September 1, 2022

What are the Characteristics of Unstructured Data? - A Complete Guide

Unstructured is a modern day endemic that multiple organizations has to deal with. Yet it is also a mystery to many, therefore, this article is dedicated to explain you the characteristics of unstructured data.

Unstructured data is any kind of data that isn’t organized in a way that makes it easy to find and analyze. The types of unstructured data are numerous, but they can be grouped into many broad categories. Unstructured data is often just called “unstructured information” or “unstructured content.” It’s also sometimes called "semi-structured data," which refers to data that has some structure but is not enough to qualify as fully structured. In this article, we will explain what big data is, the types of data, and how unstructured data can help businesses.

The massive volume of data requires enormous storage and processing capability from organizational personnel-generated data. Traditional data processing techniques cannot handle the amount and variety of data generated today. To prevent this problem, data generated by users and machines has been scaled up.  Due to this, it is estimated that unstructured data produced by oil drilling, airlines, social networks, marketing, and others amounts to thousands of terabytes. The value of unstructured data is so great that corporations are finding ways to exploit it. A combination of machine-generated data and social networking has caused the volume of data to explode. Dynamic data has replaced static data in the stack, leading to a surge in the generation and storage of structured and unstructured data.  Structured and unstructured data comes from daily transactions, social media, sensor data, digital photos, videos, audio, and clickstreams. It is therefore essential for a company to analyze both structured and unstructured data to determine customer reactions, product preferences, and other organizational requirements on a daily basis.

Types of data :

Data can be categorized into three types. It's vital to understand when and how to collect and analyze each type of data in order to gain the insights you're seeking.

Structured Data 

Structured data is data that has a definite format and length. The data is easy to store, analyze, and organize. This means that the data is structured in a way that allows it to respond to queries to get information for organizational use. Structured data is found in relational databases, such as SQL or Access. It contains organized numbers, dates, and groups of words and numbers known as strings/text. Because of the database's seamless structure, it may be searched using simple, straightforward search techniques, such as by data type within the actual content. Traditional analytics focused on structured data while ignoring a larger amount of unstructured data. 

Semi-Structured Data 

Semi-structured data consists of both unstructured and structured information. It changes quickly or unexpectedly without conforming to any fixed or explicit schema. Unlike relational databases or object databases, it does not use tables as the unit of storage. According to Hanig, Schierle, and Trabold (2010), a semi-structured data model allows information from several sources, each with related but distinct qualities, to be combined into a single whole, such as email, XML, and Doc files.

Unstructured Data

As opposed to structured data, unstructured data lacks organization. Unstructured data includes images, objects, text, email, and other non-database formats. Although email messages are arranged like databases in Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, the message body is in plain text format without any organization. To put it another way, unstructured data consists of documents used to define company strategies, spreadsheets containing lead lists, and social media correspondence between coworkers. An example of unstructured data is word processing documents. The content is freeform text with no organization. In today's business world, it is better to use unstructured data than structured data. 

Examples of Unstructured Data 

Unstructured data is frequently generated for communication purposes. In certain circumstances, communication is direct, whereas, in others, communication is indirect. Communication may be brief in some circumstances and lengthy in others. Communication may be informal in certain instances and formal in others. Another distinction is that communication might be casual in certain instances and legally obligated in others.


Spreadsheets are everywhere. Spreadsheets are used by accountants, financial planners, managers, and a wide range of other professionals. When a spreadsheet is created, the form and content are totally up to the analyst. What was spoken is reflected in the discourse. There are no restrictions when it comes to speaking. As a result, the content of recorded talks is completely unstructured. Transcriptions may contain a large amount of information. Transcriptions contain no keys. The only important information is the date of the phone call and the phone numbers that were linked. In most cases, no metadata exists in transcripted phone conversations.

Medical Documents

The medical record is another common type of unstructured data. Medical records can take many various forms, ranging from structured data generated by the patient filling out a form at the emergency room to fully unstructured data generated by the doctor writing longhand notes during a patient's visit. In almost every scenario, medical records contain some unstructured data. Terminology is one of the challenges with unstructured data in medical records.

