I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with a senior IT executive from a major international defence organisation at the tail end of last week. With a background in the US Military he was able to clearly articulate better than anyone else I have spoken to the sheer scale of the data in existence. He put it as follows:
One megabyte of data = one tablespoon of sand
One gigabyte = a patch of sand nine inches square and one foot deep
One terabyte = a sandbox 24 foot square and one foot deep
One petabyte = a mile long beach. 100 feet wide and one foot deep
One exabyte = a beach that would stretch from Maine to North Carolina, 100 feet wide and one foot deep
One zetabyte = The same beach along the entire United States Coastline
EMC expect 100,000 organisations to be storing petabytes of data by 2020, and indeed Google and the US Government already store over an exabyte of data. We can see therefore how vital it is for analytics technology to keep up with ever expanding data in order to ensure that essential insight does not get lost. Considering the beach comparison, we really get a sense of how easy losing information could be.