Myths About Big Data

– Will Hayles, technical writer for Outscale, says:

The problem with a buzzword is that it has this irritating tendency to obfuscate the true meaning of a concept, term, or technology. This is exactly what’s happened with Big Data. Too many people have no real concept of what it is, or even what it’s really used for – we can thank media hype for that one.

See, ever since someone coined the phrase, everyone’s been talking about how awesome Big Data is, many without actually knowing anything about what the term actually means. As a result, the Internet is now positively brimming with half-truths, incorrect assessments, and outright misinformation about the technology.

Today, we’re going to address a few of the most persistent and enduring myths surrounding big data, in hopes that we can speed along their death.

Everyone’s Adopting Big Data – And If You Don’t, You’re Making A Mistake

Big data analysis is still a relatively new technology – and not everyone’s on-board with it quite yet. Of course, you wouldn’t know that, listening to the hype. From what everyone’s been saying, every business that’s even remotely worthwhile is already using analytics software.

Don’t panic – you won’t lose out on anything by waiting a little while before delving into big data. The reality, according to Gartner, is that even though around 73% of businesses are interested in setting up analytics software, only 13% have actually done so.

Size Is The Only Thing That Matters

Perhaps one of the most difficult-to-debunk myths about big data is that it’s all about volume – mostly because it’s partially true. While it’s true that immense size is one of the defining elements of big data – that’s why traditional analytics software can’t analyze it – it’s not the only important aspect. A 2001 research report by Gartner’s Doug Laney identifies variety(the data is drawn from multiple different sources) and velocity(it changes with staggering rapidity) as the other two key components.

It’s Only Useful For Consumer Data

One rather harmful myth I’ve seen with distressing frequency is the notion that big data’s only good for analyzing consumer intent and market conditions. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. See, big data can be drawn from just about anywhere – including your own organization. What that means is that analysis of that data can offer insights ranging from user intent to the efficiency of your staff – or anything aside from that.

Unstructured Data And Big Data Are The Same Thing

In the past, I’ve seen many people use the terms ‘big data’ and ‘unstructured data’ interchangeably. They shouldn’t be – although much unstructured data used in business qualifies as big data, not all big data is unstructured data. In actuality, just about anything can be big data, so long as it possesses the three key qualities (volume, velocity, variety).

It’s The Holy Grail Of Analytics

By far one of the most persistent myths about big data is that it’s some sort of perfect tool; that by using it, your business will end up pulling itself miles ahead of its competitors. This simply isn’t the case. While the analysis of big data can certainly provide an organization with powerful market and operational insights, it’s not necessarily going to save a business if something about it is fundamentally broken.

Myths Busted

I’ve never much been a fan of buzzwords. Although they certainly make it easier to refer to complex, abstract terms, they more often than not make things out to be far more complicated than they need to be, resulting in a torrent of misinformation and misunderstanding. Hopefully I’ve done my part to clear away some of the confusion – and helped at least a few of you understand big data that much more thoroughly.

About William – Will Hayles is a technical writer and blogger for Outscale, a leading cloud hosting provider in the USA and France.