From Bits and Bytes to Yottabytes

My iPhone warned me the other day it was running out of storage space; recently I had to add memory to my iMac. It got me thinking about the sheer amount of information we have on our electronic devices and the massive amount that must be stored around the world.

Before you read on, take a look at the chart opposite – it’ll clue you into how fast we are having to create new names for storage capacity.

We are all saving enormous amounts of information on our computers and uploading and downloading to the Internet at a ferocious rate. All this memory has to exist somewhere. The Internet itself has no storage limit; technically it doesn’t store anything. Online access and thirst for social networking, and sharing of information is driving this hunger for storage capacity.

According to IBM, more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

To put this quantity into perspective, add 18 zeroes to the number 25. Or, better yet, imagine a carpet of pennies that can cover the surface of the earth not just once, but more than five times.

Since 1980, the world’s technological per-capita capacity to store information has doubled every 40 months. This growth has led to immense advancements in countless fields including medicine, government, science, research, as well as organizations in the private sector.  It has also, however, created its own set of limitations. The abundance of data has compounded so quickly, that common data analysis software is no longer powerful enough to manage its immensity, thus it has earned the name Big Data.

If that’s a little in the clouds for you, consider: over 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. This rate is not slowing down; according to the people at YouTube, over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth, and it’s growing at a rate of around 50% per year. They go on to report that millions of subscriptions happen each day, and the number of people subscribing has more than doubled since last year.

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