You know there's a lot of good stuff in big data, but how can you sort out what's relevant to you from all that white noise? Plus, who has time for all that?

The reality is that "big data" is nothing new, although it is a new-ish buzzword. It's simply information that's useless when it's not used--and a goldmine when you analyze is correctly.

However, you're not going to get very far using an Excel spreadsheet. Data needs to be curated, organized, managed, and then put into actionable use. If you miss even one of these steps, you're wasting your time. Fortunately, there are a few businesses out there making this process much easier. Leave the big data to the experts, so you can sit back and reap the benefits.

Here are a few companies revolutionizing big data:

1. hiQ

Specializing in "people analytics," hiQ gathers public data, your business' internal data, or a combination of the two, if that's ideal, to create models that are predictive and actually useful. Using innovative algorithms, you'll enjoy more powerful insights than ever before thanks to "machine learning" (which is less time-consuming than human-powered legwork). Updates are continuous and in real-time, and the reporting is customizable, so you don't need to be a rocket scientist to digest the information. Basically, it's personalized reporting at its best.

2. SumAll

This NYC startup is all about helping businesses optimize their social-marketing campaigns. With analytics from 42 different platforms (obviously including the biggies like eBay and Facebook), you can get a glimpse of your overall progress in one simple chart. Enjoy a Twitter alert system, pings when you get mentioned, or a bevy of other features you can personalize for your preferences and needs. However, what's really cool about SumAll is that 10 percent of ownership is dedicated to the non-profit arm of the company, so you can feel good while doing good for your own business.

3. Splunk

This enterprise was first created to be a log-analysis tool, but it's grown to become so much more. By partnering up with Tableau Software (and getting their hands on that Tableau package for visual analytics!), Splunk has re-emerged as an intimidating machine data analytics business. You can take advantage of tools that monitor transactions end to end, get key data about customer experiences, see in real-time what's trending, or snag a sentiment analysis across your social-media campaigns. It might not have the most appeasing of names, but Splunk is going places.

4. Duetto

Known online for their "hotel optimization," Duetto makes it easier for companies to personalize data to individuals searching online for hotels. Basically, they tailor searches for hotels for searchers. Hotel rooms are much like perishable assets, you either book the room and get paid or you lose out on that revenue. Duetto makes it easy for hotels to personalize their prices by taking data such as how much you typically spend at the bar or casino to incentivize you with a lower price for your room. Therefore the hotel can give you a better price, knowing you'll spend money on other services.

5. Ayasdi

This startup takes big data analysis to an entirely new level in some of the most demanding of fields. Committed to finding cures for a host of diseases (including cancer) and fighting terrorism, this Palo Alto startup was founded by a former Stanford Research Scientist. It's been around since 2008, but didn't fully launch until one year ago. "Reveal the deep intelligence in your data," urges Ayasdi, which uses advanced analytics software built off the SQL of the '80s--but with plenty of modifications and perfecting of strategies.

6. Box

The beloved online storage company is about to give the likes of Dropbox a run for its money. "Reinventing how global businesses use content" is the goal of this big data company, which is why it's a favorite of businesses ranging from tiny startups all the way up to Fortune 500 companies. With industry-personalized solutions for storage and data problems big and small, who knew "boxing" it up could be so easy and effective?

Are you making the most of the big data available to you? If you're like most businesses, the answer is no. However, this is often due to lack of information and feeling intimidated by the process. Let these businesses go to work for you today--and enjoy better business tomorrow.

Published on: Jan 22, 2015