Big data certainly holds a lot of promise for many businesses. In fact, it is that promise that has propelled the concept of big data into the peak of its hype now, even while implementation has yet to go into mainstream.

The rise of big data represents a significant paradigm shift from the limitations of conventional Business Intelligence (BI) — “rearview mirror” reports and generally ‘dated’ information — to more current and predictive data analytics that promote insightful decision making. But with so much data from various sources available and with the capability to pull in and analyze these data into relevant information, why aren’t more enterprises turning to big data?

The truth is, for all its potential, many companies are yet to be convinced that an investment in big data platforms, such as Hadoop technology will be worth it.

Turning data into information

Data is good, and more data is even better. But we’re not talking about structured, transactional data stored in formatted company databases here. These days, the more relevant data may come from external sources outside the company — social media channels, microblogging sites, images, search queries, video and audio files, data from mobile devices, and more. This has sent enterprises scrambling to build huge server farms of massive computing power, and mobilized venture capital firms into investing millions of dollars in technologies that can capture and store petabytes upon petabytes of data.

So the fundamental challenge in big data isn’t so much in collecting the volumes of data dispersed over various sources as it is in transforming these data into meaningful information. To drive business forward, key decision makers need to have access to quality data, not the large quantities of it. Now while the problem may seem straightforward, the solution, i.e. big data implementation, is a technical and costly process. But not if you know where to put your resources.

The impact of ‘small data’

Many are under the impression that only enterprise-level companies can leverage big data but this isn’t exactly true. Applying the adage about not trying to boil the ocean, what SMEs can do is harness the power of the ‘small data’. This allows businesses who can’t go all out in building enterprise data warehouses to still tap into big data, without going overboard. For one, you may not need all that data, plus, you may not have enough skills within the organization to make sense of it all.

Starting small means essentially focusing on models which would entail the least amount of investment, would be simplest to deploy, or would bring in ROI and drive profits the fastest. Establish these business objectives at the outset and work backwards from there. If at all possible, use data that is already on hand, and combine this with externally-sourced data sets, but this time targeting specific outcomes.

Say for instance you’ve already identified customer service as an area that has great impact on your P&L. Then it’s time to revisit those call center records to find out who have been put on hold for long, scour social media sites to find out who are talking about their not-so-pleasant encounters with support services, identify what problems were brought to attention, compare records and see how many have stopped being your customers, and finally, plan on what you can do proactively to ensure less fallout and greater client satisfaction.

Measuring big data ROI

Big data payoff can be easier to measure in some industries more than others. When applied to the web and e-commerce for example, results can be in the form of increased visits, longer session lengths, and more sales or clicks. Financial services can also greatly benefit from big data, particularly where high frequency trading and risk calculation of large loan portfolios are concerned. In manufacturing, big data plays a big role in detecting product defects and boosting quality control.

Whatever the industry however, the key to working with big data is knowing the desired outcomes first, and then using technology to achieve these. So while investment in technology is a given, it doesn’t have to be that high if objectives and efforts are streamlined, and considering the availability of open source tools. The other substantial big data investment would go towards getting the skills and talent of trained thinkers who would help identify specific business outcomes, define processes, cherry pick the data sets where the most insightful information can be derived, and facilitate deployment.

It’s true that big data projects can be difficult, and the sheer magnitude of the data can be daunting. But for those who are clear with the value they can derive from it, those who can work out their big data strategy and get it right, the payback can be huge.

For anyone who regularly travels abroad, whether for business or pleasure, you will undoubtedly by now have experienced ‘foreign phone fury’.

What is Foreign Phone Fury?

‘Foreign phone fury’ is that familiar sense of frustration, coupled with rage, that threatens to engulf you the moment you switch on your cell after landing, to let your loved ones know you are there safely, only to discover the country you have travelled to doesn’t use the same mobile standard as you, leaving your phone virtually useless.

If you are fortunate enough to find a compatible network, you realise the cost of making and receiving calls and messages is astronomically high. In addition to this you discover your travel insurance company is unlikely to cover your cell if it gets lost or stolen whilst travelling.

So, you try to find a payphone but notice you don’t have any of the correct local currency in our pocket. You then try to find a shop to purchase a local phone card from, but they have all closed – Aaaargh!

In the end you stuff your credit card angrily into the payphone and watch your
dollars rapidly disappear while you make the call.

Yes, we’ve all been there.

What’s the cure?

Enter the pre-paid phone or pre-paid SIM card! The pre-paid option allows travellers who need a phone while travelling overseas but are reluctant to pay the high ‘roaming costs’ of using their GSM abroad, to remain contactable and in touch with important people.

You can purchase a Prepaid SIM card or handset for only a few dollars, which
will contain a specific amount of credit with the provider, and can be topped up
as needed. The prepaid option allows the user to talk for as long as they like, within the specified period, using credit that can be topped up at any time.

Prepaid SIMS can also provide a quantified period of Internet usage and a data allowance, which can be upgraded for an additional premium if required. Vital for keeping on top of your business needs whilst away.

Doesn’t pre-paid mean basic?

With 25% of all US cell phone users now opting for pre-paid over contract (or post paid) the choice of pre-paid phones available is pretty incredible, even at the lower end of the market, where you can find sleek looking handsets with a number of cool features, for just a few dollars.

This is great news if you’re worried about your phone being lost or stolen whilst away – replacing it won’t leave such a huge whole in your holiday purse.

This article was written by Kathryn Thompson. Kathryn is an experienced technology blogger, who has covered topics from GPS tracking, to the latest in mobile technology.

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Net10 for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Unlimited is a good thing. When the price is right actually. The Net10 unlimited plan does fit that bill. But before that, I have to describe what Net10 is all about. You could say Net 10 is a telecommunications provider. They are pretty well known as a wireless service that offers all local, long distance and roaming calls.

Unlimited plans are very advantageous to corporate users and even to personal users who like to text and talk a lot. For Net 10, their unlimited plan covers for only $50 a month with great nationwide coverage and excellent reception and connectivity. There are no contracts involved, no surprise bills and no credit checks. A win-win situation for any subscriber to be.

Or if you are the conservative type, you can always apply for the Easy minutes Plus plan which is an automatic minutes plan that starts at $15 for 200 minutes. Then if you feel the need for more, you can upgrade anytime for unlimited features. If you want to keep on switching between the two, no worries, you do not get charged for this.

Pretty flexible, right?

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