Unstructured Data

Last updated: February 15, 2017

What Does Unstructured Data Mean?

Unstructured data represents any data that does not have a recognizable structure. It is unorganized and raw and can be non-textual or textual. For example, email is a fine illustration of unstructured textual data. It includes time, date, recipient and sender details and subject, etc., but an email body remains unstructured. Unstructured data also may be identified as loosely structured data, wherein the data sources include a structure, but not all data in a data set follow the same structure.

In customer-centered businesses, the data found in an unstructured form may be examined to enhance relationship marketing and customer relationship management (CRM). As social media apps, such as Facebook and Twitter, go mainstream, unstructured data development is likely to outrun the progress of structured data.


Techopedia Explains Unstructured Data

Unstructured data refers to data that follows a form that is less ordered than items like spreadsheet pages, database tables or other linear or ordered data sets. In fact, the term "data set" is helpful because it is associated with data that is in neat, accessible arrays, without any extra content, and that is linked or tagged in a specific structure.

Other instances of unstructured textual data include Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, instant messages, collaboration software, documents, books, social media posts and medical records. Non-textual unstructured data is generally created in media, such as MP3 audio files, JPEG images and Flash video files, etc.

Unstructured data usually does not include a predefined data model, and it may not match well with relational tables. Unstructured data is usually text heavy. However, it may include numbers and dates, as well as facts. This leads to ambiguities that are difficult to identify using conventional software programs.

The storage of huge volumes of unstructured data generated within an enterprise, if poorly managed, may lead to higher expenses. Data in hard copy documents or in an electronic format must be scanned in order for a search application to parse out ideas, depending on words used in certain contexts. This is known as enterprise or semantic search.


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