Big data refers to the 21st-century phenomenon of exponential growth of business data, and the challenges that come with it, including holistic collection, storage, management, and analysis of all the data that a business owns or uses.

What do I need to know about big data?

The term implies data of an indeterminate—and steadily increasing—size as well as from an indeterminate number of sources, including data generated by employees, customers, partners, machines, logs, databases, security cameras, mobile devices, social media, and more./p>

What are the characteristics of big data?

Big data is characterized by at least one, but usually all, of the following characteristics: massive volume, high velocity (rate of change), and widely varied type.

  • Volume—As the name implies, big data is of a massive size, usually totaling terabytes or petabytes in total, but growing at such a rate that precise calculation is futile. 
  • Velocity—The vast majority of modern data changes constantly. For example, stock market prices change many times per second. Big data addresses the challenges of capturing and analyzing data that is in constant flux.
  • Variety—The term data, in an IT context, once referred primarily to relational data stored in databases. By contrast, big data encompasses any and all types of data, regardless of how it was created. Non-relational data is often called “unstructured” data and includes things businesses once had no insight on, such as email, video, audio, social media, etc.
  • Veracity—Data must be trusted to be useful. Verify the quality and reliability of enormous amounts of data streaming into systems at high speed from multiple sources, in multiple formats.

Why is big data such a problem?

The amount of data being generated keeps increasing, so the challenge to contain big data is a moving target. Additionally, big data is increasingly a competitive problem: As more companies invest in, and have success with, their big data, those companies that do not keep step will be at great disadvantage. Finally, the technologies and commercial products to contain and control big data are evolving rapidly so IT organizations must stay alert to new innovations and opportunities.