The term unstructured data refers to the information that does not follow a specified format and does not reside in a traditional row-column database. These types of data constitute the majority of data for any organization. Examples include e-mail messages, presentations, web pages and multimedia content among other business related content.
The sheer amount of data generated through e-mails, business documents, presentations, etc can pose acute storage problems. Unmanaged data can also cause some serious trouble for an organization if the firm cannot locate them at times of compliance audit or a lawsuit among other such things.
The information is not easy to locate and the desired data can only be found after a time taking and often unreliable search application or a scanning process.
In customer-facing businesses, the information contained in unmanaged data can be analyzed to improve customer relationship management and relationship marketing. A whole industry has grown up around managing content, and many content management vendors are scaling out their solutions to handle large volumes of data that doesn't reside in a traditional row-column database.
However, it is a growing process and many technologies have come up that support unstructured data and the analysis of unstructured data.