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Unstructured data: Can you crack the code?

Joe Lipscombe | June 12, 2013
As with the universe-load of unstructured data, CIOs want to break it down, lay it out, and extract from it some kind of business value. But how should they do so?

Regularly, we often hear talk of skills gaps where certain verticals are concerned. But the Middle East is a fast-learning region.

"Various verticals are getting an idea of what data they have and the promise it holds," says Kevin Leahy, Group General Manager for Data Centre Solutions, Dimension Data.

"But the journey to the promise is just getting started. The Middle East is no exception, with banking and health certainly on par with any region.

"In the health sector, for example, images are obviously important, but the hard part that no-one yet knows is how to take all that data and somehow learn the patterns by analysing it. They could then use those patterns to predict patient potential for disease and perform proactive procedures."

Aaron White, General Manager, Hitachi Data Systems, Middle East and Turkey, adds, "There is a clear and present need from organisations in the region to be able to make data-driven business decisions based on the analysis of this data. Businesses in the Middle East are often in a better position to take advantage of analysis of unstructured data as they often do not have the legacy or volume constraints of many other parts of the world."

Off to a flying start
Start-ups and SMEs are feeling increasing pressure in business, and investments made early on are critical. They must be relevant and cost-worthy, and Peter Ford, Managing Director, Cisco Consulting Services, believes tapping into unstructured data could be vital for them.

"In addressing the issue of unstructured data, SMEs and start-ups need to focus on unlocking the value of the data. For smaller businesses where budget is often a constraint and return on investment is of critical concern, recognising the business problem they are trying to solve — increasing sales, impacting revenue growth, understanding customers better — followed by putting in place the right strategy and tools, are essential."

Leahy adds, "The first thing is to define the data in detail, the ownership rights, the business value, price policies, if appropriate, and then build that in up-front, which allows incredible levels of access, automation and control. Take Akami as an example. Their entire business came out of building algorithms to place unstructured content at the appropriate places on the Internet based on usage and access rights."

Securely does it
Of course, with all big implementations following shifts in the IT landscape, security becomes an issue. And perhaps more so when data is concerned — after all, we're discussing exponential growth of personal, corporate and sensitive information.

"The key security concerns are; what information is sensitive; where is the sensitive information; who is it sensitive to; how can the sensitive information be located; and at what point does it become sensitive (for example, personally identifiable) information?" says Krishnamurthy.


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