Info overload reaches the exabyte range

The cost of magnetic storage will drop to $1 per gigabyte by 2005, according to a new study by the School of Information Management at the University of California at Berkeley. That drop has fueled growth in the world's yearly output of unique information, currently amounting to 1 to 2 exabytes. An exabyte is a billion gigabytes.

The study said printed material now accounts for only 0.03 percent of the total.

PC disk drives store an estimated 766 petabytes of new data yearly, the Berkeley study said. Departmental servers store an estimated 161P to 460P, and enterprise servers about 109P to 167P. Data CD-ROMS hold far less'only 3T per year of new material. The rest of the world's nonpaper output is in the form of photos, movies, music, X-rays and tapes, the study said.

Unique print and film content is hardly growing at all, whereas optical and magnetic storage media shipments are doubling each year. 'Even today, most textual information is born digital,' the researchers said, and within a few years that will be true for images as well.

They cautioned that duplication, compression and backup of digital information could seriously affect their estimates. Digital communications probably will also be archived in the future, the researchers said, which would boost the total.

The Web three years ago 'consisted of about 21T terabytes of static HTML pages,' they said. It is doubling in size each year, and many more pages are generated on the fly from databases, so the total size of what they call the 'deep Web' is considerably larger.

About 500 times as much e-mail is being produced per year as the total stock of Web pages. The Berkeley study estimated about 610 billion e-mails are sent per year.

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