04.10.2022 09:30

Structured vs Unstructured Data: Sources, Uses, and Benefits

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Businesses have more information than ever before thanks to continuous data creation. These data may come from social media, websites, blogs, and many other sources.

With such a variety of sources, data types are often split into structured and unstructured. If you want to learn more about these two, their sources use, and their benefits, check out the next sections.

Structured vs unstructured data

When considering structured vs unstructured data, the two types are not created equally and there’s more utility and user-friendliness to one type over the other. Firstly, structured data refers to organized information that can be easily added to your database.

Such data may come from spreadsheets or database systems and is often quantitative. This type of data can also be easily processed, especially since it’s highly compatible with artificial intelligence technology.

However, International Data Corporation predicted that approximately 80% of the world’s data will be unstructured by 2025. Unstructured data usually include text, but might also be in a non-text format, such as images, audio, and video.

This may be a huge challenge for businesses for several reasons since it makes it more difficult to analyze. Despite this, once businesses develop this capability, it can provide a wealth of insights that structured data cannot reveal.

Sources of structured vs unstructured data

Structured data usually comes from spreadsheets and is in a numerical form, but not always. It can be human or generated by machines. Some examples of sources for structured data include currency and payment transactions from POS systems or dates, customer names, ZIP codes, phone numbers collected from websites, and others.

Unstructured data is information that may include text, open-ended survey results, or social media comments. It may also be non-textual, such as audio or video, coming from various online platforms.

Other sources for machine-generated unstructured data include satellites, sensors, surveillance cameras, and many more.

Uses of structured and unstructured data

Structured data is often used as part of a relational database, well-organized, and easy to analyze. For instance, most IT teams use structured data. Businesses rely on structured data for CRM, POS, and ERP systems.

Unstructured data can be sourced from the internet. For instance, it may be collected from images, videos uploaded to YouTube or similar platforms, emails, social media, communications (calls or chat), mobile data, and more.

All of this information can provide a deep insight into the current markets, be used for predictions, improve business operations and efficiency, boost sales, and improve marketing campaigns.

Benefits of structured data

One of the main benefits of structured data is that this information can be used by AI technology, such as machine-learning algorithms. It is highly organized and specific, so it can be automatically collected and analyzed.

Another benefit is that structured data can easily be understood by business executives. There is no need to have advantaged knowledge or expertise to make decisions based on structured data.

Structured data used to be the only type of data we can access. As a result, there is a wide choice of software, tools, and other applications that you can use with your structured data.

Businesses may opt for different, affordable product choices when using this type of data. It is also transferable, so you can import and share your information across different platforms or devices.

Benefits of unstructured data

Unlike structured data, unstructured information is stored in its native format until you need to use it. For instance, social media comments can be turned into a spreadsheet focusing on customers’ perceptions of a certain brand.

Until needed, unstructured data remains in its native format, so analysts can only use the relevant information. This format flexibility also allows companies to have more stored data and, consequently, more information to fuel their business strategy.

Another benefit is known as the data accumulation rate. Since this data comes from virtually any source, you can easily collect it. Also, businesses that adopt unstructured data analysis benefit from the quick creation of data each day.
Previously, data storage used to be associated with high costs, so businesses were reluctant to store data that was not needed immediately. Fortunately, the recent digital revolution has created cheaper, more efficient data storage in the form of cloud services. This enables businesses to harness the power of unstructured data.

Finally, unstructured data is often stored in the so-called cloud data lakes. This data storage service allows for massive storage. Another benefit is the pay-as-you-use storage pricing, so businesses can manage their costs at the same time.


Both structured and unstructured data come with benefits and shortcomings. While structured data is easier to collect and analyze, unstructured data may allow companies to obtain a competitive edge while discovering new trends and patterns to remain ahead of their competitors.

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