Data and Information
It is a common misconception that “data” and “information” are terms that can be used interchangeably, and mean the same thing. However, there is a distinct difference between the two words. Data can be any quantity or property represented by numerals (0-9), characters (A-z, a-z), symbols (+,-,/,*,<,>,= etc.), picture, sound or video. Data can exist in a variety of forms – as numbers or text on pieces of paper, as bits and bytes stored in electronic memory, or as facts stored in a person's mind. If not put into context, data means little or nothing to a human being. On the other hand, information is data that has been processed, combined with other data, and/or reformatted in a manner that allows it to be understood by a human.
Here is an example of data and information, and how they differ:
Example of data:
Data reformatted to produce information:
Thus data can be defined as building blocks of information – a representation of facts, statistics, concepts or instructions in a formal manner, which is suitable for communication, interpretation, or processing by human beings or electronic machines. Information is data that has been put into context, to communicate some meaning. Data is read by computers but not necessarily understood. Through the use of formulas, programming scripts, or software applications, a computer can turn data into information that a human can understand. Good, timely, relevant information is the key to decision making. Good decision making is the key to organizational survival.
Since the mid-1990s, the term data is often used to distinguish binary machine-readable information from textual human-readable information. In computer based information systems, the term ‘data’ is used to mean figures and numbers that can be stored and transmitted. The data may be stored and transmitted in the form of electrical signals and recorded on magnetic, optical, or mechanical recording media. For example, consider the names, telephone numbers, and addresses of the people you know. Some applications make a distinction between data files (files that contain binary data) and text files (files that contain ASCII data).
With the progress of technology, an increasingly large amount of data is becoming available for storage, transmission, processing and interpretation. Over the years, numerous phrases have been used to describe data and how we use and analyze it. Massive volumes of data that is so large that it is difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques, is now called Big Data. Becoming familiar with new terminology will help you better understand the data and its role in information technology.
It is important to understand that in database management systems (DBMS), data files are the files that store the database information, whereas other files, such as index files and data dictionaries, store administrative information, known as metadata.
Data are the most stable part of an organization’s information system. A company needs to save information about employees, departments, and salaries. These pieces of information are called data. Permanent storage of data are referred to as persistent data. Generally, we perform operations on data or data items to supply some information about an entity. For example library keeps a list of members, books, due dates, and fines.
In recent years, the amount of computerized data and information available on the Web has spiraled out of control. Many different models and formats are used. In addition to the database models, much information is stored in the form of documents, which have considerably less structure than database information does.
Strictly speaking, data is the plural of datum, a single piece of information. In practice, however, people use data as both the singular and plural form of the word, and as a mass noun (like “sand”).
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