What is the Difference Between Data, Information, and Records?

The terms ‘data’, ‘information’ and ‘records’ can all be thrown around interchangeably, but they all mean different things. All phrases are important when it comes to record management, so the need for understanding is vital. This guide from DeltaNet explains what each term means.

These three terms can often be thrown around willy-nilly, but there is a difference between them. All three are relevant in the process of record management, so making sure you know what everything means really is vital.

The importance of records management cannot be stressed enough, with the benefits being that the general efficiency of the business is increased through an organised and easy system to work with. Additionally, the accountability of the company is better off, reducing the chances of problems occurring in the future, as well as allowing you to avoid penalty fines from the HM Revenue and Customs.

So as you can see, good record management results in a well-run business, as well as no added financial strain through fines and legislation issues. This is why understanding the keywords involved in the process is something you shouldn’t ignore.

What is “Data”?

Data is just facts and figures. This can be a set of value of a qualitative or quantitative variable, in other words – data that can either be measured in numbers or not. For example, the population of a town over the last 250 years would be quantitative data, whilst the colour of the sky is qualitative data.

While the concept of data can commonly be linked with scientific research, it’s actually collected by a huge range of organisations and institutions. Businesses collect data on sales, revenue, profits, and stock prices, whilst the government use data on crime figures, and employment/literacy rates.

Data is measured, collected, reported, and analysed, from there it can be used for graphs, images or other analysis tools.

What is “Information”?

Information is something that provides the answer to a question of some kind or resolves uncertainty. It is linked closely to data and knowledge, which is why the terms can often be confused.

Information can be encoded into various forms for transmission and interpretation, it can also be encrypted for safe storage and communication.

It also reduces uncertainty. This sounds very cryptic, but the uncertainty of an event is measured by its probability of occurrence and is inversely proportional to that. The more uncertain that an event is, the more information is required to resolve the uncertainty of that event.

For example, if you record the population of a town over 10 years, those figures are data, but if you find from these figures that the population has been increasing/decreasing, then this revelation is information.

What is a “Record”?

A record is anything that supports the business such as business decisions, policy documents and approval documents. This includes emails, paper documents or electronic files that provide evidence of business activity.

Data and information can then be held as a record both physically in a book, or electronically in a computer file. Most of the information you use in day-to-day working life will be classed as a record as a result.


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