Big data is something that most marketers hadn’t heard of until just a couple of years ago. Now many of them are beginning to recognize that this latest trend is something that they should probably get to grips with very quickly. The reason? Big data has the potential power to change a complete business strategy – and to do it successfully.

What Exactly is Big Data?

Big data consists of large collections of data sets that are often too complex for traditional data processing applications. Therefore the size of the “big data” collection will often vary depending on the capabilities of the organisation that is running and processing the set.

Below is a demonstration of exactly how big this “big data” can get:

Binary digit = 1 bit
8 bits = 1 byte
1,024 bytes = 1 kilobyte
1,024 kilobytes = 1 megabyte
1,024 megabytes = 1 gigabyte
1,024 gigabytes = 1 terabyte
1,024 terabytes =1 petabyte
1,024 petabytes = 1 exabyte or 1,152,921,504,606,846,976 bytes

To put that into perspective, if all of the sensor data in the Large Hadron Collider was collected throughout an average day ( that’s about 150 million sensors delivering data 40 million times per second) that data collection would consist of approximately 500 exabytes per day.


How Big Data Can Benefit Business – But Why It Mostly Still Doesn’t

The benefit of processing these large data collections lies in the additional information that can be noted, when compared to smaller data sets with the same information, allowing further correlations to be discovered, such as sales trends in a particular business industry.

The problem is that challenges lay ahead in almost every aspect of big data processing, including; capturing, curating, storing, searching, transferring, analysing and visualising the data. The difficulty doesn’t just stop there. According to a recent article at, making use of this big data still remains a struggle for many marketers.

Last summer a KPMG survey discovered that whilst more than half of the business Chief Financial Officer’s surveyed were committed to increasing their capacity for big data analysis, under 25% of those businesses were actually putting any of those newly gained insights into practice.

In 2013, Experian Data Quality surveyed a number of data management decision makers and determined that collecting “contact” information was still currently the most valuable data for marketers. So despite having access to all this big data, it appears that fundamentally we are still lacking the technology or computing power to process it successfully. Standard tools are just not capable of analysing such massive sets of data.

Why Big data is not just another “buzzword”

To understand if we can ever use big data effectively we need only look towards those in charge to realise that we already are. There are a few good examples of the Government using big data effectively to make decisions. Such as the “troubled families” initiative, which successfully collected and analysed combined data on families, although it was a collaborative effort involving local public services.

During the 2014 budget, George Osborne announced £42 million of funding for the Alan Turing Institute (a famous British mathematician), ensuring that Britain leads the way in big data collection and algorithm research.

It was then announced in the Guardian yesterday that on Tuesday 15th April the UK Government are hosting a livechat – with plans to discuss exactly how big data can help transform public services and kickstart business innovation.