What is the Difference Between Data and Information?

The terms “data” and “information” are often used interchangeably, especially in industries where they are both so vital. However, while they are interrelated, it’s important that industry professionals understand how these two concepts differ.

What is data?

Originating in the 1600s, data comes from the singular Latin word, “datum,” meaning “something given.” Over time, “data” became the plural form of datum, meaning multiple units of factual information used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation.

Data is considered a low level of knowledge because it is simply raw facts and figures that need to be processed. These are units of information that can seem random and useless until they are organized. It’s when data is processed, interpreted, structured, or presented that they are made meaningful and become usable information. 

What is information?

Information is considered the next level of knowledge up from data. Data are the facts or details from which information is derived. But individual pieces of data are rarely useful alone. For data to become useful information, it must be organized, structured, or presented. 

Simply put, information provides meaningful context for data.

The difference between data and information

Data and information area interrelated, but distinctly different. Information cannot exist without the data it comprises, and data would remain meaningless if not provided the context needed to become information.

For example, take website traffic. Gathering the number of visitors to a website would be a collection of data. However, those figures alone out of context are useless. But categorizing them by country of origin, search terms, or amount of time spent on the webpage would be insightful information a company could use to drive more website traffic. That context gives the collected data purpose.

The benefit of understanding the difference between data and information — as well as how they affect each other — applies to the industrial sector because the systems used across all departments and applications can collect tons of data; but it’s virtually useless without the context that converts that data into information. We’ve seen this disconnect happen when customers spend a great deal of time and resources accumulating data, but then hit a wall when trying to convert it to information. When pursuing efficient, scalable, and reliable solutions, it’s crucial to not lose momentum and successfully leverage data into actionable information, insights and knowledge to improve your bottom line.

Watch the video below to further understand the difference between data and information, and how these two concepts lead to knowledge. Have more questions? Reach out to one of our team members today to learn how our innovative solutions can help your team take full advantage of collected data and information.

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