Examining the Big Data Explosion

Analysts have been opining about data growth for years. They now talk mainly in terms of exabytes (EB) of data; an exabyte is a million terabytes (TB). Think about that for a moment. Unless you are a gamer, or store endless videos of the grandkids, filling up a TB drive can be hard work. Now try to envision filling up a million of them.

Yet according to International Data Corp‘s (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Enterprise Storage Systems Tracker, enterprise external OEM storage vendors shipped 20 EB of storage in the first quarter of 2021. That’s up 16.3% year over year and amounted to $6.7 billion. IDC estimates that storage of all kinds now runs at around 120 EB for the year.

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The Pandemic’s Contribution to Data Growth

Let’s break these numbers down further. A Domo report found that at the end of 2020, an estimated 1.7 MB of data was created every second for every person on earth. The amount of content was heading steadily northward even before the pandemic. COVID-19 accelerated the trend.

The amount of content and information being created and shared has been steadily rising long before the pandemic.

“The amount of content and information being created and shared has been steadily rising long before the pandemic,” said Bill Kleyman, Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions at Switch. “This indicates that these data growth trends are here to stay and are likely going to proliferate.”

Remote Work Generates Massive Amounts of Data

Think about the fact that the number of home-based workers has surged from around 15% 18 months ago to more than 50% today (at times during the pandemic it was close to 100%). Collaboration platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams boomed. And with that came a lot more bits and bytes.

Teams has more than 50,000 users connecting every minute. Zoom, too, boasts high numbers. At its peak, the company boasted more than 200,000 people meeting per minute. For every minute on any platform, it takes a lot of storage capacity just to establish connectivity.

Add in streaming video, chat, displaying presentations during meetings, voice, and the fact that many meetings are automatically recorded. Just talking to colleagues generates mountains of data compared to the days when everyone gathered in the conference room, picked up the phone, or walked over to another cubicle.

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Data Growth Around the World

Domo also looked at the global population. Around 60% have internet access, which is close to 5 billion active users. Most of them are active on mobile and use social media. On all counts, that’s a lot of data per person on our small planet.

Around 60% of the global population have internet access, close to 5 billion active users.

Every passing moment, more people gain access to the internet and mobile networks. And IT, telecom, and entertainment firms find more ways to use up more bandwidth and more storage with bigger and better services: 5G, 24/7 entertainment and news, higher definition digital content, and more.

There seems no possibility, therefore, that data growth will plateau any time soon. In fact, it looks like we will see it leap by another order of magnitude every few years. With global populations demanding all the trappings of the digital age, there seems to be no stopping the data explosion.

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Drew Robb
Drew Robb has been writing about IT and engineering for more than 25 years. Originally from Scotland, he now lives in Florida.

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