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How to tap into the gold mine of unstructured data

Unstructured data might be the world’s best-kept secret. Or, at least, its value might be. Many organizations struggle with the cost and management headaches that traditionally go hand in hand with unstructured data. There’s a reason why IDC estimates the big data solutions market has reached $23.8 billion – but some have been slow to recognize that unstructured data is the new battleground for gaining competitive advantage.

Structured and semi-structured data analysis has become low-hanging fruit. Unstructured data sources, which were once considered too difficult to effectively use, are now a critical way to improve efficiency, reduce rework in the office and uncover insights across a business. Some organizations go so far as to overlook unstructured data entirely. For example, which of the below files would you define as unstructured?

  • Microsoft Word documents
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Spreadsheets
  • PDFs
  • Email
  • Tweets
  • Facebook photos
  • Audio recordings
  • Video
  • Images

The answer is all of the above – every item on the list might contain insights that improve your company’s operations, security posture and even bottom line.

Traditional issues with unstructured data analysis

Typically, unstructured data is produced for humans, by humans – meaning it’s not easily read by a machine. Consider the last email you wrote to your team – did it contain ambiguous language, nuances or even sarcasm? Or, the last spreadsheet you prepared for an international client – did it contain phrases in more than one language? All of these subtleties make unstructured data difficult for computers to read, file and automate.

Since it’s difficult to identify the metadata most important in an unstructured document, organizations are sometimes unable to locate the most valuable insights locked away in their data. However, if you’re looking to correlate social media posts with sales performance, or map the efficacy of a marketing campaign against your influx of support tickets, unstructured information should be the first place you look.

Gartner’s approach: File analysis

A recent Gartner report suggested using file analysis as the go-to approach for unlocking unstructured data insights. When you can index, search and report every file’s metadata and contextual information, you can improve data management, security, compliance, governance and business decisions.

Learn how to put unstructured data analysis practices into action.

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David Siles

David is Chief Technology Officer for DataGravity. Prior to becoming CTO, David served as vice president of worldwide field operations at DataGravity. Previously, he was a member of the senior leadership team at Veeam Software. He also served as CTO and VP of professional services for systems integrator Hipskind TSG. A graduate of DeVry University, he is a frequent speaker at top tier technology shows and a recognized expert in virtualization.