5 Ways Big Data is Driving Business

September 17, 2020 / in IT Trends, / by Number8

We live in an increasingly digitized world. Many aspects of daily life are now online—news, products, social media, work, entertainment, and more. At 51 years old, the internet may no longer be a new frontier, but it still feels like a platform of infinite possibility and growth. In order to remain competitive, organizations must be able to tap into the forces that drive consumers digitally. A key element of this is big data. Big data is just that—a lot of data. It is collected rapidly, and at high volumes, in order to analyze the trends and patterns that drive customers, industries, and life itself. Using software, companies can easily analyze big data for their specific purposes. Since 2012, big data analysis for large companies has grown by 40%. Here are 5 ways it is being used to expand business.

1. Marketing Strategies

Although human creativity and reasoning is important in developing effective marketing and advertisements, it is also true that the numbers never lie. Big data allows companies to form marketing campaigns based off of their target audiences’ personal information, interests, location, digital interactions, financial transactions, and more. Although big data is entirely objective, it can make advertisements a more relevant experience for consumers. It is even available to smaller companies through tools such as Google Analytics, which break down marketing stats for you.

2. Personalized User Experience

Beyond just marketing efforts, big data can help provide recommendations and more personal experiences for existing/subscribing costumers. This is particularly relevant within entertainment industries. For example, Spotify uses big data to create curated playlists for users. Amazon Prime and Netflix use big data to provide movie/tv recommendations based off of your prior viewings. In this instance, it not only helps gain new costumers, but also provides a better experience for existing customers.

3. New Product Development and Improvement

Big data can also help with product innovation. Every step of launching a product utilizes analytics. This includes figuring out the viability and demand for a product, analyzing the short-term success of a product, and projecting its long-term results. The rapid nature of data collection allows firms to make quick decisions and reduce the chance of pursuing failing projects. For example, Starbucks uses big data to analyze the viability of a new store location before developing it by examining average income, population density, and traffic levels in the area. There are no longer “shot in the dark” scenarios—there are only quantifiable results.

4. Risk Management

Big data is being utilized to aid in risk management tactics. For example, it can aid in identifying discrepancies/outliers that could insinuate fraudulent activity or security risks. Businesses, governments, and banks can use this tactic to try to prevent hacking or data theft. Another risk management tactic is analyzing finances within a company. Large trends can reveal evidence of misuse or “loopholes”. This provides airtight financial protection.

5. Supply Chain Expansion

For manufacturing and natural resources, big data is a fairly untapped resource. A study by Deloitte broke down some aspects the supply chain that can utilize it. These include forecasting demand, improving GPS/tracking capabilities, improving robotics in manufacturing, expanding integrated business planning, and analyzing competitive advantage. It seems the possibilities within this more tangible industry are still developing. Many experts agree that we are really only at the beginning of the impact that big data will have on business and technology. Select colleges and universities are now going so far as to offer majors focused specifically on the field. Read more information on big data for additional insights and applications. We are an information technology company with years of experience. We have helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

What You Need to Know About Microsoft xCloud

September 10, 2020 / in IT Trends, / by Number8

Microsoft has announced that it will release xCloud sometime during 2020. This is its new streaming service for video gamers to instantly stream down to any device. This will include console games as well as PC versions. Through an internet connection, the games will stream directly from the Microsoft servers, thus avoiding the need to download. This is similar to Google Stadia but will use Azure Cloud architecture. With 54 different Azure regions around the world, it is expected that the users will find stable service almost anywhere. In fact, Microsoft is reportedly closing Mixer and transferring the xCloud streaming service to Facebook Gaming. Microsoft has previously provided Xbox One and PC games through discs, digital downloads and vault versions through Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft plans to leave these options in place. The new xCloud is designed for those who don’t want to invest in the hardware just to enjoy a game they might want to try.

Play Anywhere

The plan is to use the same cloud-saving system currently in place for Xbox Play Anywhere. This would mean that you could resume play almost anywhere. This will require a strong network connection. Options will include multiple controllers which means that an Xbox One controller through Bluetooth (already in place for all new Xboxes) and touch should be possible. The outline says that the games will be equipped with setups to accommodate the players’ moves. The storehouse of games will include the entire spectrum of Xbox One plus any released on PC. It should be a seamless transition for the games to perform as written using xCloud. This will mean an almost limitless number of choices. At this point it is not planned to offer any games exclusively through xCloud. So all of the same games will be available through a mobile device, PC, or console. Beta testing has begun in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and South Korea. The criteria for this version is Android 6.0 or newer and Bluetooth 4.0 or newer. For the Xbox consoles, it needs either 5GHz Wi-Fi or a mobile data plan with 10Mbps minimum download speed. It is being tested on about 50 games. Test users will be leaving comments on Reddit. There has been no indication of what Microsoft will charge for xCloud. Guesses are between $15 and $20 per month, but there is no solid information to support that amount. Also unknown is whether there will be any offer of discounts or credits for the purchase of console games you expect to run on xCloud.

