An article called Can structured and unstructured data marry? by Eddie Sheehy, Global CEO of Nuix, makes an interesting point about the differences between structured and unstructured data at a level which goes beyond obvious physical differences.
Structured data – the stuff in rows and columns in databases – is used largely to show what happened. It can be manipulated, indexed and analysed to record past events and, perhaps, to use that data to predict what might happen in the future.
Unstructured data, which may include Word and other text files of all kinds, can be used to identify the reasons why something happened and the thinking and opinions of those who created it or who were involved at the time. Eddie Sheehy gives a specific example of doctors’ notes supporting the are are raw data about treatment.
Another area where this conjunction of structured and unstructured data occurs, Eddie Sheehy says, is in information security, where relevant material takes many forms, not all of which are predictable
The possibilities – embracing both risks and opportunities – are endless and take us well beyond the (complex enough) task of identifying historic data for eDiscovery purposes. It is also, frankly, much more interesting.