The Rise of On-Demand, Unstructured Data and What it Means for Enterprises

In case there was any doubt, today’s consumers are gobbling up digital content like it’s going out of style. The challenge is, it’s not.

Research from Cisco states video content will make up over 80% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021 — a 73% increase from 2016, at a breakneck 31% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). Compare this to the -6% CAGR Cisco projects for traditional file exchange traffic over the same five-year period, and it’s easy to see that video, web and email content will only become more stylish in the future.

Mobile devices are also very much in style, with Cisco projecting global mobile data traffic to have increased sevenfold by the year 2021. So, not only are end users consuming more sophisticated, digital media, they’re consuming it anywhere, anytime, from their choice of device.

This massive rise in public consumption of digital content may not be surprising to most, but the question is, how does it impact enterprises?

The Enterprise Demands of Unstructured Data and BYOD

Enterprises are seeing a similar bloat in the amount of digital content being produced and stored within their networks. In fact, Forrester’s 2017 study, “Today’s Enterprise Content Demands a Modern Approach,” has found that approximately seven out of 10 organizations have seen their unstructured data volumes rise over the past two years — some as much as 25%. Unstructured data defines any information that lives outside of a formal database, like video or audio content. The challenge of managing this unstructured data is that storing and sharing these larger, more sophisticated files can eat up bandwidth in a hurry.

Enterprise users also want this unstructured data anytime, anywhere and from any device. Microsoft has found 67% of people already use personal devices in the workplace. On top of that, a joint study by The Platt Group and INSIDE Public Accounting shows that formal bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy adoption is sky rocketing amongst companies with over $5 million in revenue. Bottom line: companies are making it a priority to enable employees with anytime, anywhere access to content. However, greater user mobility also urges companies to implement networks that are much more flexible and scalable. Many companies associate this enhanced mobility with increased vulnerability.

Network Evaluation Has to Come First

Higher volumes of unstructured data push enterprises to marry user mobility requirements with the capabilities of their network and infrastructure. This is why any discussion among business leaders about how to leverage and capitalize on digital content needs to be had with the big picture in mind — which is the company’s overall IT architecture. Without a fast, reliable, secure network, companies will struggle to meet their digital content requirements.

To help business leaders jumpstart this process, here are three steps to optimizing a network for the rise of unstructured data:

1. Perform an Application Audit

Before making any overhaul changes to how content is stored, managed and shared, it’s essential companies are aware of all the applications being used within the network. Not only can auditing existing applications help identify redundant or unnecessary applications, but it can also help IT teams spot rogue apps that may pose potential security threats.

2. Establish Security and Compliance Requirements

Knowing which applications are needed to meet users’ content demands gives companies a great baseline for their IT architecture. So does understanding core security and compliance requirements. This information arms IT teams to make smarter decisions when it comes to evaluating solutions and service providers.

3. Identify Connectivity Needs

Which applications and data are mission critical? Where are my users based? How do they need to access these mission-critical systems? Asking these three questions can help enterprises identify how much bandwidth and what type of connectivity their network requires. For instance, perhaps private, point-to-point architecture is sufficient because a business only requires a small number of connections for their mission-critical applications. On the flip side, an enterprise with a variety of geographically dispersed locations wants to connect to a public cloud environment but keep mission-critical systems private. In this case, perhaps a more flexible solution like SD-WAN may be a viable connectivity option.

The rise of on-demand, unstructured data isn’t slowing down. With this in mind, it’s important that enterprises evaluate the capabilities and limitations of their network proactively, and taking these three steps is a great way to start.

To learn other network and IT architecture touchpoints worth considering, check out our article, “Common Signs of a Sub-Par IT Architecture.”