Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the fields of business and technology, with a passion for using technology for the good of humanity. He is a best-selling author of 20 books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has over 2 million social media followers, 1 million newsletter subscribers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.
How Much Data Is There In the World?
2 July 2021
If you’re roughly the same age as me, you might remember buying a laptop in the 2000s that came with around 40GB of data. ‘Wow, that’s a LOT of storage!’ we all thought at the time.
Now, even the most basic smartphone comes with around 30GB of datastorage, while a top-of-the-range iPhonehas more than 500GB.
But the days of being impressed by gigabytes are long gone. As the amount of data in the world has increasedexponentially, we’ve had to come up with new, unfamiliarwords to describe data in numerical form.So long, gigabytes.These days, we’re talking terabytes, petabytes, exabytesand zettabytes.
You lost me at petabyte…
Aterabyte is just over 1,000 gigabytes, and is a label most of us are familiar withfrom our homecomputers.
Scaling up from there, apetabyte isjust over 1,000 terabytes. That may be far beyond the kind ofdatastorage the average person needs, but industryhas beendealing with data in these sorts of quantitiesfor quite some time. In fact, way back in 2008, Google was said to process around 20 petabytes of data a day (Google doesn’t release information on how much data itprocessestoday). To put that in context, if you took allofthe information from all US academic research libraries and lumped it all together, it would add up to 2 petabytes.
Scaling up again, you have exabytes (roughly 1,000 petabytes) and zettabytes(a little over 1,000 exabytes). At this stage, it becomes hard to comprehend what any of this means in real terms. Try this: according toaCiscoestimate, the world’s collective internet usage reached one zettabyte in 2016.That’s a lot of cat videosbeing viewed!
So, as the world’s data has grown, we’re now talking about data in terms of zettabytes.
How many zettabytes have been created so far?
Accordingtomarket intelligence companyIDC, the‘GlobalDatasphere’in 2018 reached 18 zettabytes. This is the total of all data created, captured or replicated.(Not all of this data is being stored and kept, though.)
The vast majority ofthe world’sdata has been created in the last few years andthisastonishing growth of data shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, IDC predicts theworld’s data will grow to175 zettabytesin 2025.
Let’s dwell on that for a second: 175 zettabytes. What does that even mean? According to IDC’s‘Data Age 2025’paper:
If you were to store 175 zettabytes on DVDs, your stack of DVDswould be long enough to circle Earth 222 times.
If you attempted to download 175 zettabytes at the averagecurrentinternet connection speed, it would take you 1.8 billion years to download. Even if youenlisted every person in the world to help with the download,it would still take 81 days.
Where is all this data coming from?
It’s mind-boggling to thinkthathumansare creatingsomuch data. Or is it? Think of how much data you’re generating in an average day. Every interaction with your computer or phone creates data. Every interaction on social media creates data. Every time you walk down the street with a phone in your pocket, it’s tracking your location through GPS sensors – more data. Every time you buy something with your contactless debit card? Data. Every time you read an article online? Data. Every time you stream a song, movie or podcast? Data, data, data.
As an example, let’s look at social media usage in 2018. In just one minute:
Twitter users sent473,400 tweets
Snapchat users shared2 million photos
Instagram users posted49,380 pictures
LinkedIn gained120 new users
In short,allof the world’sdata is the result of our increasingly digitised way of life.The connectivity of modern smart devices– not just smart phones, but smart TVs, smart thermostats and so on –also plays a huge role. These devices are constantly gathering and transmitting data.
Other mind-blowing data stats include:
Google processes more than 40,000 searches every second, or 3.5 billion searches a day.
1.5 billion people are activeonFacebook every day.That’s one-fifth of the world’s population.
Two-thirds of the world’s population now own a mobile phone.
When you look at stats like these, it’s not hard to see how the world’s data has exploded in recent years and will continue to grow at an incredible rate. Whether we’ll hit that vast number of 175 zettabytes in 2025 remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: we’ll be generating a heck of a lot more data than we already are.
Where to go from here
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