Managing and Protecting Big Data for Small Businesses
An industry executive discusses the increased need for big data among small orgs and why they should leverage cloud technology for storing data sets.
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“Big data” refers to both structured and unstructured data that’s too large for the traditional database. For enterprise-level companies, it’s fairly easy to create massive amounts of data. These companies are simply bigger, so they have more transactions, site visits, app downloads, etc. It’s natural for companies of this size to use tools that help them look at data in new ways.
However, the average small to medium-sized business is now generating more and more data, especially as technology is utilized by nearly every type of company. The analytics tools that uncover insights from big data are now thankfully more accessible and affordable for even modest budgets.
Lower Costs (or Free!) and Better Usability
There’s definitely an economies of scale gap between big and small companies. Large companies such as Costco can negotiate better pricing for credit card fees, for products, marketing efforts — nearly everything the company spends money on to operate. Technology is where big organizations can receive preferred pricing, but now, the smaller players have much more choice and access as well. For big data analytics, there are multiple free and “freemium” tools available in the marketplace that offer big data number crunching capabilities.
Data tools such as Google Analytics are not only inexpensive, but they’re also reasonably simple to use. Small firms cannot typically hire a full-time data scientist, but they can use free tools to gain new types of context into their customers’ behaviors, site data, and other areas that impact their decision making. Google Analytics is a frequent data analytics starting point for many companies. It provides them with data about customer demographics and underlying trends. They can check website metrics to gauge year-over-year growth and make more informed decisions about which products and services they offer to customers.
Freemium tools such as Apache Spark, Flurry, and MixPanel offer insights into website visit behaviors as well as app usage metrics. If the small business requires a paid version of one of these tools then the costs are typically very reasonable, especially from a ROI perspective.
A feedback loop is created when firms start using big data analytics. They start to create more data inputs into the platform, which then outputs more insights, so the company keeps dumping in even more data sets. The value of the data increases every year, and it becomes vitally important for the company to protect the data.
Managing Big Data Securely
A small business that carefully collects and analyzes big data must also take steps to protect that information from theft or accidental loss. Companies need repositories where multiple streams of information are collected and organized. They also need to back up all of this information since it’s a precious company asset. So, what are the options?
Some people in the industry say that traditional tape storage is making a comeback. New advanced tapes can store more than 200 gigabytes per square inch of tape, with a single reel able to store more information than 300 laptops. Despite these prodigious storage capacities, tape is still a flawed backup method. It’s susceptible to temperature fluctuations, and there’s always a risk when using a physical item that must be stored and transported.
The ideal solution for secure backup of big data is a cloud provider. Storing data in the cloud makes it immediately accessible and the pricing for cloud storage continues to decrease every year. Using the cloud removes the risks of tape storage and provides a way to back-up information in a matter of hours instead of days. The cloud is also ideal for modern cloud-based analytics platforms. The tools can pull data from various cloud providers for maximum speed and for the freshest possible real-time data.
Companies should also choose to use external hard drives as a “backup to the backup” in addition the cloud. This is recommended especially for data that’s vitally important to the business, as it provides another layer of backups in the case of a failure at the cloud provider, albeit rare.
Small companies that are not using big data analytics are risking their competitive edge. These tools provide companies with a way to look at multiple streams of data in completely new ways that could ultimately benefit their bottom line. They can uncover customer trends or website statistics that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. And most importantly, these insights are presented in easily digestible formats that prompt small business owners to make actionable context-based decisions. The power of such insights is transformative and protecting the underlying data should be a top priority for every small business that wants to compete like a Fortune 100.
About the Author
David Zimmerman is the CEO of LC Technology International, a data recovery and restoration services provider based in Clearwater, FL. LC Technology offers data recovery services for all types of media including hard drives, SSD drives, USB drives, memory cards, CDs and DVDs, tapes and almost any other type of digital device that uses flash memory.
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