Breaking Down Big Data
The term “Big Data” is thrown around a lot in the IT and data analytics communities. Managing the size and complexity of available data has become a primary challenge for systems administrators, IT professionals, and data analysts alike. For those of us used to interacting with only a few hundred records in a data set, the idea of “Big Data” can seem overwhelming. However, the exponentially growing availability of “Big Data” provides government and business professionals with unprecedented access to information that can lead to better decision-making.
What is Big Data?
“Big Data” refers to large, complex data sets that require processing beyond the normal capacity of a storage system. Advances in technology have allowed for greater collection of data across all elements of human life. There is an ever-increasing pool of resources available to measure societal patterns and trends, as well as the personal data—web histories, social media accounts, commercial transactions, etc.—we produce each day. This compilation of Big Data is usually measured in petabytes or exabytes of information, and cannot be easily analyzed or processed by normal software programs. This leaves organizations with the task of analyzing a massive collection of data with varying degrees of structure.
How is Big Data being used in the Federal government?
In 2012, the Obama administration announced the “Big Data Research and Development Initiative,” aimed at improving the how the Federal government collects, analyzes, and interprets Big Data. The larger goal of this initiative was to empower Federal agencies to more efficiently organize and communicate data trends in the fields of science, education, and national security. In addition to the six agencies provided funding for the president’s initiative, a number of government agencies have used “Big Data” to find innovative solutions to problems central to the agency mission.
Why does Big Data matter?
Decisions are more effective when they are data-driven. Having comprehensive processes for managing “Big Data” allows an organization to convert raw, unorganized data into actionable information in real time. Organizations can use this information to:
- Perform risk analyses
- Protect data security
- Reduce the cost of data storage
- Develop predictive models for future events
- Improve operational efficiencies
- Quickly identify problems and take corrective action
- Collaborate with other organizations toward achieving common goals
The increasing prevalence of “Big Data” provides Federal agencies with challenges and opportunities. Effective data analytics processes allow us to turn seemingly unmanageable data sets into useful and useable information.