Big data isn’t just for the big boys. Cloud computing is enabling small and medium size businesses to tap into its huge potential. We explore how.
Whether it’s to improve your products and services, or tailor your marketing messages, big data can help your business thrive in today’s digital world. That’s because everything we do online generates data - every time you take an action online, you leave a digital footprint.
In fact, every day around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created. That’s a lot. But don’t let the scale fool you into thinking it’s meaningless. This data can provide fantastic insights into customer behaviour and interests. The key is being able to harness it by deploying the right tools and IT environment to manage this data.
So, just what is big data?
Big data is a term used to describe the volume of both structured and unstructured data that flows into a business on a daily basis. Although the name suggests otherwise, it’s not the amount of data that is critical, it’s the way a business uses it. In fact, using large volumes of analytical data can actually be traced back to 1663 when ‘overwhelming amounts of information’ were used to study the bubonic plague. It was only in 2005 when the term ‘big data’ was officially coined.
Why should businesses be using big data?
SMBs are under increasing pressure to compete with their larger counterparts, which have had the financial resources to spend on highly sophisticated technology infrastructures for some time. But cloud computing is levelling the playing field, allowing SMBs to collect and analyse the data that has been just out of reach for so long.
These large volumes of data can give businesses great insights that can be leveraged to: provide better products and services to their customers, tailor their marketing messages so they are more targeted, improve conversion rates, provide a better return on investment and much more.
Big data enables businesses to effectively look at problem solving. By collecting data relating to both internal and external company processes, business leaders can gain a perspective that is objective, enabling them to make decisions based on evidence.
Alongside the analysis of process-driven data, SMBs can also leverage big data to identify gaps in the market and uncover new opportunities. For example, Netflix doesn’t base its decisions based on intuition and traditional, like legacy TV stations, it uses its data to anticipate consumer demand - by classifying the key attributes, such as show ‘completion rates’, ‘time gaps’, behaviours such as rewinding or fast forward, location of users and devices of their previous viewing offerings and comparing these to ratings and social mentions. This means they can forecast the type of shows that will be successful.
Big data can also drive innovation in customer experience. By gathering data from your website, customer service desks, call logs and social media, you can improve the experience they have with your brand. In turn, this can improve customer retention and reduce churn rate, while your customer interactions become more proactive and personalised.
Anything you want
Part of the benefit of big data is you can use it in any way you see fit. Want to monitor the hardware and machinery inside your business, when it was last serviced or had any errors? How about monitoring cyber security attacks or malware detections, so you can track weaknesses in your system? Big data lets you do all this and more, so you can make informed decisions for your business.
Why is cloud computing critical for this?
In short, cloud computing is about access. Before cloud services delivered by the likes of Microsoft and Amazon, businesses required sophisticated equipment on site. This was often expensive to source, maintain and run, not to mention the specialist staff required to actually make use of the hardware. Cloud computing means SMBs can access the raw computing power needed to make the most of big data. A cloud environment allows for affordable and accessible storage of data in cloud-based servers, with the data easily retrievable when required.
Gathering the data is also a far easier task when using a cloud computing platform. Data is seamlessly and effortlessly pulled from sales, marketing and accounts departments, along with other areas of a business, such as customer services. The net result is your teams all contribute to the same system, in the same way. No more working in silo, and no more cumbersome sharing of data. The cloud makes it easy for teams to access data and share ideas, co-ordinating on the same centralised piece of work from any location.
Furthermore, cloud computing means updates and improvements to the service no longer require hardware updates on site. If your cloud provider updates their data storage or monitoring application, for example, that update is instant and company-wide. Businesses of all size and stature must recognise that leveraging big data alongside cloud computing is no longer a luxury, it’s a business necessity that provides you with a competitive edge and a tangible force to drive your business forward with streamlined processes and a targeted offering.