If you’ve heard the latest it term ‘Big data’, you might be posed with the question, what is it – and- how do I get for my business.

In short, and to really simplify it, big data is the collection of data so large and complex that it is quite difficult to process using off the shelf database management tools or traditional data processing applications. The problem with data of this scale is not only capturing it in the first place, but to storing, sharing, categorising, visualising and most importantly – analysing!

To really understand how much data is now at our fingertips, the McKinsey Global Institute, the management consultancy’s research arm published a 143-page report on big data. The report revealed, it costs less than $600 to buy a disk drive with the capacity to store all of the world’s music, and that in 2010 people around the world collectively stored more than 6 exabytes of new data on devices like PCs and notebook computers; each exabyte contains more than 4,000 times the information stored in the Library of Congress.

Businesses in the private sector are handling Big Data in various ways. One example is Walmart, which handles more than 1 million customer transactions each and every hour, which is transferred into databases estimated to contain more than 2.5 petabytes (2560 terabytes) of data – the equivalent of 167 times the information contained in all the books in the US Library of Congress. Shipping companies, like U.P.S.,  have been said to mine data on truck delivery times and traffic patterns to fine-tune routing.

Suncorp’s top marketer, Mark Reinke, who also handles marketing for AAMI, GIO, Shannons and Vero, believes “data is redefining marketing in business models and that marketers have what I call an opportunity if not an obligation to be at the pointy end of that in guiding the organisations to adapt because the very survival of those organisations might depend on.”

The question remains though, how would SMB’s leverage data to help grow their business. Well, the answer could be data consultants. The rise of data consultants in the workplace is a trend that is expected to continue its growth in the workplace. Data consultants help businesses make sense of data, web traffic, social network integration, conversions and any other customer feedback, in order to guide decisions, cut costs and grow sales.

In 2010, the Big Data industry on its own was worth more than $100 billion and was growing at around 10 percent a year: about twice as fast as the software business as a whole.

Image courtesy of [adamr] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net