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Structured Data and Unstructured Data

Before understanding the Structured Data and the Unstructured Data, let us know a little bit about the data.

Data can be defined as the information converted into a very economical form for translation or processing. Data, including video, images, sounds, and text, are represented as binary values that mean either 0 or 1. Using these two numbers, patterns are generated to store different types of data. The smallest unit of data in a computer system is a bit, and a single value is represented using a bit. A byte is eight binary digits long.

In the context of today's computers and transmission media, data can be defined as information that is converted into binary digital form. With the increase in the number of computer users, the amount of data generated also get increased drastically within the last decade. So, a new term is coined for such a huge volume of data that is generating at a rapid speed. It is called big data. It is not only the volume of the data that has increased over time. Along with the volume, the variety of the data getting generated is increasing rapidly. So, it becomes very important to classify the types of data that is getting generated. In this era of the internet, a vast amount of data is generated. This data can be either text, images, videos, documents, pdf files, videos, log files, and many more.

Now, let us classify this vast amount of data in broadly two categories. These two categories are:

  • Structured Data
  • Unstructured Data

Structured Data

We can define Structured Data as the data which has some fixed pattern in them or it is systematic in nature. Structured data is data in which the elements are addressable for efficacious analysis. Structured data is the sort of data that is easily trackable.

The structured data is usually stored in a formatted repository that is typically a database. Most of the time relational databases (RDBMS) are used to store Structured data. All the data that can be stored in a SQL database in a table having some rows and columns depict the structured data. The structured data can always be stored in pre-designed fields, and it also has relational keys. Various data types like ZIP codes, Social Security numbers, or phone numbers are stored in those fields. The records in the table even store the text strings of variable length like names so that they can become easy to search.

The data generated can be either generated by humans or machines. As most of the structured data is stored in Relational databases, it becomes very easy to search the desired data from the stored structured data. In other words, we can say that structured data increases the findability of the data.

Structured data is the information that can be measured easily and can be added into the easy-to-read reports without any further exploitation.

Unstructured Data

Unstructured data can be defined as the data which doesn't exhibit any particular pattern. Unstructured Data is not organized in a predefined manner as Unstructured Data doesn't have any predefined data model and fixed structure, so it is not suitable to store in the mainstream relational database. But there are various alternative options for storing various types of unstructured data. Unstructured Data can be either textual or non-textual data.

Even though unstructured data is not structured in a predefined way, it has a native, internal structure.

Almost 80 to 85 percent of the data that is collected by all the major companies is unstructured data. Unstructured data is very flexible in nature as it doesn't have any schema. The data in the Unstructured data is not bounded or constrained by any kind of fixed schemas. Unstructured data is very much portable and scalable in nature.

Some of the examples of unstructured data are Word, PDF, Text, Media logs, Satellite imagery, Scientific data, Sensor data, Surveillance photos and video, chat, IM, phone recordings, collaboration software, Data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

Other than the structured and unstructured data, there is also semi-structured data which is a combination of both structured and unstructured data as it exhibits properties of both the structured and unstructured data.

So, this article helps us to have a better understanding and perspective of structured data and unstructured data.

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