Over the past few years, anyone who follows technology trends will have heard the term ‘big data’. But now there is a new development on the scene. Fast data could be even more transformative than big data, allowing you to get the most out of the information and tools at your disposal. So how does it work?
What is fast data?
Whilst fast data is very much distinct from big data, there is one thing both phenomena have in common: volume. Whilst big data comprises hundreds of terabytes of data, it is usually ‘at rest’, which means it isn’t being processed or moving, it simply takes up space. Fast data, on the other hand, is still in large volume, but is in motion.
Fast data is created at incredible speeds, and includes sets such as click-stream data, financial ticker data, log aggregation, or sensor data, which can arrive in a fraction of a second. Fast data can be measured by the number of megabytes transferred per second, for example.
If processed successfully, fast data can give businesses a real-time insight into the information they seek, positioning them at the forefront of their field and allowing them to make quick decisions that could significantly improve their performance, or solve problems quickly and protect them from error.
How to handle fast data
With such vast amounts of data arriving at almost incomprehensible speed, it’s important to know how you can effectively process fast data. The first thing you will need is a high speed Internet connection. All the technology in the world can’t process data arriving in hoards by the millisecond if your Internet connection is slow and freezes with high demand. This makes an ultra-high-speed connection vital.
Whereas once, using vast volumes of data could be expensive and difficult with only commodity hardware to use, now new software is unlocking the potential of not just big data, but also fast data. As InfoWorld explains:
“Just like the value in big data, the value in fast data is being unlocked with the reimagined implementation of message queues and streaming systems such as open source Kafka and Storm, and the reimagined implementation of databases with the introduction of open source NoSQL and NewSQL offerings.“
According to VoltDB, all businesses intending to utilise fast data require technology that doesn’t just take in and analyse fast streams of incoming data, but can also react to that live data in an instant. They say technology must be able to analyse moving data “in the context of insights gleaned from historical big data stores – all as fast as the data is being generated and enters the pipeline.”
This means two things – firstly, law firms using fast data will need a streaming system that can deliver and report on information at the same rate it comes in, and secondly, they need a data storage system able to process each item as it arrives.
There are various ways of achieving this – as InfoWorld points out, some new systems are based on”shared-nothing clustering” nodes, which ensures security, speed and availability – because no one node is reliant on the performance of the other. This decentralised system means that no vast pool of sensitive data can be accessed via any one entry point – essential for storing clients’ personal information and ensuring compliance with data protection guidelines.
Fast data processing systems must also be scalable – for example, through adding nodes and removing them from the cluster system without affecting the functionality of the rest of the network. With a database and message queue made without any single point of failure, fast data can be reliably processed and stored without any hold-ups, should an error occur.
Things to look for in fast data processing
If you’re thinking about trying to utilise the power of fast data in your law firm, there are a few key elements that you should consider:
- Is the system scalable to accommodate for larger volumes of data?
- Is it based around shared-nothing clustering?
- Does it use in-memory storage, rather than commodity storage?
- Can the system perform conditional logic quickly, querying gigabytes of data to react effectively?
- Is it secure, with no single point of entry to access all data?
- Does the setup provide effective systems support so that the administrative burden is not put on your paralegal employees?
If you’d like to find out more about how fast data could improve systems and processes in your barristers’ chambers, contact us today on 020 3355 7334.