Infographic: How Big Is a Yottabyte?

There was a time when we had little more than megabytes to work with. Your files needed to be small enough to save on a floppy disc and then small enough to email and then small enough to fit on a flash drive. Today, flash drives and hard drives are growing to accommodate our ever-expanding collection of files.

With growing frequency, we're saving more of our data on the cloud and tapping into it to play music or watch videos, relying on Google's email servers and other services offered by a variety of Internet companies to store everything for us. These companies are constructing enormous data centers and tucking them away in remote regions of North Carolina and Oregon. The centers are hidden from view so that they're less vulnerable to attacks -- and so the public can't see how they suck up huge amounts of electricity. Just how big are they? How much physical space do our digital files take up?

Infographics are always a bit of a hodgepodge of statistics culled from a variety of sources. Here, we sort through the clutter and pull out some of our favorite facts and figures:

  • A single terabyte hard drive can hold about 200,000 photos or mp3 songs.
  • An exabyte will fill a four-story datacenter that takes up an entire city block.
  • A zettabyte will fill 1,000 datacenters or about 1/5 of Manhattan.
  • A standard terabyte hard drive costs about $100 today. It would cost $100 trillion to buy a yottabyte of storage.

Check out more Infographics on the Technology Channel.

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Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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