Big Data Poses Challenges, Opportunities for Businesses

Companies across the board are seeing data volumes grow with customer data, email and instant messages, log files and documents leading the way.

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Big data initiatives are delivering generally positive early results for the companies that have launched projects, hinting at the potential to come, according to a survey of 402 business and IT professionals by CompTIA.

The report found organizations also express a willingness to work with third parties for help with their data initiatives, with more than one-third of companies surveyed currently working with an IT firm for their data needs, though these engagements tend to be somewhat simplistic.

Companies across the board are seeing data of all types grow in volume, led by customer data, email and instant messages, log files and documents, the survey indicated.

Respondents also are dealing with fragmented and siloed data, with 45 percent of companies saying that a high degree of their data is fragmented and another 42 percent saying their data fragmentation is moderate.

"The biggest hurdle that companies face when implementing a big data strategy is a solid understanding of where corporate data exists and how it is used," Seth Robinson, senior director of technology analysis at CompTIA, told eWEEK. "Beyond this, the other major hurdle is a lack of skills, especially in areas such as real-time analytics or data security."

About half of the companies surveyed said they currently have the appropriate level of big data skills, while the other half see skills gaps in areas such as real-time analytics, relational databases and data security.

Approximately three-quarters of organizations surveyed said that their business would be stronger if they could harness all of their data.

Additionally, 75 percent of companies said they should be more aware of data privacy, while 73 percent said they need better real-time analysis.

Companies cited several factors for the increased importance of data, with 63 percent relying on data for day-to-day operations and 61 percent citing sensitivity around data privacy.

Sixty percent of businesses said they use data to better understand customers, 59 percent rely on data to measure business objectives, and 56 percent said they store data outside the company.

"In recent years, small companies have found that new technology models such as cloud computing and mobile devices allow them to build capabilities that make them much more competitive," Robinson said. "Big data and BI are further examples of this trend—the small businesses that can successfully harness data to make better decisions will be the ones that are most likely to compete and grow in the digital economy."