Even though all data is a string of ones and zeros, how those bits are packaged and organized makes a difference. Some data can be structured into neat formats that can be quickly parsed and analyzed. However, this is actually the minority of data. Most of your data is unstructured data, which often defies classification. Unstructured information can also be difficult to mobilize, but there is a solution.
What's the Difference Between Unstructured and Structured Data?
We consider data to be structured whenever you can predict exactly what kind of information is contained in a specific part of the file. For example, if you have a client database, it'll have columns and rows with predictable data points at each intersection. An email column contains an email address, which definitely has an “@” symbol and a dot. We can easily parse this data and give everyone access to it in seconds.
Unfortunately, most forms of data don't follow any particular structure. For instance, consider a video file. There's no telling what you'll find if you jump to the 300th frame of that file. Machine learning hasn't yet reached the level where we can simply search for a specifici mage or item in a video and get a reliable result.
These kinds of files represent around 80% of all of the data that exists. Because it's so difficult to truly know what unstructured files contain, many organizations struggle to manage this data appropriately. In particular, recent changes to workflows have led to a data mobility problem.
Why Is Data Mobility Important Today?
With millions of workers operating out of their home offices or working at their dining room tables, data mobility is more important than ever. But even when a company runs business as usual, the increasing need for collaboration with clients and other offices means that mobility matters. If your data can't be accessed or transferred in a timely manner, it stifles your productivity.
To respond to this growing need for mobility and flexibility, companies have flocked to the cloud. Cloud storage seems like the perfect solution, and while it can certainly help, it also creates new problems. Most notably, it'll raise your monthly bills considerably if you don't have a good idea of how much data your organization has.
But that's not the only issue that arises when we try to improve mobility. There are significant security concerns in addition to the data management headaches that unstructured files create when they go mobile.
How Unstructured Files Complicate Mobility
While we would love for everyone to be able to access every file freely, unstructured files give IT managers pause. These files can contain sensitive information that needs to be protected. Therefore, companies establish protocols to ensure their employees take care with their data. But that now creates barriers to mobility.
Organizations need to balance security with mobility but finding the sweet spot can be extremely difficult if you don't even know what your unstructured files contain. What would be ideal is if each file had permissions that reflected the level of security that file deserves.To do this manually would be an insurmountable task.
The only solution that works today is automation. Given the overwhelming quantity of data organizations have to manage, there's no other choice. An automated platform that can scan all of your unstructured files and reveal what they contain is key. Once you know your data, you can impose the proper restrictions on each file.
Give Structure to Your Data
In addition to helping you keep your files safe while still allowing them to be moved around, automation can help you learn more about the data itself. You can automate tagging and intelligently add metadata so that even the most unstructured information gains a bit of structure.
Properly identified data boosts productivity.Instead of having to spend hours combing through your file system looking for the right data, you can simply search and find exactly what you need in seconds. With that power, your employees can focus on doing their work and providing value to the organization. This also improves mobility since collaboration becomes much easier when it's clear what files need to move and to whom they belong.
Your unstructured files don't have to be a problem. Turn them into an asset by implementing smart data management through an automated platform. Ask for a data assessment to see for yourself how easy it can be to find and identify all of your data, regardless of the mess it's in now.