Indiana was recently named the fifth best state in the nation for business by Chief Executive magazine. That’s up a spot from a sixth-place finish last year, positioning Indiana as the best business market in the Midwest.

This recent recognition, coupled with promising plans for business growth, is a welcome boost to the local economy. At the same time, savvy executives know more business also means more competition. Those looking to stand out from the crowd are turning to big data, which is more accessible to SMBs thanks to the cloud and lower costs to increase bandwidth.

Businesses that take advantage of the big data trend are able to excavate and analyze data to glean intelligence and insight that leads to better business practices and profits. Worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics will grow from nearly $122 billion in 2015 to more than $187 billion in 2019, according IDC.

Online behemoth Amazon was among the first to successfully maximize big data to gain a competitive edge. These days practically anyone who makes, grows and sells anything can use big data to make their processes more efficient and their marketing more targeted and cost-effective. Lower costs and cloud technologies have reduced barriers to entry and opportunities will continue to grow for SMBs and entrepreneurs. For example, Fort Wayne-based Ruoff Home Mortgage, with 21 locations across Indiana, is using big data with great success to advance its strategy and improve processes. From a modest start with 18 employees a little more than 30 years ago, the company now employs 325 and has expanded into branch offices in Arizona, Michigan and Florida. They are also licensed in the states of Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio.

As Ruoff – now the No. 1 purchase lender in Indiana – quickly discovered, more data often means a need for additional network bandwidth. Bandwidth gives SMBs the exceedingly fast network speeds needed to upload, share, mine and analyze multiple Terabytes of data in real time. Cloud storage provides the massive capacity needed for all this data, eliminating the huge capital expenditure a company would need to build and maintain its own large storage farms or rooms of on premise servers.

Anyone who has ever applied for a mortgage knows well the huge amount of information required to complete the process. Traditionally, that meant sifting through stacks of paper, but the shift to digital has allowed more mortgage lenders, including Ruoff, to offer digital portals where home buyers can apply for a loan, submit documentation and track the approval progress.

The same customers who demand more self-service and online options also want near-instant gratification and are deterred when uploads and downloads take too long. Even a short amount of network downtime can cost a business money and customers.

By combining big data and increased bandwidth, Ruoff is able to automate processes and leverage technology to stay compliant with constantly changing industry regulations. The business is also nimbler and able to quickly get new locations up and running. Additionally, they can keep multiple offices connected with video chat and live trainings.

As we move from Terabytes to Petabytes of data, more companies will take advantage of the possibilities offered through big data. And then, who knows – Indiana just might finally beat out Texas as the No. 1 state in the nation for business.

Michelle Pluskota is vice president of business services for Comcast Indiana.

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