There are several institutions worldwide that capture, store and process far more data than any of their nearest rivals. Dealing with such vast amounts of big data poses several unique challenges, least of all where data storage is concerned. Choosing between storing data physically or opting for a digital solution instead is a decision that everyone must make when handling sensitive data, and there are numerous factors that you must consider before making your decision. Here, we compare two extreme examples in the world of data storage as a means of illustration; the Library of Congress and Google Inc.


While digital data storage usually helps to reduce the physical volume of the units used to store data, Google operates at such a vast capacity that it requires somewhere around 2 million servers just to keep up with demand. Google Inc. keeps such matters under its hat, but there are thought to be dozens of data centres worldwide where the business keeps all of that valuable information. Compare that to the four main buildings of the Library of Congress and you’ll come to a somewhat unexpected conclusion. Amazingly, the world’s largest library employs some 3,500 people whereas the search giant has in excess of 30,000 employees on its books…


While digital data can be susceptible to cybercriminals and online data theft, it can be effectively protected with prudent professional practice and high-quality anti-executable software. Furthermore, a physical data copy can be read and compromised by more or less anybody, whereas using a digital data storage system means files can be encrypted to protect them from being breached by undesirables. Comparing the security procedure so of Google Inc. and the Library of Congress is a somewhat erroneous analogy as the search giant handles far more sensitive data than the library. However, Google has always protected the location and number of its data centres with utmost secrecy, suggesting that they take data security very seriously indeed…


Automated data capture as handled by Google’s online cookies helps to streamline the process very effectively indeed. Furthermore, by automating data capture you are exposing potentially dangerous or sensitive data to as few people as possible, minimising the opportunity for security breaches or human error. The Library of Congress may boast almost 23 million pieces of physical data in the form of its vast collection of books, but it has also digitised a large portion of its collection, a process that would be almost impossible on such a scale without automated data capture services.

While these are rather extreme examples of the challenges facing big data capture, storage and analysis, they are nonetheless challenges that most institutions must face when conducting surveys or research projects. If you want to know more about digital and physical data capture and storage processes, why not contact us for a free, no-obligation workshop and see which approach would work best for your business?