Legal Guidance

Corporate legal information is another common and commonplace area for unstructured data. This category contains a wide range of unstructured data. To safeguard the corporation and its best interests, the lawyer may request that nearly anything be included as legally protected data-spreadsheets, emails, letters, transcripted phone conversations, and a variety of other unstructured data. Unstructured data shall not be edited or deleted if it has been considered critical to the company's legal interests. Though, in some instances, there may be a strong inclination to do so. Because of the large variety of unstructured data that can come under the lawyer's control, organizing and finding unstructured data becomes a significant difficulty. The lawyer faces all of the challenges that the textual analyst faces when dealing with unstructured data, except that the lawyer faces all of the challenges, whereas the analyst at least has the advantage of technology in overcoming some of the obstacles that come with a specific set of textual data.

Contracts with Corporations

There is a similarity between corporate contracts and litigation-protected instruments. Contracts are unstructured data that is unquestionably important to the business of corporations. It is common for the company to have a number of contracts dating back to its early days. Contracts between corporations have their own lingo. Typically, corporate contracts contain the contract number and the parties involved. Metadata is frequently present in contracts, but it is not labeled as such. Corporate contracts may contain a significant amount of data. Unstructured data is everywhere. Corporate unstructured data can be discovered in a variety of locations.

The Growth of Unstructured Data

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the total amount of data on the planet will be in the range of 175 zettabytes by 2025. The majority of that material will remain unstructured, with only approximately 10% being saved. There will be less analysis. Each day, unstructured data amounted to approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes from many sources, including sensors, social media posts, and digital images. A study by Feldman, Hanover, Burghard, and Schubmehl (2012) indicates that unstructured data is increasing exponentially. 

The Characteristics of Unstructured Data

One of the puzzling properties of unstructured textual data is that the qualities associated with the various types of unstructured textual data are jumbled across the data's multiple forms. There is minimal consistency among the various types of unstructured textual data.

Direct business relevance: The term "direct business relevance" refers to unstructured textual data. Customer credit reports, insurance claims, and airline reservation complaints are examples of unstructured textual data that is directly business relevant. Unstructured textual data with indirect commercial value could include human resources, employee assessments, and some emails.

Formal: The manner in which unstructured textual data is written is referred to as formal/informal. Email and letters are examples of unstructured textual data. Contracts and quarterly reports are examples of formal, unstructured textual data.

 Media: The medium on which unstructured textual data is stored is referred to as "typical storage media." Transcripted phone conversations are virtually entirely preserved electronically. Emails are typically preserved electronically. However, they are occasionally printed. Many types of unstructured textual data are saved on paper as well as electronically.

Update: The term "update" refers to whether or not the unstructured textual material can be altered once it is created. Adding unstructured textual material to an existing body of data is not considered an update. It relates to the modification of textual data when it is formed. Emails are rarely updated. In truth, updating emails is not always necessary. Ordinary Word documents, on the other hand, are constantly updated.

The volume of data: The overall volume of data connected with a type of unstructured textual data is referred to as the volume of data. Email is typically accompanied by a big amount of data. However, there would be a little amount of data for advertising purposes, for example. When you glance down any of the columns, you will notice that the traits have little or no rhyme or sense. One type of unstructured textual data has one set of qualities, whereas the next type has an entirely different set of traits. The challenge with automated data usage stems from the complete lack of a distinguishing pattern, along with the complexities of language.

The Future of Unstructured Data Analysis

In big data environments, a number of analytics approaches and tools are utilized to examine unstructured data. Data mining, machine learning, and predictive analytics are some of the other approaches used in unstructured data analytics. Text analytics tools analyze text data to find patterns, keywords, and sentiments. The goal of artificial intelligence based on natural language processing is to interpret the meaning and context of the text and spoken words. Deep learning algorithms rely on neural networks to analyze data.  Here are some examples of future unstructured data.

