Data vs Information

Data, whether structured or unstructured, does not fulfill any purpose for individuals or businesses unless it is presented in a meaningful form. Businesses need to analyze data for it to be of value. Information is the intelligence and knowledge derived from data.

Data can be classified as structured or unstructured based on how it is stored and managed. Structured data is organized in rows and columns in a rigidly defined format so that applications can retrieve and process it efficiently. Structured data is typically stored using a database management system (DBMS).

Data is unstructured if its elements cannot be stored in rows and columns and is therefore difficult to query and retrieve by business applications. For example, customer contacts may be stored in various forms such as sticky notes, e-mail messages, business cards, or even digital format files such as .doc, .txt, and .pdf. Due to its unstructured nature, customer contact data is difficult to retrieve using a customer relationship management application. Unstructured data may not have the required components to identify itself uniquely for any type of processing or interpretation. Businesses are primarily concerned with managing unstructured data because over 80% of enterprise data is unstructured and requires significant storage space and effort to manage.

Businesses analyze raw data in order to identify meaningful trends. On the basis of these trends, a company can plan or modify its strategy. For example, a retailer identifies customers’ preferred products and brand names by analyzing their purchase patterns and maintaining an inventory of those products.

Effective data analysis not only extends its benefits to existing businesses, but also creates the potential for new business opportunities by using the information in creative ways. Consider a job portal as an example. In order to reach a wider set of prospective employers, job seekers post their résumés on various websites offering job search facilities. These websites collect the résumés and post them on centrally accessible locations for prospective employers. In addition, companies post available positions on job search sites. Job-matching software matches keywords from résumés to keywords in job postings. In this manner, the job search engine uses data and turns it into information for employers and job seekers.

Because information is critical to the success of a business, there is an ever present concern about its availability and protection. Legal, regulatory, and contractual obligations regarding the availability and protection of data only add to these concerns. Outages in key industries, such as financial services, telecommunications, manufacturing, retail, and energy cost millions of U.S. dollars per hour.

Adapted and Excerpted from EMC’s Information Storage and Management: Storing, Managing, and Protecting Digital Information (pdf) an excerpt of which is available online. Or you can buy the complete edition here.

Provide Your Perspective in the 6th Annual Global Study on Information Storage and Management Trends and Challenges

EMC is continuing its initiative to carry out annual research into the challenges facing the storage industry resulting from unprecedented information growth and emerging technologies such as storage virtualization, cloud computing, and big data analytics. We invite you to participate in this important survey which will identify how managers and individual professionals are responding to these challenges and help them with their planning for 2012-13 and beyond.

As a thank you for your insight and participation, the first 1000 respondents to complete the survey will receive a 2012 wall calendar (please allow 4 – 6 weeks for delivery).

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