What’s Big Data and Why’s it Important?

By Tim Hinchliffe Published: 30 April, 2020 Last updated: February 17th, 2022 at 3:01 pm

big data web

There’s a lot of confusion over what big data actually is, but it really is just as it sounds – a lot data. Taking it a step further, that data needs to be processed in a timely manner in order to understand and make use of it.

If you want a more detailed explanation, big data “refers to data that is so large, fast or complex that it’s difficult or impossible to process using traditional methods,” according to SAS Insights.

Companies that specialize in big data technologies help their clients make sense of all the complex data they have in order to pull out only the best information.

Thanks to the surge of digital transformation that has swept across industries over the last few years, data-driven solutions are in high demand

But why is big data important?

Let’s take a look at some examples of big data to give you an idea of what it looks like first, before moving on to how the tools are used to better understand its importance.

Big Data Examples

If you do a Google search for “big data” right now, it’ll give you almost 8 billion results in under a second.

What used to take years of research, scouring through libraries, making phone calls, writing letters, etc. has been streamlined to bring you better results in less than a second.

Search is just one example of big data in action, and it’s one of the most commonly used functions of the digital age.

The fact that search can bring in billions of results at a fast speed means that information has now become readily available to a wider portion of the population than ever before in human history.

In having more access to better information, people can make informed decisions that affect their everyday lives, and a well-informed public is essential to any democratic republic.

Yet, examples of big data go well beyond search, and honestly, there are too many to encompass in just one article. That being said, big data in the time of the coronavirus is a topic of great interest right now, so let’s look at that.

Barely a person alive today hasn’t felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists, engineers, and medical researchers have been working around the clock trying to come up with crisis management solutions and ways to stop the spread while enlisting big data every step of the way.

Big tech companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook are using big data for the controversial practice of “contact tracing” where they can pull location information from people’s mobile phones in order to understand where they are going and where they gather.

But big data is also being used during the pandemic to help “healthcare workers, scientists, epidemiologists and policymakers aggregate and synthesize incident data on a global basis,” according to Forbes.

It’s hard to find a single industry that wouldn’t benefit from big data.

Big Data Tools

Now that we’ve seen some examples of how big data is used, let’s take a look at what types of big data tools are available to help businesses come up with data-driven solutions.

Big data needs to be stored and it needs to be processed, and the number one tool for storing and processing is Apache Hadoop.

Apache Hadoop is an open source tool that tops all lists when it comes to the best big data tools. This isn’t just because of its huge storage and computing power, but also due to its compatibility.

“The Apache Hadoop software library is a framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers using simple programming models. It’s designed to scale up from single servers to thousands of machines, each offering local computation and storage,” according to the company website.

If you’ve ever had to scour through a swath of spreadsheets or other data sets looking for nuggets of useful information, then Statwing is the big data tool for you.

Trusted by businesses and journalists alike, Statwing was designed with the sole purpose of analyzing tables of data to make comprehensive analyses within minutes, rather than days.

Simply by uploading a spreadsheet and choosing which relations you’d like to explore, Statwing then takes that big data and presents it in a visual way that’s easy to understand.

“Statwing understands your data’s structure, so it automatically creates histograms, scatterplots, heatmaps, and bar charts that you can easily export to Excel or PowerPoint,” according to the website.

Qubole is another big data tool helping businesses make sense of their data in order to make predictions about the future, so decisions can be made in the present.

They leverage their data assets to learn from the past using business intelligence tools like machine learning and ad-hoc analytics. Qubole also helps predict future data trends using a combination of real-time, streaming and batch-type data sources. 

Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, but foresight can do wonders for a company that takes advantage of this type of big data tool to stay ahead of the curve on innovation and best business practices.

Big Data PR

As you might already be thinking that big data and predictive analytics are a double edged sword. And you’d be right. 

There’s enormous potential to do good with big data technologies, but there’s also tremendous room for abuse.

The same data that can help stop the spread of COVID-19 can also be sold to the highest bidder, including law enforcement, to further increase surveillance on private citizens.

Public opinion on the potential for big data companies to use their powers in ways that could infringe upon personal privacy shows that people are skeptical about how the technology is used.

Businesses looking for big data PR should recognize that the public wants to be reassured that their tools are developed and used ethically.

A comprehensive PR strategy can get the right message in front of the right audience that accurately paints your company’s mission in a positive light and one that customers are sure to appreciate — a very positive return on investment.

Final Thoughts

Big data’s essential to nearly every industry, but what companies do with that data and how they do it’s just as important to the public.

If your company is doing great things with big data, it should be shared with the world, as people are always looking for better solutions that are both data-driven and ethical.

What’s your story and how can we learn more?
Big data PR can help.