Data collection is a systematic approach to gathering information from a variety of sources to get a complete and accurate picture of an area of interest.
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In retail sales, for example, data might be collected from mobile apps, website visits, loyalty card programs and online surveys in order to to learn more about customers and consumers in general. In a server consolidation project, data collection would include not just a physical inventory of all servers but also an exact description of what is installed on each server -- the operating system, middleware, and the application or database that the server supports.