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5 Things Every IT Manager Should Know About Dark Data

Dark data is the new frontier for big data analytics.

It’s been a long time since IT departments were nothing more than a few computer programmers relegated to a back room. Now, information technology is front and center at many businesses, and computer science jobs include a lot more positions than computer programming.


One of the fastest-growing areas in information technology is data analysis. According to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report, the most in-demand IT professionals include data analysts and scientists.1 The increase in available data is fueling this demand, and one of the most promising sources of this data is what’s known as dark data.

Dark Data Is Unused Data
The “dark” in “dark data” means unseen/kept in the dark. It applies to any data that’s being stored but isn’t being used and hasn’t been fully analyzed. Some experts estimate that dark data may comprise 90% of all digital data.2 But the fact is, no one knows how much dark data is out there. Nor do they know how much of it could be valuable if properly analyzed.

Most Dark Data Is Unstructured
One of the primary reasons organizations don’t analyze their dark data is that most of it is unstructured. In other words, it exists in a format that isn’t geared for data analysis. A business’ word processing documents and emails are a good example of unstructured data. All those memos and conversations contain plenty of data, but that data isn’t formatted to be pulled apart and manipulated, making it difficult to analyze. Photographs, video, and audio also fall into the unstructured category, as does much of the data transmitted by devices in the Internet of Things.

Dark Data Exists on the Web
The unused data stored by organizations isn’t the only repository of dark data. Plenty of dark data resides on websites, too. While search engines index sites, they don’t analyze the information on those sites. Plus, not all sites appear on traditional web browsers. And yet, websites can possess a lot of useful data, such as reports from academics, governments, nonprofit organizations, and other groups. Additionally, websites—particularly social media sites and message boards—store all kinds of conversations and other interactions that are ripe for data analysis.

Dark Data Analysis Can Help Businesses Succeed
Dark data’s value is in its potential to provide businesses with new insights. For example, an analysis of a decade’s worth of email exchanges with customers might uncover patterns that a business could use to predict market shifts or address problems before customers even begin to complain. Likewise, an analysis of social media conversations could reveal unmet consumer needs, which a business could address before its competition does. The more data available, the more easily data analytics can create models that increase a business’ overall knowledge and improve its ability to make smart decisions.

We Need More Data Analysis Leaders
Analyzing dark data takes two key elements: The creation of methods capable of sorting through vast amounts of unstructured data, and data analysis experts who know how to ask the right questions. Currently, most businesses not only lack the technological means to analyze their dark data, but they also lack the people whose understanding of data can make analysis worthwhile. After all, sorting data does little good if you don’t first know what you’re trying to find. The need for both technical solutions and data experts is one reason data analysts and scientists are in such high demand.1

Level Up Your Data Analysis Skills
If you’re interested in big data analytics and expanding your information technology expertise, Walden University’s School of Lifelong Learning offers flexible non-degree course offerings to meet the needs of busy working professionals.

Data science and technology certificate opportunities include:

Among Walden’s lifelong learning offerings, you’ll also find credit-bearing courses that you may be able to apply toward an online business degree. Choose from courses like Core Web Technologies, Computer Networking and Operating Systems, and Principles of Programming.

The analysis of dark data could revolutionize how organizations operate. Update and expand your information technology skills so you can be part of that data revolution.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online degree programs as well as professional development and for-credit courses in its online School of Lifelong Learning. Expand your career options and advance your education using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,