Big Data includes everything that makes it to the Internet.  Structured data stored in databases is there, but so is unstructured data, including text messages, Tweets, Facebook status updates, items you have purchased on line – or even added to your shopping cart.  As more things get connected to the “grid” via the internet (Internet of Things) those data are also available, for example, GPS coordinates from your cell phone and data your car sends to the manufacturer via OnStar or other services.

The Cloud

The Internet is often referred to as the cloud. So in its widest sense, the cloud consists of all of the servers and computers on the network that is the Internet.  Because the data is not found in just one place, it can be diagrammed as a large, constantly changing (and growing) cloud.

Cloud Computing

We used to store our information on hard drives and buy floppy disks (and later CD’s) to upload the software we needed.  Today, we are often using multiple devices (smart phones, tablets, desktops and laptops) and, in order to be productive, we need to access our data from all of them. This necessitates storing our data somewhere offsite – in the cloud.

Today’s cloud-based software can store massive amounts of information and allows the user to develop  the programs needed to manipulate, analyze and retrieve it to accomplish specific goals – and access it from any connected device.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

SaaS uses the cloud to deliver specific software programs to the user.  While similar to cloud computing, SaaS provides not only the space to store data, but the software to run the programs that manipulate it. It can also update the software automatically, integrating changes into the core program without disruption.  Again, these programs are available on computers, tablets and smart phones anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

tchnology catWhat this means to business owners

Aside from the obvious advantage of working from almost anywhere in the world, the ability to access such an enormous flow of information about customers and potential customers gives companies the ability to target the exact people who are likely to buy the products or services a company offers. It also gives them customer service and other CRM opportunities never available before.

A few of real world examples:

  • A connected automobile sends a message to the dealership that it is low on oil. The dealership then sends an email – with a coupon – to the car owner reminding him to come in for his oil change.
  • A customer adds a few things to her shopping cart, but then abandons the cart. The company can “see” this behavior and uses display ads on the pages she opens on the internet to remind her that those items are available. If she has provided her email, they may also send her an email with a special offer.
  • Using Facebook’s data, a company puts an ad out to only those people who are the most likely to buy the product or service. Maximizing the money spent on the ad.

If you look around, you are sure to see ways that your life is being impacted by Big Data and Cloud Computing.  Are you excited about this brave new world, or frightened?