of various types of data. Most commonly this refers to terabytes or petabytes of data, stored in multiple formats, from different internal and external sources, with strict demands for speed and complexity of analysis.”
The study from Aberdeen found the data collected by businesses is growing at a rate of 40% year-over-year. IT departments are strained by the length of time it takes to get information, inaccessible data formats, siloed data, and data volume growing too rapidly to handle. Despite these strains, 51% of small businesses find that the expense of software and IT services prevents them from investing in Big Data technologies.
However, effectively managing Big Data effectively caused organizations to report a 12% year-over-year increase in their operating profit and a 14% increase in their total customer base. A 2012 survey by the SAS Institute about the use of big data in more than 2,500 organizations came to similar conclusions. 67% of respondents gained “a competitive edge” through their use of big data analytics. The surveyed organizations placed analytics first in:
- Streamlining operations (46% of respondents),
- Identifying target customers (36%),
- Developing or refining products or services (31%),
- Evaluating employees (29%).
Utilizing Big Data in Your Small Business
Just as the volume of data collected by a business is scaled to the size of the organization itself, so too is the technology used for managing big data scalable. New technologies are emerging to help small businesses and startups manage their data. The technological areas that businesses need to master in order to attain control over their data include:
- Data integration. Aberdeen reported that companies collect data from an average of 20 unique internal sources, 12 sources from partners, suppliers, distributors, etc, and 9 from external sources like social media, web traffic, economic information, and more.
- In-memory computing. The fastest way to process data is in-memory computing, in which the target data is loaded directly onto the RAM of a server or desktop, thereby preventing data bottlenecks in your network. The amount of RAM you need to purchase is directly proportional to the amount of data you have. The decreasing costs of RAM have made this function financially accessible to small businesses for the first time.
- Unstructured data management. Your business needs to collect, manage, and analyze data from relational databases as well as unstructured data from documents, emails, social media, images, video, and rich media. NoSQL databases like Hadoop gives you more flexibility in how you store, manage, and assess your data repository.
- Data visualization. This functionality can range from simple reports, dashboards, or charts, to dynamically updated visualization elements that enable you to drill down into your data to find underlying patterns or relationships.
If your small business has previously considered, but rejected Big Data management tools due to their cost, complexity, or effort involved, take the time to revisit the idea. You may find that emerging software tools geared towards small businesses and small budgets can have an overwhelmingly positive ROI for your business.