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What is data?

What do we mean when we talk about data? Data refers to all of the content and information that is created and maintained by your organization. This data can be structured, unstructured, or semi-structured.

Structured data

Structured data follows a specific model or template that controls what information can be entered into specific fields, and is quantitative in nature. This data requires less storage space and can be easily searched, organized, exported, and analyzed.

Examples include:

  • Spreadsheets

  • Database content

  • Contacts listed in your phone

Unstructured data

Unstructured data cannot be easily reduced to standard fields of information as is found with structured data. Commonly stored in its native format, and qualitative in nature, unstructured data is more challenging to search, manage, and analyze.

Examples include:

  • Word processing documents

  • Presentations

  • Drawings

  • Images

  • PDFs

  • Audio and video files

Semi-structured data

As the name suggests, semi-structured data falls somewhere in between being structured and unstructured. This content will exist in its native format, while being appended with tags that help to add structure. The inclusion of the added metadata or tags improves its searchability and management.

Examples include:

  • Emails that contain unstructured text but also structured information in fields, such as the sender, recipient, and send date.

  • Photographs taken on a phone or camera that record information such as device used, date, and location.

  • Social media posts that include images and/or hashtags

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