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How Much Data Is Stored on Earth?

November 14, 2023

Occasionally, we like to address unusual questions on this blog. In other articles, we explained how high altitudes could cause hard drive failures and the chances of recovering data from a 10-year-old hard drive recovered from a landfill.

Today, we’re tackling a simpler set of questions — or so we thought. How much data is stored on the planet Earth, and how will that number grow over the next few years? 

The global datasphere is big, but exact measurements are difficult to find.

The only recent estimates we can find come from Statista, a statistics website that, frustratingly, doesn’t list its sources unless you have an account (and due to issues with their website, we weren’t able to create an account to verify the data). 

Statista claims that their figures are “taken from various publications released over several years,” which isn’t especially scientific. We wonder whether an overly generous or conservative estimate may have thrown off the final tally. 

With some digging, however, we think we found the source: A 2018 whitepaper published by the International Data Corporation (IDC) that measured the global datasphere— that’s the fancy term for the total volume of data created, captured, copied, and consumed worldwide — at 33 zettabytes. 

The authors also predicted that the datasphere would grow to 175 zettabytes by 2025. By extrapolating from those estimates, Statista estimates that the global datasphere at about 120 zettabytes as of 2023.

The IDC’s report relies on surveys and ongoing research.

The IDC’s data includes input from 2,400 “enterprise decision makers” and senior IT executives at a variety of industries. The report, which is well worth a read for storage nerds (present company included), focuses on the worldwide dependence of data and the technologies that will be needed to accommodate future growth. 

Of course, it’s also not perfectly scientific — but it’s probably as close as we’re getting to an answer. To perfectly gauge the size of the global datasphere, we would need input from every major enterprise, which isn’t practically achievable.

How much is a zettabyte, anyway? 

So, the total amount of data on the planet earth is somewhere around 33 zettabytes — give or take a few zettabytes. How much is that, and where is it all living?

A zettabyte is one sextillion bytes; written out, that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. 

A zettabyte is equivalent to a trillion gigabytes, so a single zettabyte could hold around 250 billion hours of high-quality video. For comparison, YouTube “only” has a total of about 156 million hours of content (though the number is growing).

That’s a ton of data, and most of it lives on hard drives and tape-based storage media. Data centers and cloud providers care about performance, but cost per gigabyte (or in this case, zettabyte) is a far more important metric. Learn why hard drives aren’t becoming obsolete anytime soon.

Data storage needs continue to grow at a global scale.

While most people can get by with a few terabytes of personal storage, they probably use much, much more data on an annual basis. Everything we do online requires some amount of data storage — and our economic reliance on data will only increase over the next decade. 

Of course, no data storage device is perfect. If you’ve lost data from a hard drive, SSD, tape cartridge, or any other device, we’re here to help. 

With risk-free evaluations and our no data, no charge guarantee, provides fast, affordable solutions for data disasters. Call 1-800-237-4200 to speak with an expert or schedule a free evaluation online.