Today's information comes in many types, shapes and sizes. It can be created, stored, shared, consumed and destroyed in myriad ways. Arguably the greatest benefit of the Internet revolution has been its ability to support the near-instantaneous dissemination of information, which often results in the creation of even more information. A recent example can be found in the phenomenon that is YouTube. By allowing users to quickly and easily create content (in YouTube's case, video) incorporating limitless contributions from others, the amount of sheer content being produced is exploding. Just how rapidly are these changes occurring? The most popular form of communication for many of today's workers - email - simply did not exist in a commercial sense 20 years ago.

Video and email have something else in common beside the rate at which they are being created: both are forms of unstructured or semistructured data. As opposed to structured data, which typically resides in a tightly controlled application, unstructured data is masses of (usually) computerized information that either does not have a data structure or has a data structure that is not easily readable by a machine. This latter factor has traditionally made unstructured data highly challenging to deal with in large quantities. Without the ability to automate the indexing, storage and handling of unstructured data, there is simply no effective way for computers to keep track of what is in each piece of unstructured data. For the average consumer, YouTube user or even rank-and-file employee, this does not present much of a problem because they can simply view a video or read an email and know what it is about. But today's businesses are experiencing significant heartache - and expending a great deal of money - in order to address the problem.

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