big dataThere is no denying that Big Data has become a hot topic in the IT industry this year with many big names in tech questioning just what effect big data is going to have on an industry so heavily centered on the storage and handling of data.

So what’s the big deal?

Well first of all let’s look at what exactly Big Data is.

As you’d probably expect, Big Data is a term used to describe a large amount of data, but more specifically it is referring to the abundance of information now available about essentially anyone and anything that has ever been near a computer.

When people talk about Big Data what we’re really talking about is all the infinite amounts of digital information that is constantly building up as more and more people across the globe continue to engage with digital technologies. This information can come from anywhere and everywhere. Digital photos and videos, posts on social media, customer purchases and transactions, medical databases, stocks and shares, search results, downloads, uploads… the list is endless and it’s all digital data.

When you think about it that way it does seem like quite a big deal.  There’s gazillions of digital information out there and it’s never going to stop getting bigger. Realistically though, it is still just data, yes it is going to take some mighty machines to deal with it all but at the end of the day it’s no different than any other data. There’s just a lot of it. And the IT industry has been dealing with large amounts of digital data for a lot longer than most.

So you could be forgiven for wondering why everyone is getting their collective knickers in a twist over it.

Should we care?

Well when it comes to MSPs and big data, what we are talking about here is the vast volumes of information passing through all the various networks, servers and applications that MSPs manage; this understandably is an ever increasing amount of data. The way I see it though, the big question shouldn’t be “how are MSPs going to cope with all this data?” but more importantly “what can we as MSPs do with all this data?”

Yes of course there are going to be some issues… traditional systems are just not going to cope with analyzing this ever growing amount of information, but this is an issue that will no doubt be resolved quite simply because it has to be; that is how technology continually develops.

The main thing to remember here is that, as an MSP, with your inherent knowledge of data handling you are already at an advantage over other businesses who are just now realizing the potential of all this lovely digital information.

It seems to me that instead of worrying about just how BIG data is becoming, you simply need to remember that it is there and to use it to your advantage.

First off, be sure that you are not only aware of the data available about your clients, networks and IT services but you are also doing your best to analyze it. This can help you gain invaluable insights into ways you can develop and improve your MSP offering. Obviously this will become easier and offer more comprehensive results as processes develop but by starting now you can ensure it is built into the ongoing development of your MSP.

Consider how the networks you support are being used; where cost and efficiency savings might be made, and how this can show extra added value to your clients.  Do they have bottlenecks in networks, underused elements on their overall IT system?  Can you help them improve and cement your trusted partner status?

Handling Big Data for your clients

Secondly, don’t forget your clients will have data flying around their own networks too – this will need to be looked after, especially in data critical organizations such as medical, legal or government.  You need to be able to provide a service to your clients that they can trust and rely upon.

We recommend a three tier backup process for all managed networks – disk > disk > online.  This provides the highest level of security and continuity. The scenario where the latest backup tape has been lost is one that occurs frequently; by changing this to utilize the cloud to provide backup and continuity services you have a foolproof method to ensure your clients can recover any data from any situation.

As well as handling big data for your clients, why not think about ways you can use your expertise to inform and advise your clients as they themselves become aware of the big data trend?

You could help them to understand the importance of the data they have at their disposal, make recommendations as to how they can best utilize this information and demonstrate the benefits gained from analyzing their own services and client base; all putting them at an advantage over others in their industry. Having the ability to help your clients in this way will not only demonstrate and reaffirm your expertise in the IT industry but also strengthen your client relationships. You may also find that you can monetize on this expert knowledge!

What it comes down to…

In the end it’s simple. Any MSP worth their salt is going to be keeping up to date with advances in technology and developments within the industry they operate; thinking about the impact of big data – and the opportunity – should be part of this process.

My advice? Keep it in mind, pay attention to what’s going on, utilize it to improve your service but at the end of the day remember…it’s just data!

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