21st century witnessed an astonishing progress of the virtual phenomenon commonly known as the information technology. Moreover, with the inception and rise of cloud computing, information technology has become more accessible to the general masses due to cost- effectiveness and availability of various applications.
Another aspect that was subsequently facilitated, due to the democratization of info tech, is big data; which refers to extremely large and complex data sets that are analyzed to predict trends and patterns, user behaviors and human interactions. Big data is of unprecedented value to every industry including banks, government organizations, health care sector, education sector and manufacturers.
Big data and its importance
Gartner simplifies the definition of big data as:
“…high-volume, -velocity and -variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making”
According to this definition, collection of data is futile in itself unless it is merged with high-power analytics to help an organization in astute decision making. The data generated from various sources can determine the root causes of existing problems in an establishment. It can also benefit them in deciphering answers and trends to enable economization of processes, effective time-management, better products development and imminent risk calculations.
Furthermore, it also optimizes the process of examining large amounts of data, both structured and unstructured; making it faster and more efficient for enterprises to generate a point of reference and make immediate decisions helping them grow their productivity smoothly and with agility.
The correlation between big data and cloud computing
Organizations have been generating large amounts of data for decades but they needed substantial provisions for storage, computation and analysis of these data. Cloud computing expedited the emergence of big data by providing a virtual infrastructure for organizations to store, transfer, compute and retrieve large amounts of data at an economical cost. It further enables businesses to create a supporting platform that can be molded according to their individual requirements, without any substantial initial investment.
Simply put, while big data is responsible for storage and data processing to yield answers, cloud provides a reliable, fault tolerant, and scalable environment to compute the big data systems without any hindrance.
Advantages of cloud computing
While “big data” is generally a new paradigm, data collection and storage have been ubiquitous. Initially, the benefits of big data were only reaped by resourceful organizations and influential businesses as it was often impossible for small business to invest in the purchase and maintenance of a digital infrastructure; those that comprised data processing software, servers and storage. Moreover, it would take days and weeks for server installations and data analysis for a comprehensive understanding of trends; something that small businesses could not afford in time or money.
However, the conception of cloud computing has empowered small and medium sized enterprises (SME) to make use of the best of existing technology, providing them with as much opportunities as the big organizations in terms of:
Affordability: An SME can now devise a subscription plan to access the latest technology according to their budgets and pay only for the services they use on an hourly basis. They can easily add or remove the services and storage space as per their needs to avoid excessive and unnecessary costs.
Scalability: Imagine cloud, a metaphor for internet, and cloud computing as a digital storage and data processing space, respectively. While a physical storage space and processing servers in the real-time world would require considerable rack-space, the digital world provides businesses the liberty to expand or even shrink the storage space. It can allow them to alter the number of off-site servers employed according to their requirements as the demand for data processing fluctuates annually.
Efficiency: Unlike the traditional set-up, cloud database with thousands of servers can speed up the data processing tremendously, yielding instant results for prompt solutions.One of the biggest changes that is noticed immediately is the ability to track products. For instance, many restaurants have switched over to cloud-based POS systems because it allows for tracking inventory.
Ease of management: You can focus on running your business while your cloud service provider monitors and manages your data. They can also provide you with insightful solutions and expert advice should you need assistance.
Cyber security: Depending on the nature of your business, you might be obligated to follow strict regulations to ensure the security of your data. Your cloud hosting provider safeguards your data, avoiding cases of security breach and invaluable data leaks. This is highly beneficial for SMEs that do not have the resources or man power to spare.
Challenges to big data faced by the cloud:
Even though data generation has been around for ages, the last five years saw an astronomical amount of data being produced. This data can be structured – of definitive length or format for big data usually produced by organizations; or unstructured – of unspecified format for big data, common example being messaging, emails as well as the data uploaded on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc.
This boom in data generation has made it increasingly difficult for the cloud to store, organize and anatomize data. While structured data has specified storage policies and processing units built by cloud hosting providers according to demands of any organization, the unpredictability of unstructured data makes it difficult to sift through in order to unearth potentially useful insights compared to simply storing and retrieving it.
Another concern of organizations and cloud providers is the cyber security of the data as they might hold sensitive information such as credit card numbers, personal information or high-security governmental data. According to statistics, the number of cyber-attacks increase exponentially each year making it extremely important to keep an ever-expanding security system in place.
Moreover, large amounts of data are constantly being transported and stored in the cloud, which makes it all the more necessary that data is monitored perpetually and effectively as leaks can result in financial and reputation damages to an organization.
The good news is; big data and cloud computing are ever evolving technological fields that witness groundbreaking advancements on a daily basis, and we are confident that in days and months to come, current challenges associated with both will be overcome.
Author Bio – Andrew Patrick is a freelance writer and editor. He is passionate about health, lifestyle and healthcare technology and writes frequently on these topics. A major turning point in his life came when he decided to lose 75 lbs. to regain his health. He holds a Masters’ degree in Computer Science.