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Jul 16, 2014

Headlines have swept through the nation in the past number of days condemning big data versus the age-old technique of "going with your gut" when it comes to making a major decision, with some controversial results.

According to a recent study by business-to-business research firm Gyro, 62 percent of the 720 business leaders surveyed said they would follow their intuition before basing a decision on "hard analytics" alone, and 61 percent agreed that real-world experience was a better decision measurement than big data services. Media outlets have shared this revelation as bad news for those who vend cloud infrastructures, but such couldn't be further from the truth - when it comes down to it, the two can coexist in perfect harmony if a business plays its cards right.

Big data is a measurement of real-life experience
Does this study mean the end of big data's positive relationship with big business? Christoph Becker, the CEO at Gyro, explained the results to Mashable contributor T.L. Stanley.

"Any big decision can't be made in a vacuum of analytics," he elaborated. "It's underscored by a rational structure, but emotion has to lead."

With Becker's comments in mind, it's easy to see that the takeaway of the study isn't that big data is doomed, but rather that those who use it need to adjust their mindset on how it factors into the business decision-making process. The cloud computing tool is able to provide a wide spread of data depending on what a vested statistic would be for any given business, and should be used to support or raise potential concerns with the gut feeling that an executive wants to run with.

As with any other tool, the cloud server can't make a smart choice for you, but it can provide information that will show evidence about consumer trends that can make your next move clear. If one's intuition and the raw data happen to match up, all the better - if not, it's an important discussion to have.

The value to trusting your gut
While the value of intuition may be baffling to some, its often uncanny accuracy has some serious science backing it up. Though a "gut instinct" sounds like a made-up element, intuition is based in the brain. Psychotogy Today contributor Kelly Turner explained further in a recent piece, labeling two parts of the brain involved in decision-making.

"System 1 is our quick, instinctual, and often subconscious way of operating - it is controlled by our right brain and by other parts of our brain that have been around since prehistoric times, known as the "limbic" and reptilian" parts of our brain," Turner stated. "System 2 is our slower, more analytical, and conscious way of operating - it is controlled by our left brain."

Big data, while highly intelligent and informative, doesn't have the intrinsic, reactionary functions that the human brain does, and should be seen as a companion in the process of making choices.

For savvy businessmen, it's never a decision between using big data and their own experience and intuition - it's a balancing act, and the two elements can feed off of each other to make an intelligent, informed choice for a company.

Jul 1, 2014

The advantages of big data are often discussed at length - this information is changing the way we conduct mass research and how products are marketed to a number of demographics and can actually save a company a fair amount of money when used effectively. In a country with a national debt that exceeds $17 billion, the value of a saved dollar here and there can't be overestimated for businesses in the public and private sectors alike, especially when taking on cloud hosting pushes an organization a step closer to what is thought to be the next major leap in tech. For those looking for that latest motivation to welcome the server cloud into your business, here's how it's changing the day-to-day and transforming the bottom line of some of the country's most important operations.

Studies indicate that big data is beneficial for the public sector
The TechAmerica foundation conducted a study earlier in 2014 that indicated nothing but clear skies for a public sector that is hoping to move toward big data. The real-time analytics nature of the technology that has made it so popular is projected to save as much as 10 percent of federal budget each year if fully implemented, which would add up to about $1200 per American citizen. This is nothing short of impressive, but the country as a whole has taken on big data with calculated slowness to ensure that data is not just generated but secured in a reliable manner every step of the way.

"Real-time big data is helping the government improve the quality of citizens' lives, according to 75 percent of federal IT officials," the report continued. "For example, by gaining insight into huge volumes of data across agencies, the government can provide improved, personalized services to citizens."

This is another area in which money can be saved by the government sector - though there are up-front costs associated with taking on a hosting company and fully training a department on all necessary components of the groundbreaking software, being able to better predict developments in medicine and other major cost factors can save the administration millions once the system is fully in place.

