Big data is something we’re hearing more and more about, but what exactly is it?
In simple terms, it relates to constantly-growing digital information that’s too voluminous and complex for traditional data processing software to deal with. But ‘big data’ also refers the use of analytics to extract value from this mass.
Increasingly, SMEs across all sectors are looking to harness big data for the sheer level of knowledge, competitive edge or insight it can offer – whether that’s spotting business trends, preventing disease or any number of other important areas of research.
But, as you might imagine, with big data comes big responsibility, big challenges and – potentially – big mistakes.
Aside from how to capture big data in the first place, thorny issues range from storage and analysis to the processes involved in sharing, transferring and updating it – not to mention the crucial task of keeping it secure.
Big data is big news
There are three dimensions to big data, known as volume, variety and velocity. And these are all evolving at a constant rate, along with the world’s ever-increasing mass of digital information. So, more than ever, businesses must make sure they are in charge of their data, rather than the other way around.
One member of a governmental data analytics group put this particularly eloquently: “We must ensure that we are the masters of the data revolution, and avoid the risk of being enslaved by it.”
In the same article, he describes the dawn of the data age having far-reaching implications across all sectors of society – especially as the Government is funding its development with the aim of unlocking economic growth for our country.
So big data is big news and now’s the time to think about what it could do for you.
Why do you need big data?
First of all, SMEs might do well to ask themselves what they want to achieve, before investing in harvesting – and taking on the responsibility of looking after more information.
Secondly, consider how much your company could really advance through analysing massive mountains of data. The answer might be a lot, but it’s crucial to be focused and specific – some business leaders have likened the process to creating a huge data lake, then drowning in it!
One way around this increased workload can be to expand your team. If you are employing specialist staff to analyse that data, make sure they are working to your best advantage by encouraging proactivity. Research has shown that while data-driven companies are around 10% more productive than those that do not operationalise their information, most estimate they are analysing just 12% of data available.
Keeping big data safe
The Data Protection Act 1998 and the forthcoming GDPR – Europe’s new framework for data protection laws, in case you’ve missed the memo! – require companies to make sure that personal information is stored and used securely. And with the increases in data storage, developments in technology and legal ramifications regarding breaches, every SME should be thinking carefully about information security.
Simple mistakes by employees can be as much of a threat as hackers, so it’s crucial to establish clear accountability for the data being managed and the safeguarding measures adopted. These mechanisms can start as practically as locking doors and limiting file access to only those who need it.
A robust information security policy should also be implemented company-wide. This document should be adhered to, checked and revised often, with all employees receiving appropriate training and regular updates and refreshers. Having a business continuity plan and data back-up measures in place – in preparation for the worst – are also good practice.
However, as our blogs often stress, there is no substitute for having the right IT systems in place – from encryption to password protection, these tools can really be invaluable when it comes to your SME’s cyber-security.
Want to talk about big data? Contact Q2Q today!