Data, indeed, is the new oil—transformative, immensely powerful and a driver of business. But just like oil in its crude form, raw data in itself is useless, which means it must be first processed into something usable for an organisation to yield the benefits of having it in the first place. That isn’t a problem with structured data, also called quantitative data, which is extremely organised and easy to decipher using a programming language such as structured query language.
Things get a bit trickier when it comes to unstructured data, which is, taking the above analogy, equivalent to crude oil—raw, unprocessed, relatively unusable. But if you can manage unstructured data correctly and turn it into its useful form, you will be able to use it as a competitive advantage in an already cutthroat business landscape today. That is more important when you consider the anticipated explosion in terms of the amount of data that will be produced in the coming years:
That increase is so exponential that the amount of unstructured data being produced is said to be growing by an average of 55–65% annually, resulting in a growth trajectory that looks like this:
In this Special Focus Feature article, you will learn more about unstructured data and how to manage it so that you can take full advantage of it.
What Is Unstructured Data?
Unstructured data is typically pieces of information collected from different sources that do not follow conventional data models or pre-set criteria, thus, making it extremely difficult to both store and manage using relational databases.
You can think of unstructured data as a bunch of random information cobbled together with neither a discernible pattern nor a perceptible order or structure. This lack of structure or pattern, in turn, makes it extremely hard to analyse and make sense of the data that you have collected. And that complicates things because lots of data being created today is unstructured. The reason being is that there are many data types that fall under the unstructured category, and among them are the following:
Now, the problem with unstructured data is not that it cannot be analysed and, therefore, used to gain insights that you can ultimately rely on to add value to your business. You can actually analyse unstructured data and make sense of it but doing so can be much more complex as opposed to analysing and interpreting structured data.
Structured Data vs Unstructured Data
If we take a look at customer data as an example, the main, fundamental difference between structured and unstructured data is that the former offers a “birds-eye view” of your customers, whereas the latter gives you more insight into them, along with a deeper understanding of their behaviours. Just based on that major difference, it can be tempting to dismiss structured data in favour of unstructured data, but that would be a grave mistake because there are benefits to collecting and keeping the former as well. Check out the matrix below to get a clearer idea as to the advantages and disadvantages of both data types.
Managing Unstructured Data
The cons of unstructured data as shown in the matrix above is likely to make you think twice or thrice about using this type of data given the degree of specialisation necessary before you can actually put it to good use. This begs the million-dollar question so to speak: How can a business manage unstructured data?
The Secret Is The Storage
In a world that is increasingly producing more and more unstructured data, the technologies to sort, organise and make sense of them—AI, ML and NLP, in particular—have managed to keep pace. It goes without saying that leveraging these is a must if you are to manage unstructured data for a competitive advantage.
That being the case, it is also critical that you have to right storage for all your data, especially the unstructured ones because that will, ultimately, mean the difference as to whether or not you can take full advantage of AI, ML and NLP when it comes to managing, analysing and visualising data of any kind.
The right storage, in this case, is something like the Isilon F800 All-Flash Scale-out NAS, a part of the Dell EMC PowerScale family, whose proprietary PowerScale technology is the foundational unstructured data storage solution within the Dell EMC series. In particular, PowerScale enables fast, easy and seamless AI implementations that allow the optimal use of Machine- and Deep-Learning, which in turn allows improved organisation and enhanced analysis of unstructured data.
The exponential growth of data—mainly of the unstructured kind, and also of structured ones—and the need to both store and make sense of it underpins the criticality of having storage solutions that can handle all your data needs. And you can start by checking out the Dell EMC PowerScale family here and getting a free demo here.
For more about Dell Technologies’ leading storage solutions, visit the official Dell Technologies website here.