Benefits individualized for smaller, private businesses
Though your business may not have quite as much riding on it as the American government, big data can still cut down on long-term costs within a company when it's deployed in a targeted manner. The technology is best used when an organization identifies a specific problem, then synthesizes the information collected to make a decision that will reduce internal spending. According to Vipal Monga of the Wall Street Journal, any company can make big data work to its benefit.

"Planet Fitness Corp., for instance, has analyzed how much its treadmills are used, based on their proximity to dressing rooms, the front door and other high-traffic areas of its health clubs," he explained. "The information allows managers to rotate the machines to even out wear and tear, trimming the company's capital spending."

Whether you're monitoring the health of a nation or the treadmill usage of a concentrated group, there's no doubt that big data is the key to developing your fiscal plan next year.

Jun 27, 2014

When it comes to professional sports, there's more number crunching than meets the eye. Statistics are the most prominent way that fans and journalists alike keep track of their favorite players' standing in the season and the record books, and big data has been playing an increasingly large role in helping fans keep up with the game. This time around, the technology is being used even to inform the outcome of games as coaches and players on major teams have been examining trends analyzed in past years and games to formulate a more effective approach to crushing the enemy. Information Week writer Ron Kasabian reported on the analytics advantage that teams achieve through a high-tech strategy.

Victory by way of cloud computing
"Effective data analysis can be used to improve a team's attacking prowess or nullify threats from opposing teams," Kasabian wrote. "Teams can crunch the data to discover that more goals are scored from in-swinging corners and adapt their play accordingly."

This is just one example of how a big data report can change the way a soccer team takes the field. The tactics get even more specific from there - coaches can use the cloud infrastructure to study how players deal with extremely specific social situations using ball-tracking technology and goal-line video analytics. Once a player or team's habits are identified by breaking these specifics down, leaders can then study the tendencies of the opposing team and formulate ways to work around the weaker plays of the enemy using their stronger plays. 

To assist video data, a number of international soccer clubs have moved toward giving their payers wearable technology to provide more information on important factors like speed, heart rate, stride and ball possession to keep into consideration when choosing which players should be making which plays. As of yet, there is no proof that these strategies give a team any significant advantage in a game, but has further improved gameplans using more than the traditional main factor for analysis and historical tendencies.

Most fans have based their World Cup predictions based on prior knowledge of the games before big data emerged into to the statistics field, but a newfound ability to collect and analyze information has changed the way fans bet against each other. According to an article from CCTV, famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking used data analytics collected from weather trends in Brazil versus the general climate of an opposing team to calculate their chances for success. He correctly predicted that England's chances of winning in Brazil lowered by 60 percent every time the temperature increased by 5 degrees Celsius, a statistic that has proven to be correct.

World Cup big data prompts one to ask whether analytics technology will change the way we play sports and develop strategy. Cloud hosting truly is changing the landscape of everything from our inter-personal communications to now having a role in deciding the top in physical prowess, leading fans believe that it will be the most valuable player for years to come.

Jun 19, 2014

While cloud computing solutions have experienced tremendous growth and expansion in the past few years, these gains have not been universal. A number of sectors have remained skeptical of the technology, with security concerns frequently the primary reason behind this hesitation.

One such sector is the financial services industry. However, as several reports recently highlighted, this is gradually changing. While still lagging behind other sectors, financial services firms are slowly moving more of their operations into cloud environments.

Financial clouds
This trend can be seen in a recent survey, commissioned by Fujitsu, of 176 U.K. and Ireland-based banks and insurance firms. While the focus of this survey was organizations' attitudes toward IT security, participants were also asked about their relationship with cloud computing solutions. Among these respondents, 16 percent stated that they had implemented cloud architectures across their organizations this year. This is a relatively low figure, but it represents a significant increase relative to 2012, when a similar survey found that only 9 percent of these types of firms had implemented cloud architectures.

