April 6, 2018

What is big data?

A quick definition of big data describes it as sizable amounts of information that may be reviewed to discover new trends and patterns, and used to make better-informed decisions. Big data is one of the fastest growing segments in IT. It is predicted that by the end of 2018 it will be a $40 billion market and by 2026, big data analytics will be a $92 billion industry.

The Origins of Big Data

There is a fair amount of controversy as to where the term “big data” actually comes from. Some people suggest the term originated from digital artifacts now posted on technical Web sites. Others provide examples of the phrase being used in the mid-1990s as the early internet began to bloom. Industry analyst firm Gartner is credited with helping to define big data with their “3Vs model,” assigning characteristics of variety, velocity and volume as common descriptors. Lastly, marketers grabbed hold of the term in the late-2000s, as big data offerings became easily accessible to enterprise-level companies.

Big Data Growth Rate

The Difference Between Small Data and Big Data

There are several ways to separate small data from big data; but it usually begins with how immediately usable and structured the data is. Big data tends to be large in amount or volume, excessive in the variety of types, and difficult to process in terms of its usability and velocity. Small data is just that, small in size, easily understandable and lacking in variance.

The Potential of Big Data

Big data is all about discovering trends and uncovering new or emerging patterns, allowing companies new growth categories. Having big data can provide the ability to generate forecasts quickly, which provides strong predictive power to shifting market conditions. Big data also allows for a company to segment and narrow their market even further, providing specifically tailored products and services. Last, and most importantly, big data reduces risk in decision-making for those who utilize it.

As companies continue to invest in big data practices and products, it easy to see all of the compelling benefits that big data can offer. The challenge is in the application of that information with people performing routine job functions. Organizations should be mindful of these barriers, aligning their big data discoveries with company goals to ensure maximum execution.

Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in July 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.