Not that long ago, a Petabyte (PB, 1,024 terabytes) seemed like the most massive amount of storage a person could conceive.  Honestly, located in just one physical location, it still is pretty much the largest amount of storage around, but have you heard about the zettabyte yet?

A zettabyte (ZB) is the equivalent of … are you sitting down? … 1 billion terrabytes.  Yes, “billion”, with a “b”.   It is truly a mind boggling amount of data, and it is difficult to imagine there is even that much data in the entire world to be honest, but there is, and that is how much data all of will have stored on the Internet some time this year.  Actually, it is estimated by the end of 2010, the total sum of all data on the Internet will hit 1.2 ZBs.

pile of hard drivesAccording to The Guardian, the term had to be created due to the fact that the total amount of digital content in the world grew by 62 percent last year to a total of 800,000 Petabytes, or 0.8 ZBs.  As one description I read described it, it is enough information to fill 75 billion iPads … not that there are even that many iPads in the world (yet), but it’s still an interesting visual to ponder.

To put this all into perspective, experts have said that if you put the sum total of human knowledge that existed before computers  – meaning words, history, language and so on – existed into a digital format, it would equal 5,000 PBs, or one percent of all data stored digitally since computers came into existence.

Now, mind you, all of this data includes things such as the receipt generated every time you use an ATM, transactions at businesses and so on, but it also includes that picture you posted to Facebook of your passed out roommate you drew a handlebar mustache on.  Just about everything we do these days leaves some little piece of digital data behind us, and all of that gets added to this ever growing heap.

As more and more data is collected, and old data is converted into new formats like analog video being transferred to high definition, it is just going to be building up faster and faster.  Adrian McDonald, vice president and general manager for UK & Ireland EMC, told The Guardian, “You talk to a kid these days and they have no idea what a kilobyte is. The speed things progress, we are going to need many words beyond zettabyte.”  I’m going to suggest the supercalifragilisticexpialidociousbyte.