Unstructured data management — while historically the more unconventional form of data - provides invaluable insight for organizations and businesses alike. Today, it makes up 80 to 90 percent of all the data in the world with that number predicted to rise. According to research conducted by Datamation in 2018, unstructured data has been said to be growing at a rate of 55 to 65 percent per annum. While data growth is positive, it requires befitting storage. We discuss the challenges brought on by unstructured data as well as the numerous benefits and insight it provides. 

What Is Unstructured Data?

The Institute of Statistics Information defines unstructured data as data that is heterogeneous in format and requires considerable pre-processing before it can be used in a model. Examples are tweets, social network profiles and postings, and tech support cases or maintenance requests. 

Where structured data can be classified into predefined fields for analysis, unstructured data is more complex and less rigid in its format. This makes unstructured data more difficult to manage without modern tools such as advanced and versatile analytics software, deep learning technology, and data visualization tools. 

What Forms Does Unstructured Data Come in?

With over 80% of data formats being unstructured, an equally considerable number of the data we know of is unstructured. The forms range from media, visual, audio, sensor data, IoT (internet of things), text data, and much more. The subcategories of these formats include emails, voice recordings, videos, images, messages, and social media texts. 

It does not end there. Along with structured and unstructured data, is semi-structured data. Semi-structured data can be defined as data that can’t be organized in relational databases or does not have a strict structural framework, yet does have some structural properties or a loose organizational framework. Semi-structured data includes text that is organized by subject or topic or fits into a hierarchical programming language, yet the text within is open-ended, having no structure itself as per the definition by MonkeyLearn.  

Some examples of this are emails, which are unstructured but have information such as sender, recipient, date, and subject — all of which are structured data. Or a video which is unstructured data, taken using a Nikon camera, with details such as the location at which it was taken, the device that was used and the time — these stamps are structured data. 

While these are only some of the kinds of unstructured data, some of the familiar challenges faced by organizations navigating the management and storage include scalability, volume, and centralization. Data storage options such as NAS, object-based, and SAN storage provide solutions. 

What Storage Options Exist for Unstructured Data?

TechTarget states that the type of storage required by unstructured data will be dependent on two things: the capacity of the data, as well as the I/O requirements of the organization. The capacity could vary depending on the volume; data can come in all sizes from minor MBs to extreme GBs. Input/Output requirements can differ not only from one organization to another but also vastly within the same organization from low to high. 

Object-based storage, which is the data storage architecture used to manage copious amounts of unstructured data, is the native format of the cloud. And, as the benefits of cloud storage include scalability, agility, unstructured data can be managed and stored on clouds which provides a cost-effective solution. 

IBM explains how object storage removes the complexity and scalability challenges of a hierarchical file system with folders and directories. Objects can be stored locally, but most often reside on cloud servers, with accessibility from anywhere in the world. 

Another particularly popular benefit is that the program interfaces of object storage also make it ideal for DevOps. 

NAS (Network Attached Storage) enables centralized access to, management, and backup of files which makes it ideal for collaboration. Furthermore, NAS supports virtualization which accommodates high-performance deployments and high capacity with differing levels of performance. In addition to that, NAS is POSIX-compliant enabling the run of UNIX programs and assisting with compatibility and portability between different operating systems. 

SAN (Storage Area Network) provides access to block-level data storage over Ethernet with a high speed and low latency ideal for media and multiple application servers. The advantage of SAN’S latency is one in which NAS’s lag becomes noticeable for demanding environments such as large files. 

The above are only some of the benefits of each storage system. With the growing use of and developments in systems such as machine learning, image analysis, and 3D rendering, organizations that have not already will have to reassess the alignment of their data with management methods that meet their needs. NAS, object-based, and SAN are just the tip of the iceberg. 


A vast amount of the data that exists today is unstructured, and this amount continues to grow contributing to it being the largest type of data present. This is not a dreadful thing as unstructured data provides information that can be invaluable, particularly to organizations and businesses and their performance. However, its value lies in being able to adequately manage and utilize it. Due to its large volume, lack of structure, variety in format and overall complexity, the processing, and storage of unstructured data pose a challenge. The proper management of this lies in understanding its vastness and finding solutions such as cloud services tailored to unstructured data


Which storage system is right for my organization?

This differs for each organization. Each has its advantages and limitations with factors such as abstraction and application being taken into account.

Which vendors provide the storage options covered above?

Sangfor provides advanced HCI cloud services alongside AWS and Azure, to name a few. Dell, IBM, and NetApp provide on-prem scale-out NAS services, and Dell, Hewlett, and Hitachi.

Why Sangfor

Sangfor EDS is distributed storage which adopts fully symmetric distributed architecture. It can provide block, file, and object storage services, use high-performance block storage pools to carry structured data and capacity general-purpose storage pools to carry massive unstructured data. Sangfor EDS can expand up to EB-level storage space. At the same time, it supports iSCSI, NFS, CSI, HDFS, S3 and other storage protocols to connect with different types of business systems. With Sangfor HCI and EDS, customers can build a stable, secure, and agile infrastructure to carry all data and business systems with high performance. Contact Us to know more about Sangfor products and solutions for your cloud requirements.

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