Big Data Analytics: Tools & Techniques

Instructor: David Gloag
Information sets are huge these days. And yet, we still want the ability to process them. In this lesson, we'll take a look at Big Data, Analytics, and some tools and techniques used to put them together.

Dealing with Information

Let's face it, we want to know things. We're inherently curious. If we know the outcome of last night's sporting event, we want to know why. If we know the temperature now, we want to know what it will be tomorrow. And if we see a magic trick performed before our eyes, we want to know how it was done. We can't escape it: it's in our DNA. But as we move through our lives, the questions become more significant and require additional information to solve. It's getting to the point where our usual methods are no longer equal to the task. Fortunately, there is an area that focuses on exactly these types of problems: it's called Big Data.

Big data provides additional information needed to solve complex problems.
big data

What Is Big Data?

Big Data is about vast amounts of information. Specifically, it focuses on information sets that are too large to handle in the usual manner. By usual, we mean that they can't be processed by everyday applications, like Microsoft Access or Excel. Unfortunately, even with powerful processors churning away, these applications tend to get bogged down. Add the fact that the size of the information grows each year, and you have a recipe for problems. To get an idea of what we're talking about, consider the amount of information the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) processes. It's a wonder we get our tax returns in the time frames we do.

To help conceptualize Big Data, multiply the information that goes into a single tax return millions of times and continue to do so year after year.
tax return

What Are Analytics?

Analytics are structured, or formalized, approaches to manipulating information. It covers activities like calculations, deriving new information, and documenting results, all with an eye to a particular theme. But more to the point, it does these things using a set of standardized tools. This has a couple of benefits:

  • The tools act as a guide for investigation. This is particularly useful in situations where you are unfamiliar with the information. Basic conclusions can be quickly drawn, which lead to more significant derivations.
  • The tool set is known and easy to understand. This gets you up-to-speed quickly with new information sets, and allows you to progress to the next level of investigation.
  • The results produced by the tools act as a baseline, and can be compared to external information and results. This, in turn, gives you confidence about your results, and points you to more complex activities.

What are Some Techniques Used by Big Data Analytics?

There are a number of techniques used in Big Data analytics. By technique, we simply mean some method for accomplishing a goal or task. In this case, the goal is to adequately store, access, and process the vast amounts of information that constitute Big Data. Most techniques are a combination of the ones listed below:

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