What Is Big Data? Definition, How It Works, and Uses

What Is Big Data? Definition, How It Works, and Uses

If you’ve ever opened LinkedIn, turned on the news or read a report on the future of the tech industry, you’ve come across the term ‘big data’. You may have even wondered what it means. Sure, you know what ‘data’ means, but what exactly about one piece of data makes it ‘big?’

This buzzword is used in many businesses and organisations to refer to the vast amount of information they generate and collect each day. Today, we’ll be exploring the definition of big data, how businesses use it, and its advantages and drawbacks.

What is big data?

The term ‘big data’ was first coined in the early 2000s, when more and more consumers were starting to access the internet and use electronic devices at work and at home.

Previously, most data was ‘structured,’ meaning it was organised in a predefined format such as spreadsheets or databases. This data was easily handled using traditional data processing methods, such as statistical analysis software.

But with the introduction of smart devices and the IoT, more and more data began being produced each day.

In 2023, around 328.77 million terabytes of data will be created every day. To put that into perspective, it would take you or me 3.3 million years to download all the data created in just one day using a standard 100 Mbps internet connection.

The data captured by businesses today, including from social media posts, emails, sensor data, and customer transactions, is typically unstructured, meaning it’s too large and complex to be processed and analysed by traditional data processing methods.

Today, businesses rely on big data to make data-driven decisions and require expert engineers to support their big data management processes.

Big data examples

Let’s look at some examples of what big data means in practice. Big data typically comprises unstructured or semi-structured data, which includes many types of data and sources.

If you align with these statements, outsourcing your ReactJS development could be a great option for you:

  • Text data: Emails, social media posts, customer reviews, chat messages, and support tickets.
  • Multimedia data: Images, videos, and audio recordings that are not in a structured format.
  • Web data: Web pages, metadata, HTML, social media user profiles, blogs, forums, and other online content.
  • Sensor data: Data generated by IoT devices such as smart homes, wearables, and other connected devices that generate large volumes of unstructured data.
  • Geospatial data: Data from GPS systems, location-based services, maps, and other location-based data.
  • Machine data: Log files, performance metrics, error messages, and other data generated by software applications, servers, and network devices.
  • E-commerce data: Online shopping platforms generate a lot of information, including product information, customer orders, and payment information.

Big data in use: What is the importance of big data?

Today, businesses of all sizes rely on data analysis to inform their decision-making, helping them stay ahead of the competition while meeting their customers’ expectations. Big data allows organisations to gain insights into customer behaviour, market trends, and other critical business factors.

With the correct tools and processes in place to help them analyse the vast data sets they’re collecting, businesses can identify patterns and trends that allow them to improve business operations, increase efficiency, and reduce costs.

What companies focus on big data?

Many companies across various industries are leveraging big data to improve their operations. Unsurprisingly, tech giants such as Google and Amazon have led the charge on big data innovation. These goliaths have used big data technology to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to launching new products and services their customers will love.

And now, big data is increasingly used by retailers such as Walmart to understand their customer behaviour better and healthcare organisations to develop more effective treatments and personalised medicine.

5 examples of big data in use

To really paint a picture, let’s explore 5 great examples of big data in use.

  • Netflix: Netflix uses big data to analyse viewer data and provide personalised recommendations to its users. By analysing viewing habits, search history, and other data, Netflix can provide more targeted content recommendations, increasing viewer engagement and customer loyalty.
  • Uber: In 2014, ride-hailing service Uber began working on a Big Data solution to help optimise its efficiency, reliability and scalability. By analysing real-time data, including traffic patterns, demand, and supply, Uber could improve its services. It has also used Big Data to improve the functionality and speed of its app.
  • Coca-Cola: Drinks manufacturer Coca-Cola has used big data to analyse customer behaviour and optimise its marketing efforts. By analysing customer data, Coca-Cola can better understand consumer preferences and target its marketing efforts more effectively.
  • John Deere: By analysing data from sensors on its tractors and other equipment, farming equipment manufacturer John Deere can identify areas for improvement and develop more efficient and effective farming solutions.
  • American Express: American Express is a great example of innovative tech in the finance sector. The payment card specialist has used big data to detect fraud; by analysing customer transactions in real-time, American Express can identify suspicious activity and prevent fraudulent transactions, protecting the company and its customers.

What do big data engineers do?

Big data engineers are responsible for designing and implementing big data solutions for corporations. They’re typically specialists who are trained in using advanced tools and technologies that can process large amounts of data. They’ll also understand the data models in big data.

Plus, they’re responsible for ensuring the security and privacy of a business’s data.

Advantages and disadvantages of big data

Big data has many advantages for businesses and organisations. Unfortunately, there are also downsides to using big data. While that doesn’t mean businesses should avoid using big data (that isn’t much of an option these days), it is important to understand the challenges you’ll need to overcome.

Let’s explore both sides of the issue.

The advantages of big data:

To really paint a picture, let’s explore 5 great examples of big data in use.

  • Provides valuable insights into customer behaviour, market trends, and other critical business factors
  • Allows businesses to improve operations, reduce costs, and increase revenue through data-driven decision-making
  • Can help identify new business opportunities and areas for growth
  • Enables more accurate predictions and forecasts based on historical data
  • Valuable insights help businesses understand their customers, allowing them to optimise existing products and launch new services to meet their needs
  • Improves collaboration and communication across departments and teams

The disadvantages of big data:

  • The cost of implementing and maintaining big data solutions can be high
  • The complexity of big data requires specialised skills and expertise
  • Managing large volumes of sensitive data, like customer data, requires increased attention to data privacy and security. As businesses need to comply with regulations like GDPR, it is important to invest in data protection.
  • Data integrity is critical to making good data-informed decisions; however, if data is collected from multiple sources (or is incomplete), there is a risk a business’s data may not be high quality
  • The risk of data breaches and other cybersecurity threats can be higher with big data solutions

Also, you can read the article about the pros and cons of outsourcing big data engineering.

Final thoughts

Today, big data is an integral part of business options. So, big data is here to stay..

The rate at which businesses and individuals create and collect data will only continue to grow as more devices launch to the market and the world’s population expands. For individual businesses, this will be incredibly valuable, allowing leaders to gain useful insights into customer behaviour, market trends, and other critical business factors.

As technology continues to evolve around us, all we can do is try and keep up with developments. There is so much to be gained from big data, so businesses looking to remain competitive in an ever-changing market would be wise to invest in implementing and maintaining their big data capabilities.



What is big data in business?
‘Big data in businesses’ refers to the large data sets businesses can analyse to reveal valuable insights. They can then use this information to make data-driven decisions that improve operations.
How does big data work?
Big data uses advanced analytics technologies to process, manage, and analyse large and complex data sets. This includes using tools like data processing software, cloud-based solutions and data visualisation apps.
Where is big data used?
Any business can use big data to inform their decision-making processes, including those in the healthcare, finance, retail, and manufacturing industries.
What are the upsides and challenges of big data?
The pros of big data include valuable insights, opportunities for growth, accurate forecasts and optimised products. The cons include complexity, data quality and the risk of cybersecurity threats.

Latest Articles

We assemble, you scale

We Assemble your offshore team, the administration, human resources, and provide you with a dedicated European liaison so you can focus on what you do best – grow!

Let’s assemble your offshore development team

One of our customer success managers will get in touch with you within 24 working hours. Note: We don’t sell your information and follow GDPR norms strictly.