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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?

"For example, what information about the customer's online purchase is sensitive?  The issue here is not just the purchase; it is how the customer made the purchase. A customer spends an hour-and-a-half purchasing a handful of herbs and ointments they believe help suppress cancer. How would the online company know that those specific item combinations indicate that customer may have cancer? And would they have to take additional security measures to protect that information because of privacy regulations?"

DeBono gives another view: "Possibly the biggest security concern around unstructured data is it being accessible to people, either within the organisation or external, who have no business need for access. Availability and confidentiality have an inverse relationship. As data is made more available, the confidentiality is bound to suffer, and vice versa."

And White makes another point, saying that is it important to remember that if you cannot see your data, you cannot protect it.

"Therefore organisations must take steps to ensure all data is recognised, with full visibility over all types of assets, including unstructured data, in order to fully comply with laws and regulations," he says.

Here to stay
The colossal uprising of unstructured data, and the struggle to tame and unlock it, appears to be a battle that will continue to scratch at the IT industry. However, it does at least seem that this will lead to unique and exciting business opportunities which may change the way in which society works and lives.

Unstructured data is here to stay, Ford says. "It represents the ever-increasing deluge of information, as terabytes, petabytes and exabytes threaten to swamp us with an influx of unfiltered, unstructured, unprocessed and seemingly unmanageable information."

Big Data is not just another hype word, but a mature and fully self-supporting trend which deserves the attention it's currently receiving, Mitchell adds.

"The concept of unstructured data or Big Data appeared on the technology and business scene around 2010, and since then, it has excited many executives with its potential to transform businesses and organisations. Many are treating the term as just another buzzword for managing and analysing data to better understand the business. But there is more than hype; there are considerable business benefits from being able to analyse data on a consistent basis. Companies that excel at Big Data will be able to employ these technologies with business benefit, and be able to produce new products and services as a result," he says.


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