Knowing where to go to find the data you need is one of the most important keys to being a successful analyst.
There are three basic areas where you can go to find data:
- Private Company Databases and sources
- Public Databases and sources
- The Internet
Each company treats its data a little different, but you can expect them to store their data in data bases that fall into the following couple of categories:
- Proprietary Databases. All of the data used for analysis is kept in databases that are built and maintained by an internal IT team. They may use heavily personalized commercial software.
- Off the Shelf Databases. Most data is housed in a commercial database solution like Oracle, Teradata, MS Access, etc. where IT team often work in partnership with the database manufacturer.
- External Databases. The company does not have its own IT team and receives its data from external resources. Usually analysis is conducted via a connection to the data through the vendor.
In addition to using internal data sources, you may also find yourself surfing the web to find data for your analysis.
A lot of time it takes a combination of internal business data and things from the web to give you an overall picture.
In my experience there are three places I generally go to in search of publicly available data on the internet. I generally find what I need from either:
- As a general starting point for just about anything you can begin with a Wikipedia search.
- Google Search. To pull together press releases, news articles, images, and other pieces of data that are not statistically driven, Google is your best bet.
- Government Databases. The are billions upon billions of datasets out there on just about every kind of public data in terms of demographics, government spending, monetary flows and many, many other type of data.
So when you look to provide a well-rounded and detailed analysis of any business problem, the first step is always knowing where to go to get your data.