Unstructured Data

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What Does Unstructured Data Mean?

Unstructured data is digital information that cannot be stored efficiently in a relational database (RDMS) because it does not use pre-set data models or schemas.

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Unstructured data, which can be raw, is often stored in a data lake. Sources for unstructured data include sensors and actuators, email and text messages, word documents, PowerPoint presentations, electronic health records (EHRs), digital images, audio files and videos.

In customer-centered businesses, the data found in an unstructured form may be analyzed to enhance relationship marketing and customer relationship management (CRM).

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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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.