Analytics as a Service: The Big Data Solution for Small Business?
Small businesses collect large amounts of data. Most already generate and manage almost 48 terabytes’ worth, and that number is constantly climbing.
Effective collection and use of Big Data offers big benefits, from tracking customer purchase history and service interactions to predicting new trends and delivering prescriptive advice for current operations. As noted by Forbes, Big Data “represents the all-important voice of the customer,” something businesses of any size can’t afford to ignore. But many SMBs have assumed the costs and complexity of managing data at scale would outstrip existing resources, and potential benefits derived wouldn’t match the price.
To some extent, they’re right. Enterprise IT budgets allow more room for in-house expertise and the expansion of IT architecture, while small businesses are often more concerned with keeping the lights on and the doors open. Analytics as a Service offers a way to bridge the gap by providing the infrastructure and operational throughput small businesses need to realize Big Data benefits without breaking the bank.
What Is Analytics as a Service?
Like any “as a service” solution, AaaS is cloud-based. Small businesses enter an agreement with an AaaS partner who provides access to everything from cloud data storage to analytic algorithms, data cleanup and deduplication tools, and output solutions that help SMBs capitalize on emerging trends.
But AaaS isn’t one size fits all. Different providers will offer different service and solution packages; some offer end-to-end AaaS that includes initial consulting, setup and deployment, while others supply access to specific tools and technology to help SMBs address critical analysis gaps.
No matter the form, however, the broader function of AaaS is consistent: empowering companies to make best use of their Big Data without the need to spend on in-house expertise or hardware.
How AaaS Solves for SMB Challenges
It’s easy to talk about the benefits of Big Data for small businesses. With more than 70 percent of the data generated by SMBs going unused, there’s massive untapped potential to discover new trends, pinpoint customer pain points and boost profit.
According to Towards Data Science, however, there’s an emerging case for “small data” — data sets that are relevant, immediate and actionable. While Big Data has the advantage of greater reliability, “it can be too big for some applications, such as intuitive conceptualization and storytelling. There’s also the fact that there are barriers to acquiring huge datasets of high quality.”
AaaS tools can help small businesses find and focus on the data that matters, such as customer return rates, sales conversion trends and the success rate of marketing efforts. This allows SMBs to contextualize data within the scope of immediate experience, in turn improving outcomes.
For example, a small business might use AaaS to analyze website traffic. How long are visitors staying on the site? Do they come back? How many of them search product pages or fill out contact forms? While capturing and displaying this data without interpretation offers a generalized picture of online business health, AaaS tools create context, allowing companies to link specific actions, such as website content creation or e-commerce tool integration, with specific outcomes.
How to Find the Right AaaS Provider
Before signing any service-level agreement with an AaaS provider, it’s worth analyzing key capabilities, including:
- Flexibility: What does the process to transfer and analyze data look like? Is your data locked to this specific provider? How can you customize analysis and reporting parameters?
- Security: What steps is the provider taking to keep your data safe? This includes strong encryption, zero-trust access models and logical partitioning of shared storage environments, all while complying with regulations such as the California Consumer Privacy Act or General Data Protection Regulation.
- Cost: Beyond the basic monthly cost for compute and resource access, what additional services are available, and what do they cost? What is the contract term, and are there breakage fees for early exit?
- Response: How are the terms laid out in your service-level agreement? Under what conditions will you be reimbursed for lost time or services, and what recovery time objectives (if any) does you provider offer if AaaS tools are unavailable?
No matter the size of your business or your data, AaaS offers the ability to add critical context, articulate emerging trends and leverage actionable insight.