1.1 What is DATA and INFORMATION ?


We live in a digital world which is created and defined by software. A massive amount of digital data is continuously generated, collected, stored, and analysed through software in our digital universe. As per Digital Universe Study conducted in 2014 by International Data Corporation (IDC), it is estimated that the digital universe produces approximately 4.4 trillion gigabytes (GB) of data annually and it is doubling every two years. By these estimates, it is projected that by the year 2020, the digital universe will expand to 44 trillion GB of data. 

This data in the digital universe comes from different and variety sources, including individuals living and working online, organisations employing information technology (IT) to run their businesses, and from a variety of “smart” electronic devices connected to the Internet.

Individuals constantly generate and consume information through numerous activities, such as web searches, e-mails, uploading and downloading content and sharing audio & video files. The rapid increase in online social networking and Internet-enabled smartphones and tablets has also contributed significantly to the growth of the digital universe.

Also Read: IT Data Center Design and its Components

Organisations have become increasingly information-dependent in the twenty-first century, and information must be available whenever and wherever it is required. It is critical for users and applications to have continuous, fast, reliable, and secure access to information for business operations to run as required. It is essential for organisations to store, protect, process, and manage information in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Legal, regulatory, and contractual obligations regarding the availability, retention, and protection of data further add to the challenges of storing and managing information.

The terms “data” and “information” are closely related and it is common for the two to be used interchangeably. However, it is important to understand the difference between the two. 

Data, by itself, is simply a collection of facts that needs to be processed for it to be useful. For example a set of annual sales figures of an organisation is data. When data is processed and presented in a specific context it can be interpreted in a useful manner. This processed and organised data is called information. 

Digital Data & Digital Information

In computing, digital data is a collection of facts that is transmitted and stored in electronic form, and processed through software. Digital data is generated by various devices, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, and electronic sensors. It is stored as strings of binary values (0s and 1s) on a storage medium that is either internal or external to the devices generating or accessing the data. The storage devices may be of different types, such as magnetic, optical, or solid state storage devices. Examples of digital data are electronic documents, text files, e-mails, e-books, digital images, digital audio, and digital video.

Based on how it is stored and managed, digital data can be broadly classified as either structured data or unstructured data. Structured data is organised in fixed fields within a record or file.
Types of Data
Image: EMC

Structured data is the data stored in a relational database, data is organised in rows and columns within named tables. 

Semi-structured data does not have a formal data model but has an apparent, self-describing pattern and structure that enable its analysis. Examples of semi-structured data include spreadsheets that have a row and column structure, and XML files that are defined by an XML schema. 
Quasi-structured data consists of textual data with erratic data formats, and can be formatted with effort, software tools, and time. An example of quasi-structured data is the  data about which webpages a user visited and in what order. 

Unstructured data does not have a data model and is not organised in any particular format. Some examples of unstructured data include text documents, PDF files, e-mails, presentations, images, and videos. more than 90 percent, of the data generated in the digital universe today is non-structured data (semi-, quasi-, and unstructured).

Processing and analysing data is vital to any organisation. It enables organisations to derive value from data, and create intelligence to enable decision-making and organisational effectiveness. It is easier to process structured data due to its organised form. On the other hand, processing non-structured data and extracting information from it using traditional applications is difficult, time-consuming, and requires considerable resources. New architectures, technologies, and techniques have emerged that enable storing, managing, analysing, and deriving value from unstructured data coming from numerous sources.

To meet all these requirements and more, organisations are increasingly undertaking digital transformation initiatives to implement intelligent storage solutions. These solutions not only enable efficient and optimised storage and management of information, but also enable extraction of value from information to derive new business opportunities, gain a competitive advantage, and create new sources of revenue.






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