What is Data?


Data is a collection of processed information. The singular form of data, datum, is Latin for "given", a term interchangeable with "fact". Therefore, data is a collection of facts. While the term "raw data" may refer to unprocessed facts that may be redundant or difficult to understand, information termed simply "data" is usually processed and ready to be applied in research, to have conclusions drawn from it, and to base decisions upon it. Although technically a plural, the term data is often phrased as a singular mass noun in modern English.

In computer terminology, data often refers to user and configuration files. All digital photographs, email messages, music and video files, webbrowser bookmarks, and other files are considered user data. Computer data is stored in storage devices such as hard disks, USB jump drives, and CD-ROM disks. Data security measures must be taken when certain types of sensitive information are stored on the computer, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, credit reports, tax information. These items are often primary targets in identity theft, and sophisticated data mining techniques can help attackers extract this information. Additionally, data backup strategies are often implemented to prevent accidental or intentional data loss.

Data is often regarded as having high financial or sentimental value. Thus, an incident in which data is destroyed can be viewed as a catastrophe under certain circumstances. Methods by which data can be destroyed include accidental or malicious deletion of critical files, hardware component failure, software bugs, natural disasters, and more. In these cases, data recovery services are employed with the hope that the data which has been destroyed may be recoverable. In the case of malicious intent by a knowledgeable attacker, data recovery may be impossible. However, in the common case of hardware failure data recovery techniques are often successful. Different methods of recovery are employed in each situation, and the cost of data recovery can vary widely.

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