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How Much Data is a Lot of Data?

It’s always interesting to see the guestimations of the big brains about figures and facts that are hard to verify.  Here’s an example – how much data is computerized today?  I’m not talking about ancient stuff, like the Codex Synaticus (which, incidentally IS on-line at www.codexsynaticus.org).  I’m talking about the new and really important stuff, like the fourteen pictures that my step-daughter posted on her FaceBook account from our recent trip to Rock City
Well, IDC figured that overall digital data was up to 1.2Zb (Zetabytes!)  at the end of 2010.  My mind is boggling.  Ok, so that’s only 1.2 trillion gigabytes!  Doctor Evil, please put your pinky to your mouth and say this huge number
   

1,319,413,953,436 Gb
 
Another way to say it is that it’s about 1,228 Exabytes.
 
You can get other numbers by extrapolating from storage purchases from the major storage vendors.  Of course, not all of their storage sold is actually filled up right away.  But it’s still an interesting number to hear.  So just on scuttlebutt from a friend of a friend of a friend I heard numbers like this:
 
Online data back in 2002? around 5 Exabytes
Online data expected in 2011: around 700 Exabytes
 
And, again we’re surmising these values based on published storage sales from various vendors, this data growth is hurtling along at ridiculous speed, with data doubling every fifteen months or so.    Who knows where this will take us, but if we assume a constant rate of data growth (which is a bad bet, IMO), we’ll have 996,000 Exabytes of data online by 2020.  Hey, but that’s 8 years after the Mayan calendar, and the world along with it, is supposed to end, right?

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