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Structured vs Unstructured Data

By Operia Data Team, August 29, 2022

Structured vs Unstructured data
In the 21st century, virtually everything is driven by data – research, business development, fraud detection, market analysis, and much more.

Data comes in many forms and structures, which in turn give rise to many challenges in storing, maintaining, and running searches across it. To better understand how industries face up to those challenges, we must first understand the basic difference between structured and unstructured data.

Structured data
The idea behind structured data is to make it easily accessible by humans and machines. While structured data only accounts for about 20 percent of the data worldwide, it is the foundation of many BigData applications. Traditionally, the structured data’s attributes will have a standardized format, they will follow a persistent order, and are stored in a database.
The predictability of the structure and properties of its attributes then enables the Structured Query Language (SQL) to easily run queries in the database.

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Unstructured data
Unstructured data is essentially any data that is not structured either human or machine-generated. The data might have its internal structure, but it’s not arranged in any pre-defined model or schema. One of the most common forms of unstructured data is text – emails, text files, social media, mobile data, etc (but can also be found in the form of media such as MP3, digital photos, audio, and video files).

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The future of data – what should we expect?
Although there are some clear advantages to structured data (easy to scale, easy to secure, easy to search, easy to manage), it’s by any means not the end of the unstructured data – 80% of the data in the world is unstructured, and it currently holds most of the value that’s out there. Businesses around the world are coming up with creative solutions for working with it.


Structured data is considered easier for Big Data applications to digest, but today’s data analytics solutions are making great strides in the unstructured data area.


It seems as it is, that we’ll continue to witness the prosperity of structured data, and hopefully an enhancement of the utilization of the magnitude of unstructured data as well.