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Data is the lifeblood of your digital business

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Peter Prowse Group Data Centre Vice President- Strategic Partnerships

Peter Prowse             Group Data Centre Vice President- Strategic Partnerships

Big data is more than a buzzword.

It’s what drives transformation within businesses around the globe. It helps you understand your customers’ buying behaviour. It can help you close targeted sales. There’s so much data now that many CIOs have stopped calling it ‘big’. It’s enormous and it’s growing fast.

I’m often asked: ‘How do I approach this surge in data strategically?’

Making sense of big data is all about identifying patterns from raw information, the essence of data mining. For example, it might entail finding a connection between beer and diapers. By analysing cash slips, one might discover an unexpected correlation between the sales of beer and diapers. This could be because fathers on an errand to buy diapers also conveniently purchase beer at the same time.
The newly discovered information can then be used to motivate a change in sales strategy that could drive higher sales.

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Just imagine what’s possible with all of the new data generated from web browsing, online transactions, even tracking movements within shopping malls via mobile devices. In the financial services sector, for example, banks and insurance organisations use big data to identify fraud by spotting patterns that would indicate the likelihood of fraudulent transactions.

These developments are ushering in massive opportunities for businesses. In turn, CIOs are coming under increasing pressure to provide the necessary tools and processes to enable a big data strategy for their businesses in order to capture market opportunities and/or prevent reputational damage.

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The ability to capture and effectively utilise data from multiple sources, in multiple formats, and in real time, touches almost every aspect of the IT ecosystem, from storage to security. However, it’s important to define an underlying information policy before implementing new infrastructure or processes.

Decide which types of information you want to keep and for how long, how and where you need the information stored, and how you’ll access it.

Also consider the impact on the network. We’re reaching the point where the effectiveness of networks is inversely proportional to the volume of information they contain. You need to make sure that all the elements used to build the network work together well. The traditional approach – keeping networks running by adding more bandwidth − will no longer do. The data-ready network needs to be developed with overarching business objectives in mind.

Concerns about security change with big data. Unstructured data makes security professionals nervous. This is because it’s not ‘tagged’ to a specified risk profile or category, and it’s not yet clear as to what its value is to the business. The result is that it can’t be mapped to your corporate governance policies and remains a weak spot in your security posture. With data flowing into the organisation in an unstructured way, there’s also a higher risk that it may contain malicious content.

That said, organisations don’t need to be frightened of big data, but they should pursue it in the right way. Security solutions shouldn’t be ‘bolted onto’ whichever new solution you’ve purchased as an afterthought, but should be built into the solution itself. Security should be part of the big data conversation right from the start.

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