Textual Unstructured Data

Textual unstructured data is any kind of text that isn’t organized in a way that makes it easy to find and analyze. Some common examples of textual unstructured data are emails, letters, blog posts, and internal memos. Textual unstructured data is often referred to as “unstructured information.” This unstructured information often comes from different sources, such as emails sent by your employees and blog posts written by your customers. It’s important that companies make an effort to organize this data and make it easy to find. This can be done through the use of an unstructured data management system. This can be done through the use of an unstructured data management system.


Visual Unstructured Data

Visual unstructured data is any kind of image that isn’t organized in a way that makes it easy to find and analyze. Some common examples of visual unstructured data are photos, drawings, and screenshots. Visual unstructured data is often referred to as “unstructured information.” This unstructured information often comes from different sources, such as photos taken at an event and screenshots taken during usability testing. It’s important that companies make efforts to organize this data and make it easy to find. This can be done through the use of an unstructured data management system. This can be done through the use of an unstructured data management system.

Why is Unstructured Data Important?

Unstructured data is important for many different reasons. First, it’s important because it is difficult to find. If a company doesn’t have a good system for organizing its unstructured data, it can be difficult to find. Finding data is important because it can help you understand your customers and make better business decisions. In addition, unstructured data is often important because it is highly sensitive. This can include things like customer emails, medical documents, and financial records. If a company fails to organize and protect its unstructured data, it can expose itself to cyberattacks. Unstructured data is also important because it can help you understand your customers better. You can learn more about your customers by reading their blog posts and seeing what they share on social media. Unstructured data is also a big part of how artificial intelligence works. Unstructured data analysis tools may also swiftly interpret the text to provide you with an easy-to-understand picture of frequently used words and phrases in your dataset.


How Do You Collect and Analyze Unstructured Data?

It’s important for businesses to collect and analyze their unstructured data, but many fail to do so. There are many different ways to collect and analyze unstructured data. Some companies choose to collect unstructured data using a platform called a "data lake." A data lake is a storage system that’s designed to hold all types of unstructured data. This can include things like emails, videos, photos, and more. A data lake can be a great way for companies to collect and analyze unstructured data. And because it’s designed to hold all types of data, it can be useful for a variety of different purposes. Another way to collect and analyze unstructured data is to use a data lake. This is a software system designed to store all types of unstructured data. This can include emails, videos, photos, and more. A data lake can be a great way for companies to collect and analyze unstructured data. And because it’s designed to hold all types of data, it can be useful for a variety of different purposes. 



How to Convert Unstructured Data to a Structured Environment?


Unstructured data needs to be integrated and preconditioned in order to be integrated into a structured environment. Without integrating and preconditioning unstructured data, it is difficult for it to be effectively analyzed in a structured context. There is no doubt that unstructured data needs a great deal of work to be useful in an analytical context in a structured environment. Unstructured data can be integrated and preconditioned and placed in structured contexts much more easily than reconstructed in a different context.


Unstructured data can also be integrated into structured environments after being integrated and preconditioned. As a result, unstructured data can be combined with structured data. Analyzing both structured and unstructured data simultaneously opens up new possibilities. In the context of the analytical process, unstructured data can be seamlessly integrated and preconditioned to be placed in the structured environment once they are integrated and preconditioned. It is possible to integrate it in a variety of ways.


  • Using an email address


  • Through phone number


  • Using employee number


  • Using a social security number


It is possible to match data in the unstructured environment with data in the structured environment since unstructured data emerge subsequently. Thus, information processing and analysis are made possible on a massive scale.


VisionERA is a leading Intelligent Document Processing platform that will provide you unparalleled access to the power of AI. It provides more information to help you make better decisions. Because there are no third-party dependencies on the platform, you can expect a seamless performance when automating the processing of shipping papers.

It is, however, easily managed with the assistance of artificial intelligence.  By doing so, you can better understand your customers and your competitors. Respond to email and service tickets in real-time by routing them to the correct department or staff member. Manage unstructured data for quick, actionable insights. The use of machine learning in text analysis software allows you to explore unstructured data in big data in a fine-grained way or to get a glimpse of the bigger picture.

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