Data vs. Information with Practical Examples 14 Jan 2015

Data vs. Information with Practical Examples

With information systems playing a bigger role in most businesses, it is worthwhile to take a step back and consider the differences between information and data.

Data and Information Are Different

While they are related, information and data do not mean the same thing. We will explore these differences below with a few examples.

Data vs Information

Data usually represents unprocessed numbers, pictures or statements; information is typically the result of analyzing or processing the data. For example, “data” can be illustrated by the number of likes your company has on Facebook while “information” is represented by a demographic analysis of the data — which age groups like you and where are they?

Here are four additional examples of how data differs from information:

  1. While data does not depend on information, information does depend on data.
  2. Data is “input” and information is “output”.
  3. Data is raw material and information is the product.
  4. Data is a single unit and information is a grouping of data.

Understanding the Structures of Data and Information

Comparing structured data vs unstructured data is a practical way of illustrating the different forms of data. Structured data is ideally represented by a fixed field in a file or record — for example, unit price, date and commission percentage within databases, enterprise systems and data warehouses. Unstructured data doesn’t fit in the “neat little box” or data field — common examples include email messages, word processing files, images and audio or video files. One clear benefit of structured data is that it is more easily searchable — the ability to find data with a simple search operation is always relevant and important.

Transforming Data into Information

Before you can convert data into information, you must collect, organize, store, analyze and manage the raw data. In some cases, data will be collected in paper form (job application forms and questionnaires) or physically (discussion groups and job interviews). However, collecting data electronically via computer can reduce subsequent processing.

Businesses of all sizes should think carefully about how to store data — for example, electronically, paper-based files or video tapes. The ability to retrieve data later and transform it into information will be either helped or hindered by how the data is stored and protected. Data and information management experts such as Research Optimus should be consulted at an early stage of your efforts to improve how you transform data into information.

Data and Information: What Businesses Need Today

Many business owners are rightfully intimidated by the sheer volume of data — sales, suppliers, customers, shipment tracking, social media, emails and web traffic. By one estimate, the quantity of business data doubles every 15 months. In the era of big data, most companies need serious help with data analytics and insights rather than simply generating more data and information.

Do you know how your company will successfully harness the data and information needed to survive and thrive against your competition? Are your competitors ahead of you or behind you in how they handle data and information? Before it is too late, you should roll up your sleeves and “look under the hood” of your own big data engine.

This is also an opportune time to add an experienced and cost-effective data management partner. Your information management services should not be entrusted to amateurs or new employees lacking adequate specialized training. To keep your costs low and get the job done right the first time, you should plan on working only with a true expert in the field — Research Optimus. Do share your feedback by commenting below and share this article on social media.

– Research Optimus

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