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When you hear the words "web data," what comes to mind? Is it any information you can find on Google, Yahoo!, Amazon, or just simply WWW? The World Wide Web is certainly the de facto source of any data that I care about as a consumer.

But at work, "web data" suddenly has new meaning. It's campaign or lead gen information in Salesforce.com. It's HR information on my company's Wiki. It's essentially any data within my corporate firewall that I need to get my job done.

The World Wide Web is also an incredible source for monitoring what's being said about my company and our competitors online, in the blogosphere, and on Twitter. You might think I'm pointing out the obvious, yet 99 percent of businesses today fail to take advantage of all the valuable Web data at their fingertips. Why? It all boils down to access, or lack thereof.

Information, thanks to the Internet, is growing at breakneck, exponential speeds. This has proven to be both an opportunity and a curse for businesses. With all this data abundance, organizations of all sizes struggle to access and act upon it in a timely and cost effective way.

Just think about the impact to your business if you could automatically add high-value web data to your market intelligence, pricing intelligence, financial intelligence or any other business intelligence application. Until recently, this seemed like an impossible feat, or at least cost prohibitive based on the man hours involved.

Given these web data access challenges faced by literally every industry, analyst and IT organization, there's recently been a lot of talk about web data services as a possible fix. Wikipedia defines Web data services as"service oriented architecture (SOA) applied to data sourced from the World Wide Web."

In plain English, these services are basically designed to speed the finding, cleaning, and feeding of web data and content into business applications. Industry watchers are validating that organizations increasingly need relevant, real-time data from public web sites, such as CNN.com, or social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, as well as from private, firewall-protected web sites and web applications, to make better business decisions, faster.

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