THE BLOG
10/11/2016 02:35 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What You Need to Know About Big Data and Small Data

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With more data being created in the past three years than in the entire previous history of the human race, it's pretty difficult to ignore the driving point that's behind it all. So what exactly is big data and small data? We're here to explain.

In order to understand the differences between Big Data and Small Data, one must fully understand what the terms actually mean and why data is so important. Research states that data is growing faster than ever before and by the year 2020 around 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet.

Big data describes the large volume of both structured and unstructured data. However, it is not the quantity of data that matters, rather it's what organizations do with it. Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves. As stated in the Predictive Analytics World, "the term 'big data' is ambiguous - when does it actually cross the line from just being 'data'? The plain truth is that nobody is really sure... It can be more useful to define Big Data as the data necessary to make decisions that have a positive impact on a business. Think about the 'bigness' not in terms of literally how much data there is, but in its potential to help make more money."

Big data is so revolutionary in fact, that the White House has already invested over $200 million in big data projects.

To quote Ricardo Vladimiro, Game Analytics and Data Science Lead, big data is easier to understand through an analogy. "Let's think of data as a road. We have very narrow roads. So narrow that we can only walk there and no vehicles are allowed. If I give you a table printed on a piece of paper, that's a narrow road. Now let's think of a highway. Only cars can go there... you wouldn't dare getting there with a bicycle, right? But with a car you could. If you had a truck with tons of material to deliver, you'd prefer the highway, right? That is big data."

Small data, on the other hand, is a dataset that contains very specific attributes: small data is used to determine current states and conditions or may be generated by analyzing larger data sets. Furthermore, "for many problems and questions, small data in itself is enough." In fact, the data on your household energy use, the times of local buses and everything processed in Excel are all small data. "At its core, the idea of small data is that businesses can get actionable results without acquiring the kinds of systems commonly used in Big Data analytics."

"They depend on each other but they are not the same thing"
After doing my research for this article I reached my own conclusion regarding big and small data. While big data is a lot harder to explain or fathom since it contains an enormous amount of information, small data is small enough in size so you can understand it. Big data for example could be the entire universe, whereas
small data could be a specific constellation.

Big data and small data are closely related but do have their share of differences. Big data is characterized by the 4Vs, which all combine together to make big data very difficult to understand and manage. Small data, on the other hand, is made up of information that is much easier to comprehend, access and organize.

"A revolution that will touch every business"
In the IBM released book Understanding Big Data, the term big data applies to "information that can't be processed or analyzed using traditional processes or tools." That is where big data analytics database softwares are needed. One of the groundbreaking companies trying to challenge the definition of Big data is Coralogix, which is able to automatically turn million of log entries into a set of log patterns and provide statistic views of them instead of the traditional approach of treating them as Big data and simply index and visualize them .

While there is still a debate regarding the hold big data versus small data has on the market, it is clear that neither one of them is going away anytime soon. Quite the contrary: "we are just at the beginning of a revolution that will touch every business and every life on this planet."

When it comes down to it, we need big and small data in order to properly access information and understand it as best as humanly possible. The world of technology is so much more advanced than we'll ever be, but the fact that we can still control its innovations through analytical database softwares only makes it that much more fascinating. We may only be able to know about some of the planets surrounding us, but eventually as big data continues to progress, we will literally be able to reach for the stars.