Furthermore, the number of financial organizations that have not yet implemented the cloud in any capacity dropped below 50 percent. Among those that do not currently use the cloud in some way, enthusiasm for the technology was quite high. Only one-fifth of those surveyed suggested that the cloud held no value for their companies.

Anne MacRae, head of financial services for Fujitsu UK, suggested that financial firms should embrace cloud solutions and other modern technologies to upgrade their capabilities and gain key competitive advantages in the industry.

"Technologies like cloud and mobile can be transformative, and security strategies should be embraced, which allow financial services firms to capitalize on their potential," MacRae said. "By getting ahead of the curve and enabling business models fit for changing economic and consumer pressures, financial services organization will not only survive, but thrive."

Continuing progress
This survey is not the first to indicate that the financial sector's attitudes toward cloud computing are evolving. Late last year, Ovum research determined that cloud adoption is growing steadily in this area.

"The capital markets are set to increase investment in cloud services, continuing the trend of technology adoption in the industry," Ovum stated. "New research from the global analysts indicates that due to improvements in cloud security and a wider variety of applications, investment in cloud, by both the buy side and the sell side, is set for further growth."

Rik Turner, a senior analyst of financial services technology for Ovum, indicated that the global financial crisis continues to exert a major influence on financial firms, forcing companies, and particularly smaller firms, to work with smaller IT budgets. This makes cloud computing the ideal solution for many firms, providing opportunities that would be unavailable through legacy computing solutions.

As time goes on and the cloud's advantages become more apparent, this trend is unlikely to decelerate.

Jun 19, 2014
Category: Cloud Computing

Cloud computing represents one of the most significant technological innovations in recent years. With cloud services in place, businesses can gain a host of new capabilities while improving efficiency and driving down costs.

One of the most significant applications for cloud computing solutions is disaster recovery. As Cloud Tweaks contributor Daniel Price recently highlighted, the cloud has revolutionized disaster recovery for businesses of all sizes and industries.

The old way
To understand why cloud computing has proved to be such a radical improvement in the field of disaster recovery, it is first necessary to consider the strategies companies previously relied on in this area.

Price pointed out that the most common disaster recovery strategies prior to the cloud era were tape-based and disk-based data backup. While certainly providing a fair degree of protection, both of these options have significant drawbacks, as Price explained.

For one thing, the process of setting up a tape- or disk-based disaster recovery plan can be complex, Price asserted. This is particularly true for small or mid-sized firms. Additionally, Price noted that recovering entire distributed, multi-site workloads can be challenging when relying on these methods. Perhaps most notably, tapes and disks are not scalable and must be manually transported to a secure off-site location, from which they must be reclaimed following a disaster.

This poses several problems. Beyond the most obvious, the fact of the matter is that these strategies rely entirely on employees to take specific, recurring actions to ensure that data is effectively backed up. If workers skip a scheduled backup session, a significant amount of information could potentially be lost if a disaster strikes soon.

More seriously, the transportation of backup tapes and disks poses a serious risk. There are many news stories of such items being lost or stolen while in transit. If this happens, the company may run the risk of experiencing a data breach, which can be even more damaging than a disaster.

Cloud benefits
As Price explained, cloud computing improves disaster recovery in all of these ways. Most obviously, the cloud eliminates the need to physically transport data.

"[The] entire virtual server can be copied or backed up to an offsite data center and launched on a virtual host in a matter of minutes," Price wrote. "It means the cloud can offer faster recovery times and multi-site availability at a fraction of the cost of conventional disaster recovery."

Furthermore, cloud computing enables automatic data backup. Rather than requiring an employee to regularly perform this function, data can be sent to an off-site cloud server on a recurring basis, without any human input. This eliminates the risk that a forgetful or lazy worker would miss one or more backup sessions, thereby compromising the completeness of the company's information. This makes cloud-based disaster recovery not only easier and less expensive than legacy options, but also more reliable and comprehensive.

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