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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at

The importance of small and medium businesses in our economy is undeniable. More than half of the American working population is employed by small businesses. If you have been keeping up with technological and business trends in the last couple of years, you probably heard about big data and you could be wondering what this fuss is all about. Why is it called “big” data? Can smaller businesses use big data to their advantage, or is it just for big businesses? The fact is, a small business can benefit from big data, too. What matters is how these businesses approach the big data pool and the strategies they employ. In this primer, we’ll look at how small and medium businesses in the U.S. can use big data to their advantage.

What Is Big Data?
The term “big data” can be used in relative or absolute terms. Either way, big data is just what the term implies. These are really large sets of data that firms can analyze to spot trends and make improvements in business processes. Usually, big data is measured in terabytes and petabytes, as opposed to the gigabytes and megabytes we are used to.

Nowadays, most businesses, including small businesses, store a portion of their data electronically. The combination of data from millions of businesses across the country results in one massive set of data referred to as big data. Size is not the only metric considered when talking about big data; variety, velocity and volume are also examined. Small businesses can take advantage of big data in any of the following ways:

To Generate Revenue
When a business opens its doors to big data, it also welcomes business opportunities. The best part about these opportunities is that they come at absolutely no cost. Big data avails a lot of business tools that can enhance your firm’s productivity and increase revenue massively. A good example is the use of Google Analytics, a tool that examines your clients’ behaviors when they visit your website. There is a bunch of other tools on big data platforms that can help you generate revenue at absolutely no cost.

To Gain Competitive Advantage
If correctly implemented, big data can provide a competitive advantage for your business. It can help you understand which areas your business is lagging behind in and provide your competitors’ market insights. Use the information extracted from big data to better position yourself in the industry, examine customers’ reactions from your business strategies, get crucial information on what your competitors are doing, and figure out where you are going. A small business can use a Hadoop cluster to store, analyze, and distribute large amounts of unstructured data effectively.

To Track Business Decisions and Their Outcomes
Any type of business can benefit from large amounts of analytics. Firms can use the information to understand what works, and to track and examine their promotional strategies. Many businesses have admitted that they implement big data to improve their business operations. Small- and medium-sized businesses can use this data to keep tabs on the perception of their customers on their brand.

To Develop Better Services and Products
Businesses can use big data to determine their customers’ needs, how well the business meets these needs, and what they can do to improve their services or products. Businesses can also use big data to enhance after-sale services, identify flaws, and fix them before it’s too late.

Today’s market scene is ultra-competitive. Businesses, small and large, should take advantage of every available resource—especially big data.

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