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Accessible and Affordable – Big Data for Small Business

In this special guest feature, David Zimmerman, CEO of LC Technology International, Inc., believes that small business owners that feel big data is just for the “big players” are in for a surprise when they check out the latest small business analytics tools. These tools are more accessible both in terms of cost and their actual user interfaces, making them usable by people with only moderate technical skill. David has been in the hardware/software industry for over 30 years, specifically in the data recovery software market for 18 years.

Smaller businesses often cannot enjoy economies of scale. A startup software company won’t be able to negotiate pricing for cloud storage the same way a global company like Cisco can. The scale of the bigger companies allows them preferential pricing. This dynamic keeps many benefits out of reach for the smaller players.

Fortunately, technology tools are becoming increasingly more accessible and affordable for companies of any size. Big data analytics platforms, for example, give smaller organizations new insights derived from their data. Even the smallest companies now produce a significant amount of data when they use CRM platforms, manage a website or app, and conduct transactions. Every customer interaction, sale, contact and event produces data that holds value that can be used to make better business decisions in the future. 

Costs Fall, Usability Rises

The cost of web-based tools has fallen sharply over the years. Many powerful platforms are free or have a free trial. For small businesses, the free model is often sufficient for data management tools, until they develop enough data to warrant a paid account. Google Analytics is a platform used by a majority of businesses and is a good starting point for website traffic analytics. It’s free for any company producing less than five million impressions a month. By looking at site traffic, small business owners can better understand their typical customers’ demographics and adjust their tactics accordingly. These metrics can also help build year-over-year growth rates and add context to other data points.

One popular freemium-model platform is MixPanel, a tool that looks deeper at online behavioral metrics. Another is Flurry, a tool for reviewing app statistics that helps company’s revise their apps dynamically for the optimal customer experience. Even the paid versions of most freemium analytics apps are often worth the price, especially when compared to the benefit of the insights these platforms produce.

Small companies that dive into big data analytics quickly find they rely on the data. They use it to make informed decisions about new products or services, pricing, marketing focus and a range of other aspects of the business. As the data and insights become more entrenched in the business, its value increases, and data becomes a core asset of the company – one that warrants safeguarding.

Safeguarding Your Big Data

Storing big data is a challenge, especially as the data sets grow and come from multiple sources. Small businesses should look to the cloud as the best option for backing up big data. Analytics platforms are typically web-based in the cloud already, so it makes sense to keep the information plugging into those platforms within the cloud as well. The cost of cloud storage continues to fall, and the security protections and accessibility continue to improve.

Using the cloud is now possible for companies of any size. Usage of the cloud removes the risks that come from operating an in-house server room such as fire, outages, floods or other disasters. Older methods such as tape-based storage can hold massive amounts of data, but there’s risk in transporting and storing the tapes. Cloud-based information is ultimately held on physical servers, but they’re constantly backed up to multiple locations, which effectively removes the risks of a natural disaster or site-specific incident.

Organizations that want an extra layer of protection can back up the most vital data to external hard drives as well. This provides the company with additional assurance that their data is secure. External drives are very cheap, reliable, and offer assurances in the extraordinarily unlikely event of a cloud provider data loss event.

Small business owners that feel big data is just for the “big players” are in for a surprise when they check out the latest small business analytics tools. These tools are more accessible both in terms of cost and their actual user interfaces, making them usable by people with only moderate technical skill. These factors have come together to level the playing field, so small companies can generate insights and make critical decisions based on actual, credible data.

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