Data and Big Data: What is the Difference? 

Most people say that we are living in the computer era. But actually the real power that computers have is the “Data”. Because of that reason these days are also criticised as the “Information Era”. In order to understand today's technological trends, we should understand the term data very well. However, the real deal is not only data these days, but Big Data. Let us first examine data and then Big Data.

Data is the plural form of datum, which basically means a single piece of information. However, in computer science, word data has a more specific meaning. Data -in context of CS- is information processed or stored by a computer. This information may be in the form of text documents, images, audio clips, software programs, or in other lots of types. On the other hand, with the most basic point of view, they all are 1’s and 0’s. Computers are binary machines in the end and all the data stored in the transistors. However computers have the power to interpret and analyze these 1’s and 0’s pretty well. Digital form of data also make it possible to transform data without any loss and store it without deteriorating. 

So, as we understand what data means, we can look into Big Data, one of the most trending topics of 21’st century. As the name implies, Big Data is simply a huge amount of data. But this huge is not an ordinary huge, “HUGE” huge. Let us give some examples to clarify how huge that data is.

Data Created in a Minute

Please notice that following statistics are just for a single minute:

  • 3.8 Million search queries are made on Google.
  • 4.5 Million videos are watched on Youtube.
  • 188 Million E-mails are sent.
  • 41.6 Million messages are sent through the Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger 
  • 2.1 Million snaps are sent on Snapchat.

And much much more in all other platforms. Now just try to imagine you are just one of these firms, Youtube for example, and accumulating these data for a year. There are a lot of minutes in a day and there are a lot of days in a year. When you multiply all the numbers and do some math, the result is just “Wow”. As you can see, Big Data is that much huge.   

V’s of Big Data

When you do a little bit of research, you will encounter the V’s of Big Data. So, some authorities simplify the fundamentals of Big Data to a bunch of terms whose initials are “V”. These terms are actually what makes ordinary data to Big Data


As you can see, there are giant amount of data. Volume represents the amount of the data that we have. We used to use Gigabyte to measure before but for now, there are Zettabytes (ZB) or even Yottabytes (YB). Especially, Internet of Things (IoT) increases the creation and collection of data.


This is what we are talking about before. Data creation in a minute is excessive and Velocity is the speed of the data created and traded. These days, even our coffee-maker has a connection to the internet and is constantly creating data.


The data collected can be in very different forms. We can think of the form of data in three primary branches. Structured data consists of tables and charts created properly which are elements of database systems. Unstructured data is the data such as photos, voice records and even texts that are created by daily users. Semi-structured data is the data created by a rule like structured but in the form of text. So this variety of data is the real challenge of processing collected data 


Veracity is the uncertainty of the data. Because there is so much source of data, you can not control all data contributors. Because of that, there is a lot of data which should analyze and decide whether to trust the data or not. Processing wrong data could cause critical errors and unwanted results for the firms and researchers.

Importance of Big Data:

Big Data makes it possible to live with science fiction fantasies of 20’th century. Researchers are finding new ways to interpret this data everyday more efficiently and with the use of this data, Artificial Intelligence algorithms become much more powerful. Limitation in data was one of the biggest problems of Machine Learning, however today we have a bucketload of data. So all great leaps of AI and Machine Learning are owing to Big Data.  

Big Data is one of the fundamental parts of the new era. It is like a fuel in a car. Without it, there wouldn't be any move.


Undergraduate in Boğaziçi University as Computer Engineer


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