World’s business data nears ten zettabytes per year

We’re a talkative species (some more so than others – ed.), but even so, it’s something of a surprise to see just how much information’s being exchanged every day on the internet – 9,570,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes per year, to be precise.

And that’s just the world’s business-related information, says a team of researchers at UC San Diego. It’s the digital equivalent of a 5.6-billion-mile-high stack of books, reaching from Earth to Neptune and back to Earth, repeated about 20 times a year.

The world’s roughly 27 million-odd computer servers processed 9.57 zettabytes of information in 2008, they say.

The first-of-its kind estimate was produced through server-industry reports, interviews, sales figures and other sources.

The study estimated that enterprise server workloads are doubling about every two years. And this means that, by 2024, the world’s enterprise servers will handle the digital equivalent of a stack of books extending more than 4.37 light-years to Alpha Centauri – every year.

“Most of this information is incredibly transient: it is created, used, and discarded in a few seconds without ever being seen by a person,” says professor of technology management Roger Bohn. “It’s the underwater base of the iceberg that runs the world that we see.”

It consists largely of data processing for transaction details, web services and office applications.


The paper follows an earlier report on information consumption by US households as part of a ‘census’ of the world’s information. The project’s supported by AT&T, Cisco, IBM, Intel, LSI, Oracle and Seagate.