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May 12 2010   12:03PM GMT

How much digital data is there in the world? Soon to pass the zettabyte mark.

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

For TechDay, Gavin Ogden reports on a recent EMC report on the ongoing explosion of digital data:

In 2010 the number of files, images, records and other digital information containers will grow by a factor of 67, a study has said.

The latest EMC-sponsored Digital Universe study has said that the amount of digital information created last year grew 62% over 2008 to 800 billion gigabytes (0.8 Zettabytes).

A zettabyte is the equivalent of:

  • A million petabytes — each of which equals a million gigabytes
  • A billion terabytes
  • A thousand exabytes
  • The total storage capacity of 75 billion 16 GB iPads
  • All the information in all the academic libraries in the US — times half a million
  • The output of every inhabitant of the planet tweeting, non-stop, for a century.

The vast majority of that is unstructured data. Unstructured data (data that isn’t organized into some kind of structure, such as a database) was once like the tree falling in the forest with no one to hear – the information was there but nobody was getting it. But now people are developing apps that can pull information out of all that data.

So the next question is “What comes after a zettabyte?” Turns out it’s a yottabyte. Even though I’m pretty sure they thought they were done when they got to zettabytes, because they’re named for the last letter of the alphabet. Anyway, they back-tracked to “Y” and then skipped back to “B” for “brontobyte.” I’m guessing named for the brontosaurus, which was one of the bigger dinosaurs.

See our Kilo, mega, giga, tera, peta, and all that definition.

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