It’s clear by now that smart analysis of big data can help companies spot important trends and boost profitability. Less clear: whether small businesses can access the same benefits from mining their “big data”.

Curious about this point, I interviewed a number of companies for Inc. magazine. Some were small-to-medium-sized businesses that had utilized big data analytics. Others were big-data start-ups that specifically catered to small-business clients.

The customers I talked to, including an established fashion website, a popular task-outsourcing service and a small retailer that sells candles online, said they had profited from big-data analytics. Services vary based on cost (from a few dollars to a thousand-plus per month) and the technology driving the analytics.

Some analytics companies incorporate unstructured data into their algorithms and deliver the kind of predictive analytics popularly associated with big data. Others mostly pull information from a company’s existing database, aiming to uncover insights through better data organization and visualization.

People may argue whether the latter approach counts as big-data analytics. I included a range of examples in the story to show the diversity of models and still-evolving nature of the industry. The companies I interviewed did consider this work to be big data–their version of big data. You can read the story, which appears in Inc.’s November issue, here.