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What is metadata and why is it so important?

If you Google the definition of metadata, the first item you will see is this:

metadata/noun: a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.

Basically, metadata is data about data. It can summarise basic information about data to facilitate easy finding and working with that data, and it can be created manually or automatically to contain additional basic information.

The first few sentences of this blog post have probably already given you an idea as to the importance of metadata. The very act of Googling the word ‘metadata’ began with a need to find something, to discover information. Think about your last Google search. That search started with ideas or information in your head – the metadata! – that will have been sparked by an endless number of triggers from a simple phrase or a word, to a film title or a holiday destination.

So, we know that metadata sums up basic information about data such as the date a document was created, who created it, when it was modified and the size of the file. You will know from direct experience that if you’re trying to locate a specific file or document, having these key pieces of information available will have helped you to find it quickly.

To further understand the significance of metadata, you need to consider what data is included within specific metadata. We have already established that search engines use metadata to deliver relevant pieces of information; social media platforms, such as Facebook, do likewise. We have already acknowledged too that there are endless triggers for metadata so rather than a word or a film title, how about a person’s name or email address?

Yes, we’ve all searched for a particular person on our chosen search engine and almost certainly uncovered details about them from a wide variety of sources. That’s the real relevance of metadata and leads us to an even more important question in our opinion: where is all this data stored? We’ll provide some answers to that in the second part of this post: “Where’s my data? Be data storage aware” – watch our blog for more details!

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