Unstructured Data Troves: 10 Points for Taking Control of Them

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2013-12-03 Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    Unstructured Data Troves: 10 Points for Taking Control of Them
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    Unstructured Data Troves: 10 Points for Taking Control of Them

    By Chris Preimesberger
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    Unstructured Data Refers to More Information Than You Think
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    Unstructured Data Refers to More Information Than You Think

    The term unstructured data describes information that is not organized into a well-defined schema. Nearly all that lives outside relational databases is unstructured and even includes images, videos and log files produced by computers, machines and sensors. Even this list is unstructured data.
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    Unstructured Data Accounts for 80 Percent of Stored Information
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    Unstructured Data Accounts for 80 Percent of Stored Information

    The sheer amount of unstructured data is staggering -- it makes up 80 percent or more of all digitally stored data. As the data-driven economy grows, the amount of unstructured data being produced grows as well, due to society's constant use of social media, emails, documents, photos, videos and many other types of data.
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    Unstructured Data Is Created Everywhere, All the Time
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    Unstructured Data Is Created Everywhere, All the Time

    Unstructured data is so voluminous because it is being created everywhere, all the time. Every minute, there are more than 6,000 pictures shared on social media sites and more than 200 million emails sent. People aren't the only ones creating this data—servers generate log files, and machine-based sensors produce mountains of information.
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    Unstructured Data is Often Very Important Data
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    Unstructured Data is Often Very Important Data

    Your company strategy, vision and goals are locked in unstructured data—in the Websites, presentations or Microsoft Word documents where they are held. Even your medical record is unstructured; the notes and test values are often stored as entirely unstructured data.
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    Re-Creating Unstructured Data Is Costly, Time-Consuming
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    Re-Creating Unstructured Data Is Costly, Time-Consuming

    Rework for recovering lost data is expensive. Employees spend a significant portion of their time creating presentations, proposals and business plans. Businesses lose nearly 20 percent of their productivity looking for previously created unstructured data and laboriously re-creating it if it can't be found.
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    Analyzing Unstructured Data Can Provide Competitive Advantages
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    Analyzing Unstructured Data Can Provide Competitive Advantages

    Unstructured data isn't well-organized or easy to access, but companies that analyze this data and integrate it into their information management landscape can significantly improve employee productivity. Analysis allows organizations to quickly identify experts and authoritative information, which saves time and prevents rework. It can also help businesses capture important decisions and the supporting evidence for those decisions.
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    Unstructured Data Can Reveal Social Trends, Improve Customer Satisfaction
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    Unstructured Data Can Reveal Social Trends, Improve Customer Satisfaction

    Analyzing social content—tweets, Facebook posts and transcripts from support calls, for example—gives a clear view of how customers perceive your products. Proactively understanding the issues and responding dramatically improves your customers' satisfaction, while feature requests can be captured, grouped and prioritized in ways never before possible.
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    Combining Structured and Unstructured Data Improves Efficiency
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    Combining Structured and Unstructured Data Improves Efficiency

    Before a salesperson contacts an existing customer to up-sell or renew a contract, he or she needs to know about the existing deal with the customer, how happy that customer is with the product or service, and who has been working with them in the past. Some of this data—customer contact details, deal size and structure—are often stored in structured databases, while communications, support cases and prior emails are locked in different systems.
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    Compliance Laws Cover Unstructured Data
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    Compliance Laws Cover Unstructured Data

    There are many laws that cover the management of unstructured data, such as how long data must be retained, or how data should be managed if your company is involved in a lawsuit. Failing to comply can lead to fines or even lost court cases.
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    Managing, Analyzing Unstructured Data Is Complex, Costly
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    Managing, Analyzing Unstructured Data Is Complex, Costly

    The value of unstructured data is clear, but so are the costs of effectively analyzing and managing it. Complex text, audio and video analysis software often requires customization for your organization, and the individuals using the data management systems may need training to ensure that they are getting the most from the investment. Have specific goals in mind when you start an unstructured data analysis or management project.
 

Storage administrators and industry analysts well know that data stored outside a database accounts for the lion's share of all enterprise data. To complicate this, the creation of data has never been more distributed, and the velocity of data and files moving into storage is accelerating. Managing unstructured data is extremely important to reduce storage and compliance costs while minimizing corporate risk. This task has been painfully difficult due to the time, resources and overhead required to collect the immense volume of metadata and digest it into actionable business intelligence. The job isn’t going to get easier all by itself. Gartner analysts predict unstructured data will grow a whopping 800 percent over the next five years, and that 80 percent (or more) of that new data will also be unstructured. If enterprises don't have the right software to prepare for these forthcoming storage issues, they had better start planning to do something about it. In this slide show, eWEEK and new-gen automated storage provider DataGravity of Nashua, N.H., offer insight into the implications of the data explosion and how to manage massive amounts of unstructured data.

 
 
 
 
 
Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz
 
 
 
 
 
 

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