Big data refers to the large volume of data that a business can access in order to make better and more strategic business decisions. While organizations have been leveraging data for ages, the term big data is used to describe data that has volume, velocity and variety.
Structured vs Unstructured Data
Structured data is simply data that is subject to a high degree of organization. This allows the data to assimilate easily into a database and to be searched by simple terms or algorithms. On the other hand, unstructured data is not easily compiled or searched. In layman’s terms, it is data usually handled by humans who typically don’t communicate in a strict database-style format the way a computer would.
It is important to note, that both types of data provide meaningful insight that can facilitate strategic actions. The takeaway is that deriving this insight from unstructured data can be more time consuming for a data analytics team if they do not have the right tools in place.
The 3 V’s of Big Data – Volume, Velocity and Variety
As mentioned above, compiling and analyzing data is by no means a new business trend. It is the unprecedented amount of data that an organization has access to and the ability to breakdown quickly that is new. The term “big data” was coined by Doug Laney in the early 2000s. His definition revolves around the three V’s that make big data distinct from data mined in the past.
- Volume = The amount of data organizations have access to is endless and it comes from a wide variety of sources such as CRMs, social media, transaction systems, and more. Additionally, new technologies such as Hadoop or Spark allow for all of this data to be compiled and stored seamlessly on a single system for easy interpretation.
- Velocity = In addition to the overwhelming quantity of data,the rate at which it is entering systems is also unprecedented. Structured and unstructured data are flooding in at groundbreaking speeds and warrant almost real-time analysis.
- Variety = Data is presented in a variety of types such as text, email, numeric data and more. Each type requires unique analysis but they also need to be reviewed as a whole to identify trends.
Which Industries Leverage Big Data?
Big data is present and leveraged in virtually every industry:
It allows government officials to analyze traffic patterns and invest funds in the infrastructural improvements that will have the greatest impact. It allows educators to track students’ progress and intervene at an earlier stage in order to keep their learning on track. Health care providers can analyze patients’ entire health journey to uncover trends that can improve the quality of life for others.