Final Release

The final release date is still up in the air, but it is still anticipated to be in 2020. Next on the agenda is PS4 controller support and Windows 10 streaming. There is an anticipated xCloud integration with Xbox Game Pass that is designed to let users stream games from the subscription service directly from the cloud. There was a demonstration held on Inside Xbox where Forza Horizon 4 was streamed onto an Android phone. To the observers it seemed on a par with the console version with no slow down or other impediments. Since nothing has been definitively released, the final edition will still need to be evaluated by the users who will pay the money to try the experience. What is clear is a pattern of continuing advances in the intersection of gaming and mobile devices. Microsoft, Google, and other companies are looking to the future of streaming and uninterrupted play in order to advance in the field. We are an information technology company with years of experience. We have helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

What Differentiates the Top 5 Search Engines?

September 3, 2020 / in IT Trends, / by Number8

Despite the shared “search bar”, the top search engines are set up in varying formats that yield alternate results. Each search engine is a product in and of itself, providing competitive sub-tools and differing user experiences. Let’s take a look at the top 5—Google, Yahoo, Bing, Baidu, and Ask.com—and explore more about what differentiates these internet behemoths.

Top 5 Search Engines: An Overview

1. Google

Google holds clear domination with over 75% more searches than the next highest competitor (Bing). In fact, the word “google” has become a household verb, synonymous with searching the web. Google’s minimalist search bar featuring the iconic “doodle” icon and highly navigable results pages make it the go-to for many people. It offers a plethora of easily accessible platforms through a single free login—Gmail, Google Photos, Google Chrome, Google Drive, Google Slides/Sheets/Docs, Google Maps, and many more—that are useful for all aspects of day-to-day life and work. Furthermore, Google has expanded into the tangible realm of devices with Google Pixel phones, tablets, Google Home, Google Chromebooks, and more.

2. Bing

Bing’s search page is much more visual than Google, featuring rotating MSN news, facts, and photos. Owned and operated by Microsoft, it is the default search engine on Microsoft computers. Bing’s “in-your-face” approach provides easier access to trendy videos, games, and nearby restaurants, but can also feel cluttered compared to Google’s streamlined, neutral homepage. Bing and Google also employ different algorithms and require different methods of SEO. While both search engines, for example, place a value on the number of links/backlinks to a site, Bing is thought to give favor to domain age, and “official” pages such as .edu and .gov’s, while Google has developed it’s own PageRank metric to weight the importance of individual backlinks.

3. Yahoo

Yahoo, like Bing, provides news and links to information on its homepage while maintaining a slightly more minimal Desktop format, similar to Google. However, it stands behind the two due in part to its dated algorithms and vision. Yahoo lagged behind others when moving cleanly to mobile devices and struggled to expand beyond its email and news service. Yahoo hasn’t continually developed its algorithm like Google. The title of a page/website is its biggest ranking keyword, which may seem simplistic compared to Google’s semi-mystifying and constantly changing algorithm.

4. Baidu

Since Google is banned in mainland China, Baidu is the top search engine there. Similar to Google in visual form and function, but entirely in Chinese, Baidu has many sub-platforms including “Baidu Wiki”, “Baidu Music”, “Baidu Videos”, “Baidu Answers”, etc. that are very popular in China. Like Google, Baidu has a confusing SEO interface and uses highly complex algorithms. Baidu also has more restrictions on advertisements including what is promoted and who can run them. Despite being a massive tech company that has also delved into AI, the Baidu search engine is used very little outside of China.

5. Ask.com

Ask.com is another major search engine, although its scope is far more limited. It is focused solely on “question-answering” which is a major reason why people use search engines in the first place. Despite being an early competitor of Google, it fell far behind due to its more specialized purpose and lack of expansion. It remains relevant due to its search method—by aggregating results from other search engines such as YouTube. It is also notable due to its better response to “human formatted” questions, based in complete sentences vs singular keywords. While not covered in the article above, other search engines are still notable and some are gaining in market share. For example, DuckDuckGo has gained in popularity more recently, with its focus on protecting the privacy of searchers. Yandex and Naver are also notable. We are an information technology company with years of experience. We have helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

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