Digital universe outstrips storage capability

An EMC-sponsored study suggests the amount of created data exceeded available storage for the first time in 2007, with almost half of data set to have no permanent home by 2011
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

By 2011, the amount of digital information in existence will exceed the total storage space available by almost 50 percent, according to analyst IDC.

The report, released on Tuesday and sponsored by storage specialist EMC, suggests the amount of information created, captured or replicated exceeded all available storage for the first time last year. 

According to the report, entitled The Diverse and Exploding Digital Universe, the "digital universe" comprised 281 exabytes ( 281 billion gigabytes) in 2007 — 10 percent larger than previous estimations.

According to the report, in 2007 there was almost 45GB of data for every person on the planet. However, based on the idea that there will be an annual growth rate of almost 60 percent in the amount of digital information, IDC claims there will be 1.8 zettabytes (1,800 billion billion gigabytes) of data in 2011.

The report suggests less than half of the created data that pertains to individuals comes from the individuals themselves — the majority is surveillance photos, search histories, logs of financial transactions and other elements of what the analysts call the "digital shadow". EMC claims the organisations generating digital informaiton have to take responsibility for making sure it is managed and stored in the correct way.

"Society is already feeling the early effects of the world's digital information explosion," said EMC chief executive Joe Tucci on Tuesday. "As people's digital footprints continue growing, so too will the responsibility of organisations for the privacy, protection, availability and reliability of that information. The burden is on IT departments within organisations to address the risks and compliance rules around information misuse, data leakage and safeguarding against security breaches."

As for the data created by enterprise, the analysts wrote that there was little correlation between IT spending and data produced. The finance industry accounts for six percent of the digital universe but almost 20 percent of IT spending worldwide, while the media and communications industries "will account for 10 times their share of the digital universe in 2011".

The study suggests that the biggest growth in data is visual in nature, from devices such as digital cameras, digital surveillance cameras, and digital televisions. Other fast-growing elements include social networks, data centres supporting cloud computing, sensor-base applications and the growth of the internet in developing countries.

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