What is Big Data: Types, Characteristics, Benefits, and Examples

Lately the term ‘Big Data’ has been under the limelight, but not many people know what is big data. Businesses, governmental institutions, HCPs (Health Care Providers), and financial as well as academic institutions, are all leveraging the power of Big Data to enhance business prospects along with improved customer experience. IBM maintains that businesses around the world generate nearly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily! Almost 90% of the global data has been produced in the last two years alone.

So we know for sure that Big Data has penetrated almost every industry today and is a dominant driving force behind the success of enterprises and organizations across the globe.  But, at this point, it is important to know what is big data?

So, what is Big Data?

According to Gartner,

“Big data” is high-volume, velocity, and variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making.”

This definition clearly answers the “what is Big Data?” question – Big Data refers to complex and large data sets that have to be processed and analyzed to uncover valuable information that can benefit businesses and organizations. However, there are certain basic tenets of Big Data that will make it even simpler to answer what is Big Data:

  • It refers to a massive amount of data that keeps on growing exponentially with time.
  • It is so voluminous that it cannot be processed or analyzed using the conventional data processing techniques.
  • It includes data mining, data storage, data analysis, data sharing, and data visualization.
  • The term is an all-comprehensive one including data, data frameworks, along with the tools and techniques used to process and analyze the data.

What is Big Data

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Types of Big Data

Now that we’re on track with what is big data, let’s have a look at the forms of big data:

Structured

By structured data, we mean data that can be processed, stored, and retrieved in a fixed format. It refers to highly organized information that can be readily and seamlessly stored and accessed from a database by simple search engine algorithms. For instance, the employee table in a company database will be structured as the employee details, their job positions, their salaries, etc., will be present in an organized manner.

Unstructured

Unstructured data refers to the data that lacks any specific form or structure whatsoever. This makes it very difficult and time-consuming to process and analyze unstructured data. Email is an example of unstructured data.

Semi-structured

Semi-structured data pertains to the data containing both the formats mentioned above, that is, structured and unstructured data. To be precise, it refers to the data that although has not been classified under a particular repository (database), yet contains vital information or tags that segregate individual elements within the data.

Characteristics Of Big Data

Back in 2001, Gartner analyst Doug Laney listed the three ‘V’s of Big Data – Variety, Velocity, and Volume.

These characteristics, isolatedly, are enough to know what is big data. Let’s look at them in depth:

Variety

Variety of Big Data refers to structured, unstructured, and semistructured data that is gathered from multiple sources. While in the past, data could only be collected from spreadsheets and databases, today data comes in an array of forms such as emails, PDFs, photos, videos, audios, SM posts, and so much more.

Velocity

Velocity essentially refers to the speed at which data is being created in real-time. In a broader prospect, it comprises the rate of change, linking of incoming data sets at varying speeds, and activity bursts.

Volume

We already know that Big Data indicates huge ‘volumes’ of data that is being generated on a daily basis from various sources like social media platforms, business processes, machines, networks, human interactions, etc. Such a large amount of data are stored in data warehouses.

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Advantages of Big Data

  • One of the biggest advantages of Big Data is predictive analysis. Big Data analytics tools can predict outcomes accurately, thereby, allowing businesses and organizations to make better decisions, while simultaneously optimizing their operational efficiencies and reducing risks.
  • By harnessing data from social media platforms using Big Data analytics tools, businesses around the world are streamlining their digital marketing strategies to enhance the overall consumer experience. Big Data provides insights into the customer pain points and allows companies to improve upon their products and services.
  • Being accurate, Big Data combines relevant data from multiple sources to produce highly actionable insights. Almost 43% of companies lack the necessary tools to filter out irrelevant data, which eventually costs them millions of dollars to hash out useful data from the bulk. Big Data tools can help reduce this, saving you both time and money.
  • Big Data analytics could help companies generate more sales leads which would naturally mean a boost in revenue. Businesses are using Big Data analytics tools to understand how well their products/services are doing in the market and how the customers are responding to them. Thus, the can understand better where to invest their time and money.
  • With Big Data insights, you can always stay a step ahead of your competitors. You can screen the market to know what kind of promotions and offers your rivals are providing, and then you can come up with better offers for your customers. Also, Big Data insights allow you to learn customer behaviour to understand the customer trends and provide a highly ‘personalized’ experience to them.

Who is Using Big Data?

The people who’re using Big Data know better that, what is Big Data. Let’s look at some such industries:

Healthcare

Big Data has already started to create a huge difference in the healthcare sector. With the help of predictive analytics, medical professionals and HCPs are now able to provide personalized healthcare services to individual patients. Apart from that, fitness wearables, telemedicine, remote monitoring – all powered by Big Data and AI – are helping change lives for the better.

Academia

Big Data is also helping enhance education today. Education is no more limited to the physical bounds of the classroom – there are numerous online educational courses to learn from. Academic institutions are investing in digital courses powered by Big Data technologies to aid the all-round development of budding learners.

Banking

The banking sector relies on Big Data for fraud detection. Big Data tools can efficiently detect fraudulent acts in real-time such as misuse of credit/debit cards, archival of inspection tracks, faulty alteration in customer stats, etc.

Manufacturing

According to TCS 2013 Global Trend Study, the most significant benefit of Big Data in manufacturing is improving the supply strategies and product quality. In the manufacturing sector, Big data helps create a transparent infrastructure, thereby, predicting uncertainties and incompetencies that can affect the business adversely.

IT

One of the largest users of Big Data, IT companies around the world are using Big Data to optimize their functioning, enhance employee productivity, and minimize risks in business operations. By combining Big Data technologies with ML and AI, the IT sector is continually powering innovation to find solutions even for the most complex of problems.

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We hope we were able to answer the “What is Big Data?” question clearly enough. If you still have any doubts regarding what is big data, do let us know in the comments below!

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