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Big data for small businesses

Organisations are suffering from an information overload. However, the inherent agility of smaller businesses means that - with an effective cloud-based strategy - your firm can take a much tighter grip on its disparate data sources than might be possible in a large enterprise.

Organisations globally are suffering from an information overload. Researcher IDC predicts the size of the global datasphere will be 163 zettabytes (ZB) in 2025, up from 16 ZB in 2016.

To put that number into context, IDC says 163 ZB is comparable to watching the entire Netflix catalogue 489 million times or the equivalent of 40 trillion DVDs, which would reach to the moon and back more than 100 million times.

Businesses, including smaller firms, are increasingly responsible for the bulk of that data collection. IDC says 60 percent of all data will be created in the enterprise by 2025, up from 30 percent in 2015.

Such figures help explain why some organisations feel like they're drowning in data. This data comes from multiple devices in various structured and unstructured forms. A new age of connectivity ushered in through the Internet of Things will mean the data deluge for all businesses will continue to intensify. So, what can smaller firms do?

Building a platform to take advantage of big data

The information overload doesn't have to be an intractable challenge. Smart firms get a grip on the data that matters most and turn information into insight. They use this insight to improve internal decision-making processes and hone external customer experiences.

This insight creation often relies on what might appear to be a common set of buzz terms, such as big data, business intelligence and analytics. For smaller firms with limited IT budgets, an investment in those technologies could seem a significant and costly step.

However, your firm don't have to miss out on the benefits of big data. The great news is the inherent agility of smaller businesses means that – with an effective cloud-based strategy – your firm can take a much tighter grip on its disparate data sources than might be possible in a larger enterprise.

While your firm has a smaller IT budget than a big business, you will probably also have less data. That means there's a good chance you will have to sift through less data than a blue-chip, multinational business to find the crown jewels that could give your firm a competitive advantage. But to sift data effectively, you'll need the right platform to embrace big data.

As pioneering digital leaders at other smaller organisations already recognise, all businesses – regardless of size or sector – must consider a cloud-first strategy. That strategy should extend across cloud provision, whether that's software, platform or infrastructure. Marrying the cloud with the power of big data makes it easier to create game-changing insight.

Developing a flexible approach to information growth

By pushing information to the cloud, your business can import information from disparate sources and use specialist tools to run queries on its data. These highly secure tools will allow you to sift data quickly. What matters is working out the value of your data. Pushing data to the cloud allows your business to find value at pace.

The cloud also provides a flexible platform. As the value of insight is proven and your business demands more from its big data, your business can scale-up its use of cloud resources. So, if your business wants to run a new query against social data sources to understand customer perceptions, your firm can scale-up its cloud requirements flexibly and easily.

Taking this cloud-first strategy should help your firm create an agile platform for growth. As we noted earlier, more data sources will continue to come online in an age of connectivity. The success of any business will be related to its ability to spot and react to new trends quickly and effectively.

With the right cloud platform in place, your business can face those new trends with confidence. You will even potentially be able to take advantage of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). It is these emerging technologies that will help your firm to process vast amounts of information quickly.

Your business might believe that AI and ML are trends for the future. However, evidence suggests there will be a doubling of deployments globally for AI and ML on cloud workloads through 2019. By using the cloud as a platform for big data, your business will be well-prepared for this shift towards emerging technologies.

Conclusion: Generating value from insight

Big data isn't just for big businesses. The availability of cloud-based analytics tools makes the benefits of big data an achievable goal for every organisation, regardless of size. The more of your information that resides in the cloud, the more your small business will be able to analyse its data and create game-changing insight. Going cloud-first makes it possible for your smaller firm to take advantage of the information explosion now and in the future.