It seems the latest buzz word everyone is talking about is Big Data.  Ok technically that is two words but you know what I mean.  More and more articles on the internet are talking about this and it seems everyone is trying to sell businesses of any size a Big Data strategy.

So just pause for a second and pay attention to the next sentence.  If you are a SME or even a Small MNC you may be wondering what strategy you need to apply for Big Data, well the answer is simple you don’t because whatever anyone else tells you it does not apply to you.  Don’t get caught up in the hype and spend lots of money in strategy and planning…… appointing committees or task forces.  If anyone approaches you to sell you Big Data Solutions you can smile and say no thanks.

So what is big data.  In laymans terms big data is a database that is too big.  That’s it… as simple as that.  As with anything once it gets too big it becomes unmanageable   A lie that gets out of hand to your daughters super long hair… once it gets too big (much) it is unmanageable   The same applies to databases.

So what sort of databases are we talking about here.  Well this is the key point.  We are not talking about your company database of contacts (although you may think it is unmanageable  or the database you use for your accounting software regardless of how many 1,000’s of transactions you do per week.  For Big Data we are talking about amounts of data that even I find it hard to comprehend.  Here are a few examples:-

Large Hadron Collider – if you have not heard of it, it is a science experiment in Switzerland on a massive scale.  There are 600 million pieces of data every second that need to be processed and they filter out 99.999% of these as not worth analyising.  That still leaves 25 Petabytes of data per year which after replication for disaster recovery or other reasons) is 200 petabytes of data per year.  Probably many of you have never heard of a Petabyte so to put things into perspective a modern good quality computer would come with a Terabyte Hard Disk.  Well 200 Petabytes is approximately 200,000 Terabyte Hard disks.  That’s an awful lot of data that needs to be stored in a database for processing.  Luckily for you and me unless you are a scientist the only thing of interest for this is probably the occasional article on BBC where they believe they have sent a particle faster than the speed of light.  That would be the culmination of the processing of all that data for 99.999% of the population.

Microsoft – their hotmail ( system can support over one billion mailboxes and hundreds of Petabytes.  So the problem of Big Data is how they manage that.  As a user you don’t need to know how they do it as long as your email works.

Facebook – stores currently around 50 billion photos in its database from all its users.  If we assume each photo is around half a meg (reasonable assumption) then that is 25 Petabytes, assuming my calculation is correct….  Again as long as your photos load and you can see your friends photos why would you care how it works.

Wallmart – Ok so there are some companies who need to address Big Data.  Wallmart handles 1 million customer transactions every hour.  They store this in their database which is over 2.5 petabytes in size, yes back to Petabytes.  As long as your transactions are ok you don’t really care how their manage their data.

So whilst you can clearly see that Big data affects us in our daily lives (well probably not in the case of the Large Haldron Collider) it really does not matter to us how these companies manage it as long as it works.  As a generalisation we can say that unless your data storage is in the Petabytes then you don’t need to be worried.  Of course best practice of handling data in a database does not really change no matter how big the database is.

However one of the comments above, on the Large Haldron Collider, in regards to the replication of their data is something that has direct impact on any company of any size.  That is disaster recovery and business continuity.  The larger your data the harder this becomes but for any company of any size this is a critical part of the business planning and something that FunctionEight can help with.  If you are in Hong Kong or Singapore and would like to discuss data replication for disaster recovery or business continuity planning please feel free to give me a call on +852 62770800 or email me at .

Phil Aldridge.

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