As insurers continue to investigate their next data storage project, or weigh the pros and cons of cloud computing, virtualization or any a document management project, one of the oft-forgotten items is the actual volume of data that they store, and how it's expanding at an almost exponential rate.

Reminding everyone of this fact, EMC Corp. yesterday announced the results of its sponsored IDC study titled “The Digital Universe Decade – Are You Ready?” The data growth rate study rather whimsically measures and forecasts the amount of digital information created and copied annually, and its implications for individuals and IT professionals worldwide.
In 2009, amid the “Great Recession,” EMC finds that the amount of digital information grew 62 percent over 2008 to 800 billion gigabytes (0.8 zettabytes—one zettabyte equals one trillion gigabytes). The amount of digital information created in 2010 (1.2 zettabytes) will equal:

  • The digital information created by every man, woman and child on Earth “Tweeting” continuously for 100 years;
  • 75 billion fully-loaded 16 GB Apple iPads, which would fill the entire area of Wembley; Stadium to the brim 41 times, the Mont Blanc Tunnel 84 times, CERN's Large Hadron Collider tunnel 151 times, Beijing National Stadium 15.5 times or the Taipei 101 Tower 23 times;
  • A full-length episode of FOX TV’s "24" running continuously for 125 million years; and
  • 707 trillion copies of the more than 2,000-page U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into Law in March 2010. Stacked end to end, the documents would stretch from Earth to Pluto and back 16 times or cover every inch of the United States in paper three-feet deep.

 EMC goes on to add that the number of files, images, records and other digital information containers will grow by a factor of 67, each needing to be managed, secured and protected. Despite this growth, the number of IT professionals globally will grow only by a factor of 1.4. The cumulative effect is driving CIOs to seek out new levels of agility, efficiency and control by moving quickly toward private cloud computing environments.

“This year’s Digital Universe study exposes many of the most pressing short- and longer-term strategic issues CIOs grapple with as they map out their IT strategies and investments," says Joe Tucci, chairman and CEO, EMC Corp. "They’re quickly discovering that, to remain in the game, they need to do things differently, transforming traditional infrastructures into private cloud data centers that offer internal and external customers IT as a service. Private cloud computing, the next major wave of IT, takes them there, promising new and increasingly automated ways for enterprises and consumers to manage and secure this unyielding onslaught of information.”
The amount of digital information created annually will grow by a factor of 44 from 2009 to 2020, as all major forms of media—voice, TV, radio, print—complete the journey from analog to digital, EMC says.

By 2020, more than one-third of all digital information created annually will either live in or pass through the cloud.

Based on the use of cloud computing services by companies to reduce the portion of their IT budget devoted to legacy system maintenance, IDC estimates the increase in IT dollars spent on innovation could drive more than $1 trillion in increased business revenues between now and the end of 2014. This projection will increase substantially as private cloud and other cloud computing models move into mainstream adoption.

By 2020, EMC finds that the percent of digital information requiring security beyond baseline levels will grow from 30 percent to 50 percent. Additionally, 35 percent more digital information is created today than the capacity exists to store it. This number will jump to over 60 percent over the next several years.

Individuals generate more than 70 percent of the digital universe, but enterprises have responsibility for the storage, protection and management of 80 percent of the digital universe. This enterprise liability will only increase as social networking and Web 2.0 technologies continue to invade the enterprise.

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