In terms of sheer volume, 40 ZB of data is equivalent to:
- There are 700,500,000,000,000,000,000 grains of sand on all the beaches on earth (or seven quintillion five quadrillion). That means 40 ZB is equal to 57 times the amount of all the grains of sand on all the beaches on earth.
- If we could save all 40 ZB onto today's Blue-ray discs, the weight of those discs (without any sleeves or cases) would be the same as 424 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.
- In 2020, 40 ZB will be 5,247 GB per person worldwide.
This year's study marks the first time IDC was able to capture where the information in the digital universe either originated or was first captured or consumed, revealing some dramatic shifts currently underway. Now in its sixth year, the study – measuring and forecasting the amount of digital information created and copied annually – includes findings around the "Big Data Gap," which is the gap between the amount of data with hidden value and the amount of value that is actually being extracted; the level of data protection required versus what is being delivered; and the geographic implications of the world's data.
- Rapid expansion of the digital universe: IDC projects that the digital universe will reach 40 ZB by 2020, an amount that exceeds previous forecasts.
- The digital universe will double every two years between now and 2020.
- There will be approximately 5,247 GB of data for every man, woman and child on earth in 2020.
- A major factor behind the expansion of the digital universe is the growth of machine generated data, increasing from 11% of the digital universe in 2005 to over 40% in 2020.
- Large quantities of useful data are getting lost: The promise of Big Data lies within the extraction of value from large, untapped pools of data. However, the majority of new data is largely untagged file-based and unstructured data, which means little is known about it.
- In 2012, 23% (643 exabytes) of the digital universe would be useful for Big Data if tagged and analyzed. However, currently only 3% of the potentially useful data is tagged, and even less is analyzed.
- The amount of useful data is expanding with the growth of the digital universe. By 2020, 33% of the digital universe (13,000+ exabytes) will have Big Data value if it is tagged and analyzed.
- Much of the digital universe is unprotected: The amount of data that requires protection is growing faster than the digital universe itself.
- Less than a third of the digital universe required data protection in 2010, but that proportion is expected to exceed 40% by 2020.
- In 2012, while about 35% of the information in the digital universe required some type of data protection, less than 20% of the digital universe actually has these protections.
- The level of protection varies by region, with much less protection in the emerging markets.
- Challenges such as advanced threats, the security skills gap and lack of adherence to security best practices among consumers and corporations will continue to compound the issue.
- A geographic role-reversal is around the corner: Although the digital universe was a developed-world phenomenon in the early days, that is about to change as the population of the emerging markets begins to cast a longer shadow.
- While emerging markets accounted for 23% of the digital universe as recently as 2010, their share is already up to 36% in 2012.
- By 2020, IDC predicts that 62% of the digital universe will be attributable to emerging markets.
- The current global breakdown of the digital universe is: U.S. – 32%, Western Europe – 19%, China – 13%, India – 4%, rest of the world – 32%.
- By 2020, China alone is expected to generate 22% of the world's data.