Unstructured Data Management: The Nemesis of Data Overload

Today's enterprises must manage an unwieldy and growing amount of data. Unstructured data management solutions hold the key to unlocking the power of this data.

By Michael Brenner

By Michael Brenner May 29, 2020

We are living in a world of Big Data. Rapid advancements in technology means that the businesses of today are collecting more data than ever before, and that data continues to grow at an exponential rate.

In fact, the figures involved when we’re trying to get a handle on exactly how much data there is out there are almost too big to wrap your head around. A study by IDC estimates that there will be 175 trillion gigabytes of data by 2025. If you were to store all that data on DVDs, the resulting stack would wrap around the Earth 222 times.

Image source: Forbes

With more data, enterprises have more power and enjoy more possibilities. But, these massive amounts of data come with challenges, too. The vast majority of data being generated today is unstructured data (around 80 percent of corporate enterprise data is unstructured). Big Data offers huge possibilities but only if it is in a usable format. This means that this unstructured data must be analyzed and processed.

New data is being generated every second, and the responsibility of managing and storing all that data is huge, especially in the face of continually evolving regulations. Today’s enterprises must look ahead to anticipate future data needs and embrace new technologies that are emerging to help them navigate this increasingly challenging landscape.

What Is Unstructured Data?

At the dawn of the third decade of the 21st century, we’re spending the vast majority of our days using some kind of electronic device. In these digital times, almost every action we take creates data – opening a website, using social media, and even walking down the road with your phone in your pocket creates GPS data.

As we move into the future, it’s not just people creating this data. The birth of the Internet of Things has meant that smart devices such as cars, televisions, and home devices are generating massive amounts of data, too. As the IoT continues to grow year on year, it’s easy to see why the world’s data is multiplying so quickly.

Some of this data is structured, meaning it has a specific format that can be processed easily. A basic example of structured data would be a customer database, where name, address, email, and other details are stored in pre-defined places.

Unstructured data is raw data that has no defined organizational structure. Some examples of unstructured and semi-structured data would be social media posts, email messages, documents, images, videos, audio files, and all number of other documents.

This data brings challenges when it comes to storing and managing it because it comes in many different formats, it can’t be searched easily, and it’s not easy to sort valuable data from data which can be discarded. Left unsorted and unmanaged, this unstructured data can quickly fill up storage infrastructure, causing enterprises exponentially increasing costs for very little business benefit.

Storage Considerations for Unstructured Data

Corporate enterprises that are considering how to manage their current unstructured data and planning data storage solutions for the future must consider several factors when choosing data storage systems and infrastructure:

  • Capacity and Scaling – The first, and possibly most important, consideration to make is how much storage space do you need? Not just for today, but how will you scale your storage needs in the future?

  • Performance – For any data management system to be fit for purpose, it must be powerful enough to support the required number of users accessing the system simultaneously and process data by searching or sorting within acceptable timescales.

  • Accessibility – Who needs access to your data on a daily basis? Do you have different teams working across the globe, and if so, how can you enable fast and efficient access to these teams while still maintaining data security and integrity?

  • Security and Compliance – How will you ensure your data is safe from unauthorized access or accidental loss? Is certain data subject to stricter security protocols than other data? Is your industry subject to specific data protection legislation?

  • Ease of Deployment – Between your current and legacy data storage solution systems and the solution that you’re considering lie many potential pitfalls. It’s vital to consider the process of building and deploying new architecture, what is needed in terms of new hardware and software, and how your business will be affected during the transition.

  • Backup and recovery – When you’re considering capacity, it’s worth remembering that backups may double or triple your data storage needs. Backups can be made at fixed intervals, such as hourly or daily, or in real-time. The type of backup that is most suitable for your enterprise will depend on your individual business needs. It’s also vital to anticipate potential data losses or breaches and have a data recovery plan in place.

The Benefits of Properly Managing Unstructured Data

With something as big and challenging as dealing with terabytes of unstructured data, it can be tempting to put off the issue to a later date. But, enterprises that procrastinate on data management run the risk of falling behind their competitors.

In fact, organizations that make data management a priority will benefit from lower long-term storage costs and greater efficiency. The reduction in costs and unnecessary steps frees up IT teams for higher value tasks.

Unstructured data stores may contain critical information that can help business leaders to make better decisions. But, extracting this important information can be a challenge. Technology solutions designed to help enterprises store and manage their unstructured data can provide business intelligence tools to mine this data for the nuggets of gold hidden within.

Nutanix offers intelligent, scalable, hybrid-cloud solutions designed for enterprises to tame their rapidly growing unstructured data and escape data overload. With the ability to store VM, file, block, and object storage on the same platform, Nutanix Files and Nutanix Objects offer flexibility and full control for all your data storage and management needs.

Michael Brenner is a keynote speaker, author and CEO of Marketing Insider Group. Michael has written hundreds of articles on sites such as Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Guardian and he speaks at dozens of leadership conferences each year covering topics such as marketing, leadership, technology and business strategy. Follow him @BrennerMichael.

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