Have you been tasked with providing IT support within your company? If so, then you’ve probably been hit with a lot of questions involving the phrase “big data” recently. Big data, the aggregation and interpretation of an extremely huge range of information about customer behaviors and actions, can prove extremely difficult to wrangle into clear, actionable conclusions.
Actually, that’s the first point to keep in mind. Most large companies are in fact lumping their big data efforts into their overall IT departments alongside those departments’ existing data collection and analytics processes. In other words, there’s no separate “Department of Big Data” receiving raw information and dumping out statistics — you’re it, with a capital IT.
This actually makes a lot of sense if your data center is already housing your database archives, managing the incoming flow of bits and bytes from the many different channels in your company’s “data funnel.” But without the proper tools for parsing all that information, your big data is nothing more than that — a big mess of uncoordinated (and therefore unhelpful) facts, and this is only a tiny chunk of the estimated 2.5 quintillion bits of such data generated by consumers every day.
They call it “big data” for a reason!
The key to turning big data into meaningful data is the use of data integration tools. These programs and software suites can collate countless scraps of otherwise random information and thread them into useful pictures of demographics, traffic patterns, histories, trends and projections. Your choice of data integration tools will depend on the size of your business, its needs, your budget, and any specific challenges. For instance, a small or startup business with a handful of employees and a microscopic IT budget may be limited to free or low-price open-source solutions such as Pentaho’s Community Edition 5.0. A company trying to mine data from various scattered or poorly organized files might need a tool such as OpenRefine to get the information into comprehensible shape.
Data integration tools can help you see the big picture in all that big data.
If you own your own small business and find yourself serving as its entire IT department, you may want to start with one of the simpler, more user-friendly systems such as Informatica PowerCenter Express, which is available in an open-source “Personal Edition” that supports only one user at a time. On the other end of the spectrum, if your IT department is running a full-scale on-site mainframe, then you’ll want a system that can work with that mainframe. SyncSort DMX offers notable flexibility in this regard; its “full-featured data integration software” is designed to extract data quickly and efficiently from mainframe, Windows, Mac and Linux-driven systems.
Looking at how to unlock big data’s big potential for your company? It pays to invest in data integration tools that can scale with both your IT department staff size and your company’s evolving big data demands. Whichever tool you select, make sure it gives you clearly expressed results that don’t require a technical wizard to read, comprehend and act upon!