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In order to understand 'Big Data', we first need to know what 'data' is. Oxford dictionary defines 'data' as -

"The quantities, characters, or symbols on which operations are performed by a computer, which may be stored and transmitted in the form of electrical signals and recorded on magnetic, optical, or mechanical recording media. "

In this tutorial we will learn,

So, 'Big Data' is also a data but with a huge size. 'Big Data' is a term used to describe collection of data that is huge in size and yet growing exponentially with time.In short, such a data is so large and complex that none of the traditional data management tools are able to store it or process it efficiently.



 Introduction to BIG DATA: Types, Characteristics & Benefits

Examples Of 'Big Data'

Following are some the examples of 'Big Data'-

 Introduction to BIG DATA: Types, Characteristics & Benefits The New York Stock Exchange generates about one terabyte of new trade data per day.

• Social Media Impact

Statistic shows that 500+terabytes of new data gets ingested into the databases of social media site Facebook, every day. This data is mainly generated in terms of photo and video uploads, message exchanges, putting comments etc.

 Introduction to BIG DATA: Types, Characteristics & Benefits
 Introduction to BIG DATA: Types, Characteristics & Benefits Single Jet engine can generate 10+terabytes of data in 30 minutes of a flight time. With many thousand flights per day, generation of data reaches up to many Petabytes.

Categories Of 'Big Data'

Big data' could be found in three forms:

  1. Structured
  2. Unstructured
  3. Semi-structured


Any data that can be stored, accessed and processed in the form of fixed format is termed as a 'structured' data. Over the period of time, talent in computer science have achieved greater success in developing techniques for working with such kind of data (where the format is well known in advance) and also deriving value out of it. However, now days, we are foreseeing issues when size of such data grows to a huge extent, typical sizes are being in the rage of multiple zettabyte.

Do you know? 1021 bytes equals to 1 zettabyte or one billion terabytes forms a zettabyte.

Looking at these figures one can easily understand why the name 'Big Data' is given and imagine the challenges involved in its storage and processing.

Do you know? Data stored in a relational database management system is one example of a 'structured' data.

Examples Of Structured Data

An 'Employee' table in a database is an example of Structured Data

Employee_ID  Employee_Name  Gender  Department  Salary_In_lacs
2365  Rajesh Kulkarni  Male  Finance 650000
3398  Pratibha Joshi  Female  Admin  650000
7465  Shushil Roy  Male  Admin  500000
7500  Shubhojit Das  Male  Finance  500000
7699  Priya Sane  Female  Finance  550000


Any data with unknown form or the structure is classified as unstructured data. In addition to the size being huge, un-structured data poses multiple challenges in terms of its processing for deriving value out of it. Typical example of unstructured data is, a heterogeneous data source containing a combination of simple text files, images, videos etc. Now a day organizations have wealth of data available with them but unfortunately they don't know how to derive value out of it since this data is in its raw form or unstructured format.

Examples Of Un-structured Data

Output returned by 'Google Search'


 Introduction to BIG DATA: Types, Characteristics & Benefits



Semi-structured data can contain both the forms of data. We can see semi-structured data as a strcutured in form but it is actually not defined with e.g. a table definition in relational DBMS. Example of semi-structured data is a data represented in XML file.

Examples Of Semi-structured Data

Personal data stored in a XML file-

<rec><name>Prashant Rao</name><sex>Male</sex><age>35</age></rec>
<rec><name>Seema R.</name><sex>Female</sex><age>41</age></rec>
<rec><name>Satish Mane</name><sex>Male</sex><age>29</age></rec>
<rec><name>Subrato Roy</name><sex>Male</sex><age>26</age></rec>
<rec><name>Jeremiah J.</name><sex>Male</sex><age>35</age></rec>

Data Growth over years

 Introduction to BIG DATA: Types, Characteristics & Benefits

 Please note that web application data, which is unstructured, consists of log files, transaction history files etc. OLTP systems are built to work with structured data wherein data is stored in relations (tables).

Characteristics Of 'Big Data'

(i)Volume – The name 'Big Data' itself is related to a size which is enormous. Size of data plays very crucial role in determining value out of data. Also, whether a particular data can actually be considered as a Big Data or not, is dependent upon volume of data. Hence, 'Volume' is one characteristic which needs to be considered while dealing with 'Big Data'.

(ii)Variety – The next aspect of 'Big Data' is its variety.

Variety refers to heterogeneous sources and the nature of data, both structured and unstructured. During earlier days, spreadsheets and databases were the only sources of data considered by most of the applications. Now days, data in the form of emails, photos, videos, monitoring devices, PDFs, audio, etc. is also being considered in the analysis applications. This variety of unstructured data poses certain issues for storage, mining and analysing data.

(iii)Velocity – The term 'velocity' refers to the speed of generation of data. How fast the data is generated and processed to meet the demands, determines real potential in the data.

Big Data Velocity deals with the speed at which data flows in from sources like business processes, application logs, networks and social media sites, sensors, Mobile devices, etc. The flow of data is massive and continuous.

(iv)Variability – This refers to the inconsistency which can be shown by the data at times, thus hampering the process of being able to handle and manage the data effectively.

Benefits of Big Data Processing

Ability to process 'Big Data' brings in multiple benefits, such as-

• Businesses can utilize outside intelligence while taking decisions

Access to social data from search engines and sites like facebook, twitter are enabling organizations to fine tune their business strategies.

• Improved customer service

Traditional customer feedback systems are getting replaced by new systems designed with 'Big Data' technologies. In these new systems, Big Data and natural language processing technologies are being used to read and evaluate consumer responses.

• Early identification of risk to the product/services, if any

• Better operational efficiency

'Big Data' technologies can be used for creating staging area or landing zone for new data before identifying what data should be moved to the data warehouse. In addition, such integration of 'Big Data' technologies and data warehouse helps organization to offload infrequently accessed data.