What is Unstructured Data and Why is it so Hard to Manage?

What is unstructured data and why is it so hard to manage?
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Fast, manageable data makes global collaboration radically easier. But data growth is outpacing dated storage methods for enterprises worldwide — and unstructured data makes the problem harder to untangle.

An organization without clean information readily available faces endless roadblocks preventing swift decisions and workflow progress. As the face of data shifts from neatly-fitted to obtuse and widely varied, storage must evolve into data management. First, organizations and providers must both understand and embrace the features making unstructured data an immense challenge.

Unstructured Data vs. Structured Data Explained

Structured data neatly fits into categories and tables. For instance, you can easily put dates, zip codes, and warehouse inventories into a classic “row-and-column” database. This quantitative data is fast and easy to feed across systems and dissect because storage systems were designed for it.

Unstructured data expands the scope into any information that does not fit neatly into a database. This umbrella has a wide reach, including countless data types in addition to the following:

  • Media — Audio, video, images, graphics, geo-positioning data, etc.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) data — sensor data via production line monitors, etc.
  • Document files — Productivity documents (Word, Powerpoint, etc.), log files, emails, etc.
  • Analytics data — Machine-generated via social media, efficiency tools, and countless artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

While both forms serve users with ways to engage with information, legacy storage is relational and better suited for structured data. As such, unstructured data operates less effectively in the boundaries of the traditional file-based storage model.

Data is stored, sent, and used uniquely based not only on its structure but on how it was created. These differences hold the key to solving the performance issues with unstructured data.

What Makes Unstructured Data Harder to Work With?

In today’s workspaces, the sheer amount of data created by both users and machines puts legacy storage in a bind. The problem with unstructured data growth gets pinned to two key issues:

By breaking your unstructured data into groups of user-generated and machine-generated data, you’ll see they are created and move between digital spaces at different speeds.

  • SMB protocol is used for user-generated data like emails and Word documents.
  • NFS protocol does the heavy lifting to send and receive machine-generated data. This could be anything from a few bytes of IoT sensor data on the small end, to multi-terabyte raw theatrical film footage.

Now consider that your enterprise amasses billions and billions of files, objects, and items of all sizes. Then, factor in your automated applications and tools that rapid-fire mountains of new data output daily. Finally, drill deeper and you’ll discover SMB protocol likely works faster and leaner with your existing storage than NFS.

The result often looks like this: your agile emails push your teams’ plans to collaborate — while your actual workload data for Splunk and all other machine-generated data drags between worksites.

From banking to media production, real-time applications that leverage NFS may be mission-critical for your daily decisions. Your file infrastructure’s NFS “blind spot” throttles your cross-site collaboration, and ultimately, your results and competitive edge.

Making Unstructured Data Management Easier

To affordably scale your global file system (with collaboration in mind), your solution must handle unstructured data smarter. You’ll need:

  • A single view of all your enterprise data.
  • Local speeds for the transit of remote unstructured data. 

Let’s explore some options in the file system market that could elevate your company’s workflows.

Global Namespace

Your data should most importantly be easy to view and access no matter where it lives.

Find a file system that allows you to fetch items — without seeking the specific site they live at. A global namespace offers one view to collect and offload data with no per-site storage islands to sift through.

Local-Feeling Performance

Collaboration across your organization should also be fast and efficient for both unstructured and structured data.

Leverage a file system that maxes your remote speeds to local-like performance. This segment of your system runs in two complementary parts:

  • Each site running embedded NVMe Separate Intent Log (SLOG) devices on local hardware invites you to accelerate your SMB workloads.

  • House virtual file system instances on the distributed hardware to deliver fully saturated, sustained speeds for all your SMB and NFS data — no matter where it’s being accessed.

Utilize Data Wherever You Choose to Store It

Enterprises deserve the freedom to store unstructured data where it fits their needs – whether that’s in the public cloud, or on-premises. If your existing file system lacks the flexibility to embrace any platform, you’re due for an upgrade.

For instance, smarter file systems expand your options beyond the file-based systems you’re accustomed to. Block-based and object-based storage gives you choices for making your data:

  • More available
  • High performance
  • Durable, and
  • Adaptable to your business needs over time.

Ultimately, unstructured data doesn’t have to be hard. Equip your organization with the right tools to handle it for the productivity boost and cost savings you need most.