Is Your Data Big Enough?

December 20, 2014

12:00 pm

At what point does your data become big data? What’s the threshold? Do you need a petabyte of data for it to be classified as big data, or do you qualify with an exabyte? To be honest, there is no real answer to that question, and regardless, it’s arbitrary anyways. Unfortunately, so many businesses are so focuses on collecting as much data as possible they forget what’s important: collecting the right data.

If you manage or work for a small business, you may have wondered how to compete in the big data arena. How can you possibly compete against the big corporations collecting data by the digital truck load, when your resources only allow you to mine data by the bucketload?

The answer might be simpler than you’d think. When it comes to data, quality trumps quantity. So in this case, your data is only too small if it fails to meet your business needs. Companies fail to gain useful insights when they don’t find relevant information, or lack the proper tools to manage and analyze the right data.
Finding the Right Data

Finding the right data is essential for success. Once again, it isn’t how much data you have, but how much relevant data you have that’s important. And with a firehose of data being spewed out everyday, you need to be very selective with what you catch if you only have limited resources.

The best place to start when gathering your data is the end. That means looking at what you hope to accomplish and then start working backwards. What is your ultimate goal? What is your business trying to accomplish? Having this in mind will help you understand what type of information to look for, and what information will just take up space. For example, if you’re a small sports shop that focuses on summer sports, you probably won’t need to collect hockey and ski data during the winter. That’s a simple example, but knowing what you need and what you don’t will allow you to apply the right filters. You’ll get rid of the junk and with a much smaller data pool to work with, you’re more likely to find valuable insights.

Right after considering the end goal comes asking the right questions. The only way to get truly valuable and relevant insights is by approaching the data and asking the right questions. You’ve determined your goal, now determine what you need to do in order to accomplish that goal. Going back to our earlier example, you know you need to focus on summer sports, so begin with what type of information is relevant to summer sports. Are their certain sports in that area more popular than others? Which equipment is most popular? Who does the shopping? Data isn’t a magic eight ball. Simply shaking it around won’t give you the perfect insight. Analyzing data is more like dating. You need to ask a series of questions before you can decide whether or not this person, or this information, is right for me.


Using the Right Tools

The biggest obstacle hindering most small businesses and their data needs, is a lack of tools. You can’t rely on traditional services and applications to process this type of information. You’ll need to invest in the right service to provide the right results.

Small businesses don’t often have the budgets to hire the best data scientists or analysts. As a result, they often don’t know which programs to invest in, or even how to use them. While consulting third-party firms can help with this IT gap, you’ll definitely want to invest in a less complicated service that your employees can learn to use. One example is Hadoop Hive, which is a service interface for big data analytics that offers a SQL-on-Hadoop solution. It’s designed for both professionals and data consumers, making it an ideal solution for smaller businesses.

You don’t need piles and piles of information. Sure, you can bet on statistics in the sense that the more of something you have, the more likely you are to find something relevant, but you don’t need to. Applying the right tools to the right data will significantly improve your ability to find key insights and further your business initiatives.

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Gil Allouche is the Vice President of Marketing at Qubole. Gil began his marketing career as a product strategist at SAP while earning his MBA at Babson College and is a former software engineer.

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